Religious restrictions on the consumption of pork

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Religious restrictions on the consumption of pork are a food taboo among Jews, Muslims, and Seventh day Adventist. Swine were prohibited in ancient Syria [1] and Phoenicia, [2] and the pig and its flesh represented a taboo observed, Strabo noted, at Comana in Pontus. [3] A lost poem of Hermesianax, reported centuries later by the traveller Pausanias, reported an etiological myth of Attis destroyed by a supernatural boar to account for the fact that "in consequence of these events the Galatians who inhabit Pessinous do not touch pork". [4] In Abrahamic religions, eating pig flesh is clearly forbidden by Jewish (kashrut) and Islamic (halal) dietary laws.


Although Christianity is also an Abrahamic religion, most of its adherents do not follow these aspects of Mosaic law and are permitted to consume pork. However, Seventh-day Adventists consider pork taboo, along with other foods forbidden by Jewish law. The Eritrean Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church [5] do not permit pork consumption. Hebrew Roots Movement adherents also do not consume pork.

Many Yazidis in Iraq regard pork as forbidden. [6]

Prohibition in Jewish law

The Torah (Pentateuch) contains passages in Leviticus that lists the animals people are permitted to eat. It first qualifies that animals that have divided hooves and chew their cud may be consumed (Leviticus 11:3). Animals that have cloven hooves and chew their cud are ruminants such as cows, sheep, and deer. The text goes on to describe specific animals that are known and meet one, but not both, of those qualifications, thereby prohibiting their consumption. It does not elaborate on the exact reason for prohibition other than physical characteristics. Pigs are described in this section (Lev. 11:7-8) as prohibited because they have a cloven hoof but don't chew their cud. The ban on the consumption of pork is repeated in Deuteronomy 14:8.

During the Roman period, Jewish abstinence from pork consumption became one of the most identifiable features of Jewish religion to outsiders of the faith. One example appears in Tacitus' Histories 5.4.1-2. Because Jewish dietary restrictions on pork were well-known to non-Jews, foreign attempts of oppression and assimilation of Jewish populations into Hellenistic and Roman custom often involved attempting to force Jewish populations into consuming pork. According to 2 Maccabees 6:18-7:48, the Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted to force Jews in his realm to consuming pork as a part of his attempted restrictions on the practice of Judaism. In addition, Philo of Alexandria records that during the Alexandrian riots (38) against Jewish communities in the city of Alexandria, some Alexandrian mobs also attempted to force Jews into consuming pork. [7] Some forms of Jewish Christianity also adopted these restrictions on the consumption of pork, as is noted in the Didascalia Apostolorum. [8]

Prohibition in Islamic law

One example of verses from the Quran on pig consumption:

He (Allah -God- ) has only forbidden to you dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah . But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. -- Quran, Al-Baqarah 2:173 [9]

The only things which are made unlawful for you are the flesh of dead animals, blood, pork and that which is not consecrated with the Name of God. But in an emergency, without the intention of transgression and rebellion, (it is not an offense for one to consume such things). God is certainly All-forgiving and All-merciful. [10] (16:115)

I do not find in what has been revealed to me anything forbidden for anyone who wants to eat unless it is carrion, outpoured blood and the flesh of swine, all of which is unclean (Quran Al An'am 6:145)

The prohibition of a certain food is also linked to Islamic Cosmology. Accordingly good and evil qualities are transferred by eating an object carrying a certain quality, that also affects the soul of human, the pig rendered with evil qualities . [11]

There are different schools of thought[ specify ] in Islam that offer different opinions[ clarification needed ] on eating meat -other than pig which is unanimously forbidden- which includes cow, goat, chicken, and lamb.[ citation needed ][ speculation? ] Generally, so long as it was affirmed that no impurities came in contact with the meat served in western countries (which are mostly governed by the People of the Book), then it is considered Halal. [12] [13] [14] [15] However, the Islamic Cultural Centre Ireland considers meat slaughtered by non-Muslims to be forbidden. [16] Another school of thought such as the Hanafi Maddhab require that the meat be certified as Halal only by ensuring Islamic slaughtering of the animals. [17] Most South Asian Muslims follow that.[ citation needed ]

According to Sozomen, some Arabs in pre-Islamic Arabia who traced their ancestry to Ishmael abstained from the consumption of pork. [18]


According to Herodotus, the Scythians had a taboo against the pig, which was never offered in sacrifice, and apparently the Scythians loathed so much as to even keep swine within their lands. [19]

Scottish pork taboo was Donald Alexander Mackenzie's phrase for discussing an aversion to pork among Scots, particularly Highlanders, which he believed stemmed from an ancient taboo.[ citation needed ] Several writers[ who? ] who confirm that there was a prejudice against pork, or a superstitious attitude toward pigs, do not see it in terms of a taboo related to an ancient cult.[ citation needed ] Any prejudice is generally agreed to have disappeared by 1800.[ citation needed ]

Interpretations of restrictions

The cultural materialistic anthropologist Marvin Harris thinks that the main reason for prohibiting consumption of pork was ecological-economical. [20] Pigs require water and shady woods with seeds,[ citation needed ] but those conditions are scarce in the Middle East. Unlike many other forms of livestock, pigs are omnivorous scavengers, eating virtually anything they come across, including carrion and refuse, which was deemed unclean. Furthermore, a Middle Eastern society keeping large stocks of pigs could destroy their ecosystem.[ citation needed ]

It is speculated that chickens supplanted pigs as a more portable and efficient source of meat, and these practical concerns led to the religious restrictions. [21]

Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher, legal codifier, and court physician to the Muslim sultan Saladin in the 12th century, understood the dietary laws chiefly as a means of keeping the body healthy. He argued that the meat of the forbidden animals, birds, and fish is unwholesome and indigestible. According to Maimonides, at first glance, this does not apply to pork, which does not appear to be harmful. Yet, Maimonides observes, the pig is a filthy animal, and if swine were used for food, marketplaces and even houses would be dirtier than latrines. [22]

Rashi (the primary Jewish commentator on the Bible and Talmud) lists the prohibition of pig as a law whose reason is not known, and may therefore be derided by others as making no sense. [23]

The Chinuch Sefer HaChinuch [24] (an early work of Halachah) gives a general overview of the Jewish dietary laws. He writes "And if there are any reasons for the dietary laws which are unknown to us or those knowledgeable in the health field, do not wonder about them, for the true Healer that warns us against them is smarter than us, and smarter than the doctors."

See also

Related Research Articles

Kashrut is a set of dietary laws dealing with the foods that Jews are permitted to eat and how those foods must be prepared according to Jewish law. Food that may be consumed is deemed kosher, from the Ashkenazic pronunciation (KUHsher) of Hebrew kashér, meaning "fit".

Islamic dietary laws Islamic jurisprudence positions on food

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<i>Halal</i> Arabic word meaning "permissible", used in relation to Islam

Halal is an Arabic word that translates to "permissible" in English. In the Quran, the word halal is contrasted with haram (forbidden). This binary opposition was elaborated into a more complex classification known as "the five decisions": mandatory, recommended, neutral, reprehensible and forbidden. Islamic jurists disagree on whether the term halal covers the first two or the first four of these categories. In recent times, Islamic movements seeking to mobilize the masses and authors writing for a popular audience have emphasized the simpler distinction of halal and haram.

Unclean animal Animal whose consumption or handling is taboo

In some religions, an unclean animal is an animal whose consumption or handling is taboo. According to these religions, persons who handle such animals may need to ritually purify themselves to get rid of their uncleanliness.

Haram is an Arabic term meaning ‘forbidden’. This may refer to: either something sacred to which access is not allowed to the people who are not in a state of purity or who are not initiated into the sacred knowledge; or, in direct contrast, to an evil and thus "sinful action that is forbidden to be done". The term also denotes something "set aside", thus being the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew concept קדוש, qadoš and the concept of sacer in Roman law and religion. In Islamic jurisprudence, haram is used to refer to any act that is forbidden by God and is one of five Islamic commandments that define the morality of human action.

Kosher foods Foods conforming to Jewish dietary law

Kosher foods are those foods that conform to the Jewish dietary regulations of kashrut, the Jewish dietary law is primarily derived from Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:1-21. Foods that may be consumed according to halakha are termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér, meaning "fit". Foods that are not in accordance with Jewish law are called treif meaning "torn."

Some people do not eat various specific foods and beverages in conformity with various religious, cultural, legal or other societal prohibitions. Many of these prohibitions constitute taboos. Many food taboos and other prohibitions forbid the meat of a particular animal, including mammals, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, fish, molluscs, crustaceans and insects, which may relate to a disgust response being more often associated with meats than plant-based foods. Some prohibitions are specific to a particular part or excretion of an animal, while others forgo the consumption of plants or fungi.

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The Scottish pork taboo is a purported historical taboo against the consumption of pork amongst the Scottish people, particularly Highlanders. The phrase was coined by journalist Donald Alexander Mackenzie, who believed the aversion stemmed from an ancient taboo.

Dhabihah Animal slaughter in Islamic law

In Islamic law dhabīḥah Arabic: ذَبِيحَة dhabīḥahIPA: [ðaˈbiːħa], 'slaughtered animal' is the prescribed method in Muslim tradition of all lawful halal animals. This method of slaughtering lawful animals has several conditions to be fulfilled. "The name of Allah" or "In the name of Allah" (Bismillah) has to be called by the butcher upon slaughter of each halal animal individually, and it should consist of a swift, deep incision with a very sharp knife on the throat, cutting the wind pipe, jugular veins and carotid arteries of both sides but leaving the spinal cord intact.

Comparison of Islamic and Jewish dietary laws Comparison between halal and kosher dietary laws

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Jhatka Animal slaughter

Jhatka, or Jhataka or chatka, is the meat from an animal killed instantaneously, such as by a single strike of a sword or axe to sever the head within the Sikh religion. This type of slaughter is preferred by most Sikhs as well as meat-consuming Buddhists and some khatiks of the Punjab region and North India, also within this method of butchering the animal must not be scared or shaken before the slaughter.

According to Islam, animals are conscious of God. According to the Quran, they praise Him, even if this praise is not expressed in human language. Baiting animals for entertainment or gambling is prohibited. It is forbidden to kill any animal except for food or to prevent it from harming people.

Ritual slaughter is the practice of slaughtering livestock for meat in the context of a ritual. Ritual slaughter involves a prescribed practice of slaughtering an animal for food production purposes.

Blood as food Food, often in combination with meat

Many cultures consume blood as food, often in combination with meat. The blood may be in the form of blood sausage, as a thickener for sauces, a cured salted form for times of food scarcity, or in a blood soup. This is a product from domesticated animals, obtained at a place and time where the blood can run into a container and be swiftly consumed or processed. In many cultures, the animal is slaughtered. In some cultures, blood is a taboo food.

Pork Meat from a pig

Pork is the culinary name for the meat of the domestic pig. It is the most commonly consumed meat worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC.

Kutha meat or Kuttha meat is the meat of an animal obtained through slow bleeding or religious sacrifice of animals. Abstaining from Kutha meat is one of the requirements for a Sikh to be an initiated Khalsa or sahajdhari according to the Rehat Maryada.

Christian dietary laws Christian principles for daily food

Christian dietary laws vary between denominations. The general dietary restrictions specified for Christians in the New Testament are to "abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals". Some Christian denominations forbid certain foods during periods of fasting, which in some denominations may cover half the year and may exclude meat, fish, dairy products, and olive oil. Christians in the Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Orthodox denominations traditionally observe Friday as a meat-free day ; many also fast and abstain from meat on Wednesday. There are various fasting periods, notably the liturgical season of Lent. However, all Christian Churches, in view of the Biblical position on the issue, universally condemn drunkenness as sinful.

Ethiopian Jewish cuisine is the cuisine of the Beta Israel. The cuisine of the Ethiopian Jews is similar to the cuisine of other Ethiopians, with some variations.


  1. Lucian of Samosata notes that they do indeed eat pork for followers of the Dea Syria (Atargatis, the 'Syrian goddess') in De dea Syria, noted in Jan N. Bremmer, "Attis: A Greek God in Anatolian Pessinous and Catullan Rome", Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, 57.5, (2004:534–573) p. 538.
  2. As the pagan Porphyry of Tyre noted in De abstinentia ab esu animalium, late third century CE.
  3. Strabo, xii.8.9.
  4. Noted in Bremmer 2004:538 and notes. Bremmer notes that the taboo regarding pork for followers of Attis is reported in Julian, Orationes v.17.
  5. Charles Kong Soo Ethiopian Holy Week clashes with Christians' 21 April 2011 Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Retrieved 11 March 2012
  6. Halil Savucu: Yeziden in Deutschland: Eine Religionsgemeinschaft zwischen Tradition, Integration und Assimilation Tectum Wissenschaftsverlag, Marburg 2016, ISBN   978-3-828-86547-1, Section 16 (German)
  7. Jordan Rosenblum. "‘‘Why Do You Refuse to Eat Pork?’’ Jews, Food, and Identity in Roman Palestine". JQR 2010.
  8. Holger Zellentin, The Qur'ans Legal Culture, pp. 82-89.
  9. Quran, Al-Baqara 2:173
  10. "The Quranic Arabic Corpus - Translation". Retrieved 20 October 2019.
  11. Seyyed Hossein Nasr Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, An SUNY Press 1993 ISBN   978-1-438-41419-5 p. 70
  12. Islam Q&A. Meat from dubious restaurants. Retrieved on 5 April, 2022.
  13. Islam Q&A. Ruling on unknown meat from kaafir countries Retrieved on 5 April, 2022.
  14. Islam Q&A. Locally-slaughtered meat in a country with a mixed population of Muslims, Christians, and idol-worshippers Retrieved on 5 April, 2022.
  15. Islam Q&A. Eating meat when it is uncertain whether it has been cooked with utensils used for pork Retrieved on 5 April, 2022.
  16. "Islamic Method of Slaughtering". Department of Halal Certification EU. Retrieved 8 February 2022. Slaughtering must be done by a sane adult Muslim. Animals slaughtered by a Non Muslim will not be Halal.
  17. The Issue of Halal Meat (A Detailed Article) - Hanafi
  18. Patricia Crone, "Pagan Arabs as God Fearers" in Islam and its Past, Oxford 2017, pg. 152
  19. Macaulay (1904:315).
  20. Harris, Marvin (1987). The Abominable Pig (PDF). The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig: Riddles of Food and Culture. Touchstone Books. ISBN   978-0671633080.
  21. Redding, Richard W. (13 March 2015). "The Pig and the Chicken in the Middle East: Modeling Human Subsistence Behavior in the Archaeological Record Using Historical and Animal Husbandry Data". Journal of Archaeological Research . 23 (4): 325–368. doi:10.1007/s10814-015-9083-2. S2CID   144388956.
  22. Maimonides, A Guide for the Perplexed III:48
  23. Rashi on Leviticus 18:4
  24. Sefer HaChinuch Mitzvah 73