Religious restrictions on the consumption of pork
Religious restrictions on the consumption of pork are a common food taboo, particularly in the Middle East among Jewish People and Muslims. Swine were prohibited in ancient Syria and Phoenicia, and the pig and its flesh represented a taboo observed, Strabo noted, at Comana in Pontus. 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". Concerning Abrahamic religions, clear restrictions exist in Jewish dietary laws (Kashrut) and in Islamic dietary laws (Halal).
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 do not permit pork consumption.
Prohibitions in Jewish law
The Torah (Pentateuch) contains passages in Leviticus that lists the animals people are permitted to eat. It first notes what qualifies an animal that is absolutely permitted:
Any animal that has a cloven hoof that is completely split into double hooves, and which brings up its cud that one you may eat.
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 as prohibited because they have a cloven hoof but don't chew their cud.
And the pig, because it has a cloven hoof that is completely split, but will not regurgitate its cud; it is unclean for you. You shall not eat of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.
Deuteronomy expands on the list of permitted animals.
You shall not eat any abomination.
These are the animals that you may consume
And every animal that has a split hoof and has a hoof cloven into two hoof sections, [and] chews the cud among the animals that you may eat.
Deuteronomy reiterates what Leviticus states on pigs.
And the pig, because it has a split hoof, but does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You shall neither eat of their flesh nor touch their carcass.
Prohibitions in Islamic law
One example of verses from the Quran on pig consumption:
He 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
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.
The prohibition of 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.
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. Several writers 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. Any prejudice is generally agreed to have disappeared by 1800.
Interpretations of restrictions
The cultural materialistic anthropologist Marvin Harris thinks that the main reason for prohibiting consumption of pork was ecological-economical. Pigs require water and shady woods with seeds, 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.
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.
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.
The Chinuch Sefer HaChinuch (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."
- Islamic dietary laws
- Jewish dietary laws
- Kosher foods
- Pig toilet
- Unclean animal
- 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.
- As the pagan Porphyry of Tyre noted in De abstinentia ab esu animalium, late third century CE.
- Strabo, xii.8.9.
- 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.
- Charles Kong Soo Ethiopian Holy Week clashes with Christians' 21 April 2011 Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Retrieved 11 March 2012
- 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)
- Quran, Al-Baqara 2:173
- "The Quranic Arabic Corpus - Translation". corpus.quran.com. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
- Seyyed Hossein Nasr Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines, An SUNY Press 1993 ISBN 978-1-438-41419-5 p. 70
- Macaulay (1904:315).
- Harris, Marvin (1987). The Abominable Pig (PDF). The Sacred Cow and the Abominable Pig: Riddles of Food and Culture. Touchstone Books. ISBN 978-0671633080.
- 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.
- Maimonides, A Guide for the Perplexed III:48
- Rashi on Leviticus 18:4
- Sefer HaChinuch Mitzvah 73