Why Do Jewish Dietary Laws Prohibit Pigs?

By | Tuesday, September 22, 2015 12 comments


Recently, the subject of the kosher prohibition against eating pork came up in a conversation I was having with a friend on Facebook. She mentioned several commonly held ideas about the origin of this restriction and asked me what people current think. Being of Jewish descent, I have always been interested in the laws of kashrut (the Jewish dietary laws that define what foods are kosher, “fit”.) In the course of my studies as a culinary historian I have frequently run into kashrut and other food taboos. I decided I would jot down a few thoughts on the subject. Two weeks and over four thousand words later, here is the result. Along the way I have even changed my own thinking.

Note: Many of the points presented here could also apply Muslim halal laws. Nonetheless, I am only covering kashrut for two main reasons. First, I am much more familiar with kosher laws than I am with halal. Second, limiting the scope of the discussion improves clarity and readability. However, there is one noteworthy point where Jews and Muslims differ as to the treatment of swine. Jews are prohibited not only from eating pigs but also from raising them or even touching them – dead or alive. The Koran prohibits Muslims from eating the flesh of pigs, but makes no other prohibitions regarding them. Theoretically, a Muslim could be a pig farmer, butcher, etc. without violating their law. 

At its most basic, there are two classes of reasons why Judaism could proscribe eating pork:
  1. God truly did prohibit it.
  2. Some person, or group of people, disallowed eating pigs for some reason and then ascribed that prohibition to God.
Let’s start with the first case; God told the Jews that they may not eat pork. Moreover, they may not even touch a pig, dead or alive.

[For the sake of this discussion, let us take it as a given that the Judeo-Christian God does exist and that the Old Testament, the Talmud and other Scripture (as well as New Testament,) are divinely inspired texts. There are those that would dispute this supposition, and other readers will no doubt bristle at the suggestion that this needs to be stipulated. However, this essay is about pigs and Judaism. If I were to digress into questions about the existence of God and the validity of Judeo-Christian scripture, I would enter a quagmire from which we would never return.]

I have a number of problems with the notion of God declaring the pig to be “an abomination” and prohibiting the Jews – his “chosen people” – from eating or even touching them. For one thing, God created the pig. If he considered pigs to be abominations, why did he make them in the first place? God “…formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky…” Why would God create an abominable creature from the soil in the Garden of Eden? Further, why would the pig be so hated that man cannot even touch one without becoming “unclean.” The serpent that offered the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil became “…more cursed…than all cattle and all the wild beasts…” While kashrut prohibits the eating of snakes (and anything else that crawls on its belly), Jews are allowed to touch them. Arguably we are encouraged to kill them. God says to the snake, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head, and you will strike at their heel.”

Remember, this is the Old Testament God were talking about here. This is the God of fire and brimstone. This is the God that created Adam and Eve in his own image, then cursed them and threw them out of Eden for disobeying just one rule, just one time. This is the God that directed Abraham to sacrifice his son. This is the God who decided to test the faith of Job, is most faithful follower. This is the God who sent the Jews down into Egypt to be slaves for 400 years. Heck, this is the God that went on in the New Testament to have his own son tortured to death. That’s how he treats people he likes! I can’t see the Old Testament God looking upon the pig and telling the Jews, “don’t get anywhere near these things.” It seems to me that if God truly felt that pigs were unclean and an abomination, his commandment would be “kill them, eat them, kick them in the nuts, do whatever you want. You don’t even need to bother killing them humanely. You see a pig, do with it as you will.” It stretches credibility beyond the breaking point to suggest that if God hated pigs, he would give them a pass. I mean really, “You’re my chosen people, I’m sending you into slavery for 400 years. But, pigs are an abomination, leave them alone to do whatever they like. Hit snakes on the head, but leave pigs alone.” Sure, God moves in mysterious ways, but that is retarded.

I also have to wonder about the flood. God instructed Noah to create an ark and gather two of each animal so that they would survive the flood and repopulate the earth. What a perfect opportunity to get rid of swine (and snakes too, for that matter.) God could easily have said “gather together two of each animal… except for pigs.” God destroyed every living thing on earth because man had become wicked. If you're getting rid of wicked men, why not dispose of wicked animals while you're at it?  Kinda makes you wonder.

I know, I know, the point is that pigs are “unclean” and if you touch them you will become unclean. But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was very explicit about taking sides and putting his finger on the scales in favor of his team (just as he continues to do on Superbowl Sunday.) He made one day’s worth of oil last for eight days. He guided David’s hand to slay Goliath. God told the Israelites, “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” So, after the slaughter there was nothing left but pigs wandering among the dead people, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.

If the Old Testament is correct then we know his position on pigs – God hates pigs. Couldn’t He have found some way to make the Jews immune to the pig’s powers of defilement so that the Jewish people could do His will and smite the terrible swine? I’m sure many will disagree, but I am convinced that God does not have it in for the pig. Maybe it was a misunderstanding. Maybe He thinks that “wigs” are an abomination.

With divine edict disposed of, let us consider the second case; humans created the prohibition against eating pigs and ascribed that prohibition to the word of God - either at that time, or later.

One of the most popular explanations for the Jewish prohibition on eating pork is that by avoiding pork you avoid trichinosis. This is what my mother told me when I was a child. Of course, no one in biblical times knew that there were microorganisms that could cause disease, but they undoubtedly did make the connection between eating certain foods and illness or death. Culinary history is rife with texts on what foods make you "sanguine", "choleric", "melancholic", "phlegmatic", and so on.

By and large, Jews are very chauvinistic and are particularly proud of their intelligence. This isn’t odd or unusual - there is hardly a self-identified group on earth that doesn’t believe that they are the smartest, strongest, sexiest, and most blessed people that ever lived. But Jews are especially bullish on braininess, so the “avoid trichinosis” idea is particularly appealing to modern Jewry. It says, “Look how smart we were. We figured out how to avoid food borne illness long before anyone knew about microscopic pathogens.” Despite pumping up our collective egos, this idea is utter hogwash.

It is enormously clear that pastoral humans, be they agrarian or hunter-gatherers, learn over generations to exploit everything in their environment. Peoples of Central America and northern South America learned to detoxify cassava, an important staple crop that contains cyanide and is otherwise deadly. Similarly, Californian native tribes found that they could remove the saponins from buckeyes to make them edible. Someone, at some point in time, found that though rhubarb leaves are toxic, the stems are not. So, too, the tubers of potatoes and the fruits of tomatoes are nutritious and delicious, but the green parts are poisonous. Everywhere that humans have gone, they have learned to use fermentation for preservation and alcohol production – but it is a fine line between healthful yoghurt and raging diarrhea.

Clearly humans don’t abandon a food source just because the first few hundred people that try it drop dead. Imagine if the first person to chew on the grains growing wild on the Anatolian plane had said, “Ouch! That hurt my teeth. The gods are telling me that we must not eat this.” If humans gave up that easily, wheat, barley, rye and other grains would never have entered our larders. We’d still be hunter-gatherers hoping our spears were strong enough to take down a menacing tiger.

Human populations across Europe and Asia (other than Jews and Muslims) learned how to safely take advantage of pigs as a food source. As it happens, this is relatively easy with pigs, since trichinosis is a parasite, not a bacteria. Unlike bacteria such as salmonella or campylobacter, there is little risk of cross-contamination between raw pork and other foods. You must consume undercooked infected pork to contract the disease. [Side note: apparently one can also acquire trichinosis from other infected humans.] Bacterial food-borne pathogens are much more easily transmitted via tools, surfaces, hands, etc.

What this means is that if the “trichinosis hypothesis” were true, it would actually imply that Jews were less intelligent than other contemporary groups. While everyone else in Eurasia figured out how to safely cook pork, the Jews threw up their hands and said, “I’m stumped. Let’s just make a rule against eating these beasts.”

Others have suggested that the taboo against eating pork is related to cannibalism. Pigs are very similar to humans, especially in the texture of their skin. But, scripture is quite explicit in declaring pigs unclean and an abomination. If we avoid eating pigs because they are too similar to us, but we also declare them to be abominable, what are we saying about ourselves? No, clearly that theory doesn’t work.

Some propose that eating pigs is taboo because they are intelligent. This is another extremely modern notion. While throughout history various groups have considered certain animals divine, or repositories for human spirits, or possessing of special powers, there is no evidence that early Jews, or any other people of the region, held pigs in any regard. It is only quite recently that people have come to recognize pigs as relatively intelligent creatures. Ascribing this knowledge to the Israelites is a fallacy.

One excellent work on the subject of the prohibition of pigs in Judaism and Islam is The Abominable Pig, by Marvin Harris. This essay can be found in Food and Culture: A Reader. Harris does an outstanding job covering the background for the material that I am considering here. However, and with great respect, I disagree with the conclusion he arrives at in his paper.

If I am correctly interpreting his thesis, he believes that the dietary laws of Leviticus amount to a set of best-practices for farmers and shepherds in the region. Furthermore, in order to establish and maintain their power, Jewish priests put these rules forth as a set of laws that their followers were bound to obey. Kind of  Poor Richard's Almanack, but with penalties for disobedience. However, Harris says that the priests were careful to create laws that wouldn’t be too onerous for the faithful to accept. Since pigs don’t do well in hot, dry environments, prohibiting them would not have had a major impact on most Jews. Similarly, Jews were not eating camels and were far enough from the sea that shellfish was not an important source of protein. Certainly if they had made a rule prohibiting lamb, there would have been an uprising of biblical proportions.

I am not convinced by this argument. The wording of Leviticus seems too strong for a set of throw-away rules intended to make the “legislature” look like they were in charge. Certainly there are some peculiar sounding laws. You will be stoned to death if you mix two different fibers in a piece of cloth? Surely this wasn’t pronounced on a whim to take up space in a book of rules. There must have been some reason – perhaps people were making cheap cloth by combining expensive, quality lamb’s wool with cheaper flax? Or perhaps the wool merchants paid off the priests to add that law. Whatever the reason, it just seems too random, and with too harsh a sentence, to simply be a show of legislation. Disallowing the planting of two kinds of seeds in a field fits the same mold. Meanwhile, in Exodus there is a law against making an altar with hewn or dressed stones. Why? Did the stonemasons piss off their rabbi?

Also, the New Testament makes it clear that Jewish law was perceived as onerous. In the book of Acts the apostles debate whether Christians should obey the Old Testament laws, especially Gentiles who were becoming Christian. Acts 15:20-28 says “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood…it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements…” The fathers of Christianity - themselves former Jews - had to abandon the Old Testament laws because they realized that their religion would have trouble growing beyond Jewish converts with such laws in place. Harris’ contention that kashrut and other biblical rulings were not a burden appears to be in error.

The laws in Leviticus and other scripture don’t strike me as just good ideas expressed as commandments, nor as laws created for the purpose of showing legislative power. I am much more convinced by two other options.

One strong possibility is that the kashrut were cultural markers for the Jewish tribes. There are many such markers that help define group identity, including food choices and recipes, language, clothing, songs, celebrations, games, methods of farming, methods of building, ornamentation, festivals, and so on. These markers are extremely important to human groups.

Exclusionary rules (taboos) are the most powerful for group cohesion. If you belong to a tribe that wears a particular kind of hat, and there is a nearby tribe that weaves tunics with a distinctive pattern, you can ally yourself with both by wearing the hat of your people and the tunic of the other. However, if the other tribe makes a rule stating that hats may not be worn and yours declares that hats must be worn, then you are going to have to choose. You can no longer be “slightly pregnant.” Exclusionary rules are particularly important because the king of the Dandy Hats may someday call upon you to fight against the Fancy Frocks. Being a fence sitter is definitely frowned upon.

But, practically speaking, exclusionary cultural markers can effectively be arbitrary. Why pick on pigs? The ancient Israelites were basically pastoral shepherding peoples. They farmed the land and herded flocks of sheep, goats, and cows. These three animals did well in the fertile hills and valleys of the Levant, eating the abundant grasses and shrubs that grew there while tolerating the hot, dry climate. Furthermore, being ruminants, these animals did not compete with humans for food; we don’t eat grasses, and ruminants don’t need to be fed crops that people are growing for their own consumption. 

Over time other groups entered the area competing for land and grazing resources. Among the people that would have come into conflict with the early Jewish tribes were Bedouins. Their nomadic lifestyles were completely dependent on camels. Other than for long-distance travel, camels would have been almost useless to the early Israelites. They grow and reproduce slowly, so they are a poor food source compared to animals that the Jews were husbanding. Camels can be used for pulling plows, but oxen are better. It is possible that some wealthy Jews may have kept camels for transport, but they would have been a luxury item. Certainly few if any Jews were eating them. Even if a camel became old or sick, it wouldn’t have been eaten because the laws of kashrut mandate that only healthy animals may be slaughtered for food. But the Bedouins did eat their camels in times of need and drank their blood when thirst descended in the desert. For Bedouin tribes, prohibitions against eating camels would have been suicidal. The Jewish people could have differentiated themselves from Bedouins by proscribing camel meat.

Imagine the grizzled shepherd sitting at home drinking a beer after a long day in the hills tending his flocks. His daughter comes home and says, “Daddy, I met the cutest Bedouin boy in the market today. He took me for a ride on his camel and wants me to meet his family. Can I daddy, can I?”

I’m pretty sure his answer would be “Hell no! We are the people who tend the animals with cloven feet. These Bedouin scum are overrunning our land and taking our jobs. They are dirty, awful people and their animals are useless to us.”

“But daddy, he was really cute. What’s wrong with camels, anyway? Who cares about their feet?”

“Er, um, uh, well… I know… the Lord our God told us not to eat camels. Yeah, that’s it, it was God,” pointing his finger emphatically skyward, “God told us only to eat animals with cloven feet. Oh, and you’re grounded until I can find someone of our own tribe to marry you. No Bedouin boys for you, young lady!”

Meanwhile other populations with a practice of pig farming were no doubt challenging the Israelites for farmland, shaded forage, and water. Pigs require water for drinking and mud in which to wallow. They also root around destructively and are quite happy to eat the foods upon which humans depend. Pig farming tribes would have been a great threat to the ecology of the area and the Jews way of life.

A girl comes home from the market one day and tells her mother, “Mommy, I met this cute boy in the market today. He gave me these pork ribs to give to you and says he wants me to meet his parents.”

“Hell no!” the mother replies. “Throw that cursed meat away. We are the people who tend the animals that chew their cud. These pig farmer scum are overrunning our land and taking our jobs. They are dirty, awful people and their animals are useless to us.”

“But mommy, he was really cute. What’s wrong with pigs, anyway?”

“Er, um, uh, well… I know… the Lord our God told us that pigs are an abomination. Yeah, that’s it, it was God,” pointing her finger emphatically skyward, “God told us only to eat animals that chew their cud. Why can’t you find a nice Jewish doctor like your sister did? No pig-boys for you, young lady!”

While I am being intentionally silly in these examples, any folklorist will tell you that this is exactly how culture is created – people make shit up – especially when they want to justify their actions or beliefs.

In The Abominable Pig, Harris proposes this idea but rejects it because, he tells us, there were other groups in the area that shunned pigs, including Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Babylonians. He says that prohibiting pigs was not sufficiently exclusionary to use as a cultural marker. It may be true that banning pork was insufficient for the Jews to define themselves versus all other groups in the region, but, I believe that in concert with the many other laws of Leviticus, it did create identity, and it served to differentiate the Jewish tribes from specific pig farming neighbors with whom they were competing.

Previously I felt that the idea of cultural markers was the most likely reason for creating the laws of kashrut and the abomination of the pig. But, while I still believe that it is a strong possibility, in the course of working on this essay I have concluded that there is an even better argument to be made for another theory: Judaism borrowed the pork taboo from other cultures.

In the end the simplest of all the explanations for prohibiting pork is that the Jewish priests simply reused regulations created in the cultures that preceded them. Judaism did not appear fully formed with priests, scripture and followers; it evolved from a long history of Semitic people in the Levant. If the people that formed the tribes of Israel grew up in and around cultures that shunned pigs, then they would have done the same.

Harris notes that Egyptians at one time ate large numbers of pigs. Over time pork consumption decreased until finally swine were prohibited. Why? He suggests that it had to do with deforestation caused by population growth. This may be correct. But it might just as easily have been the whim of some Pharaoh. Agriculture in Egypt was centrally controlled by the Pharaoh and his priests who maintained their rule by understanding the seasons and controlling the flooding of the fields of the Nile delta. Thus, if one day some Pharaoh’s toe was pooped on by an ornery pig, he could have ended hog husbandry throughout the land with a snap of his fingers and without giving a reason. Someday Egyptologists may find a column covered in hieroglyphics describing a Pharaoh that had his privates bitten off while fornicating with a pig, and commanding prohibitions on bestiality and the abomination of swine. Until then we can only speculate about why Egyptians  reduced their pig consumption and ultimate grew to hate these creatures.

Many of the bible stories trace their roots to the mythology of other regional traditions – both those that preceded Judaism and contemporaneous religions. The rulers of the early Jewish tribes, and the tribes-people themselves, were already familiar with a set of laws, practices, prohibitions, taboos, and stigmas. Simply codifying the dominant rules of the region as the laws of the newly evolving religion would have made perfect sense. Dietary laws and other cultural practices could also have been adopted from neighboring groups over time – be those neighbors friend or foe. 

We know that culture is transmitted between allies and with trading partners. Culture is also acquired from enemies. The Jews took slaves and wives from the peoples that they conquered. Though not powerful within the community, these individuals were certainly in a position to influence behaviors within a household. If a wife taken from rival tribe refused to touch pork, a man had just two choices – kill her and get another wife, or go without pork. Undoubtedly both approaches were practiced. 

Meanwhile, regardless of where you stand on the literal truth of the bible, it seems clear that some large group of Jews were slaves in Egypt for a length of time. Even the most casual observer of human societies knows how quickly memes spread – especially those related to safety and food. If someone tells you that eating Pop Rocks while drinking soda can make your stomach explode, or that Bubble Yum contains spider’s eggs, you are likely to pass that wisdom on, even if you don’t much like the person that told you. During the enslavement of Jews in Egypt, it would have been very easy for one group to have infected the other with the distrust of pork.

Even more compelling is the likelihood that the prohibition against pork came from Babylon. During the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, a large population of the elites of Judea (possibly some thousands of people) were taken as captives. It is believed that while subjects of Babylon, a significant portion of the Torah was written, much of it borrowed from Babylonian mythology. For example, early cuneiform tablets tell a story that is almost identical to the biblical description of Noah and the flood. Harris tells us that Babylonians shunned pigs. Given that the Torah was probably codified while the Jewish elites resided in Babylon, it only makes sense that Babylonian dietary rules would have influenced Jewish practice going forward.

Furthermore, over centuries, alliances and enmities ebb and flow (as they do to this day.) If the Jewish people adopted a distaste for pigs and ban on pork from the Egyptians, Babylonians or Phoenicians during a time of cooperation, they likely would have retained the prohibition even if relations subsequently soured. Islam got its dietary restriction against pork from the Jewish philosopher Maimonides. When Jews and Muslims later came into conflict, the Imams didn’t decree that since they no longer liked the Jews, pork was back on the menu.

I would love to be able to say with conviction why Jewish law bans the consumption of pork and the abomination of the pig. Unfortunately, certainty disappears with time and a very great deal of time has passed. But, through research and contemplation I have convinced myself that the simplest explanation is the most likely. The laws of kashrut are simply the codification of preexisting cultural traditions of the region. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
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12 comments:

  1. Noah wasn't Jewish. He lived before the people known as the Jews arose. Secondly, pigs are freely eaten by cultures from climates that have plenty of rainfall. Arabs and Jews come from arid environments in which crops must be carefully irrigated. Hogs would threaten the food supply by destroying irrigation channels.

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    1. Yes- I agree with your point that the lack of water was probably the major factor in outlawing pork consumption.
      Not only do domesticated pigs wallow in muddy pits but their feces is full of bacteria and can leach into the groundwater and poison drinking water.
      And in Canaan and in the Arabian Peninsula, clean freshwater resources are highly prized and often the difference between life and death.
      The fact that almost all the surrounding canaanite, hebrew and arabian peoples shunned pigs indicates that there was a practical reason for this ban.

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  2. Good catch on the error I had about Noah. It is now fixed. Thanks!

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  3. Loved your humorous writing style & learned a few things. We're so far removed from the rudimentary systems in place in olden times that we can't conceive why God/Priests would ban consumption of certain foods. It seems to me that the banned animals/birds/fish fall into 2 categories: Predators (birds of prey such as vultures, etc and predatory animals) and scavenders (acquatic bottom feeders such as shellfish, clams, etc & yes....pigs). Pigs were the "septic tanks" in semi-primitive cultures before we invented the highly sanitized modes of getting rid of our feces....I know because there are still homes in villages with outhouses where the family pigs gleefully consume your feces behind the scenes. All these modes of existence (scavenging & predatory) would be likely to expose these animals to parasites/bacteria/viruses that do not kill them but can establish residence in their tissues that when consumed by us would transmit the disease to us. In infectious disease these are called "Carriers". A little bit of trivia - the great Indian mutiny of 1757 was sparked by muslim soldiers in the British Army having to bite off the coating from new bullets that were dipped in pig fat - a complete haraam (non-kosher) act for them!

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    1. Hi Maasi;
      Thank you for the compliments. However, it is generally agreed that pigs dont normally eat feces - either their own nor those of other animals (including humans.) Wild pigs are (as I understand it) very fastidious. In fact, one of the problems that wild pigs cause for farmers is that they frequently seek out fresh, clean sources of water and mud. They need mud to protect their skin. If they have no choice, or are confined in a modern intensive farm situation, then they will roll in feces, or anything else that can protect and moisturize their skin. But they only use or eat feces under duress. Guinea pigs eat their own droppings as a function of how their digestion works. However, pigs do not.

      Also, I am not convinced by arguments that ancient peoples avoided anything due to parasites and disease. They had no notion of any such vectors of infection - they had no notion of infection. Pastoral and pre-agrarian peoples (people living off the land) learned to use everything in their environment. Even if pigs could cause disease (trichinosis), early humans undoubted would have learned how to treat it to avoid illness - by cooking it thoroughly. There are many examples of "primitive" people learning to make foods safe or palatable that would otherwise be poisonous, inedible, or dangerous.

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  4. Sorry ...correction of the date of the Great Indian Mutiny...it was in 1857 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Rebellion_of_1857#Causes_of_the_rebellion)

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  5. The idea that God is constantly acting to create miracles even in our era is sort of foreign to Jewish thought. The eating of any treif meat is a to'evah which is being translated as an abomination. Your stonemason Siri is clever but silly. I thought this would be more thoughtful when I began reading it. There are quite a few errors but your blog. as far as maimonides is concerned, he died in 1204. I believe Muslims were avoiding pork during the approximately 600 years between Mohammed and Maimonides.
    Just a few brief points: very few nomadic or pastoral people keep pigs because they do not move very well in herds. The only pastoral people I know that kept pigs were Manchus and they set up special villages for swineherds because they liked it so much.

    The statement the Jews are very chauvinistic and proud of their intelligence disturbs me. Whether or not this is the case in your family, I have not seen it borne out and describe me any group of people in such a way borders on offensive. to say, "among jews one might find" is better, and since you're trying to have a discussion about Judaism, terms such as old and New Testament rather than Hebrew and Christian Scriptures already show a particular context
    there is a dictum not to say that one avoids pork because it is disgusting, no creature created by God is disgusting but rather to say that although it is probably delicious, Jews are prohibited from eating it. Ancient Romans did ascribe jews' avoiding eating pork to it being sacred, much the same way that Egyptians avoided eating sacred animals or how Hindus avoid eating beef. But any acquaintance with the culture and its ancient texts shows that this is not the case.
    In any case, thank you for a very imaginative and creative essay.

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    1. I would say we disagree on a number of points, but, I appreciate alternative viewpoints!

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  6. What if semite people are on average less capable of actually stomaching pork? For example, most non-white races are much less capable of breaking down lactose of milk and therefore avoid drinking milk. The alcohol tolerance is also quite common in northern countries and less prevalent the more a country is located in the south. This shows us that races are less or more adapted to certain kinds of foods. The ban on pork could in fact be reflecting a biological truth. Same applies for beverage containing alcohol. Semites get drunk much faster and therefore the ban would also make sense. It was probably again and again observed that people fell ill after eating pork and therefore and as a consequence the ban on pork was introduced.

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    1. Hi;

      Thanks for the question. The flesh of different mammals are chemically pretty much the same - a set of amino acids, lipids, etc. The ratios of chemicals will vary from species to species, and between genders, cuts of meat, age, diet, and individual, but basically the building blocks of mammalian meat are identical. If you can eat lamb, goat, beef, etc., then you can eat pork.

      What differs is the set of pathogens that given animals are more or less likely to harbor. Pigs can harbor trichinosis, which would cause human disease. However, it is easily killed by proper cooking, and, we know that humans the world over learn how to take advantage of everything they find in the natural world. There are a staggering number of plant an animal products consumed by humans that are poisonous if not treated properly. I'll give just 3 examples: Morel mushrooms are poisonous if eaten raw, delicious if cooked. Cassava has been a primary staple food in South America and Africa. Depending on the variety, it requires days of treatment to remove the cyanide before use. Finally, there is Fugu, a pufferfish that is a delicacy in Japan and will cause instant paralysis and death if not properly prepared. When humans observe that people get sick after consuming something, they are more likely to figure out how to make it safe than to avoid it.

      As for Semitic people, they are genetically identical. Remember, these were groups of tribes that settled in different parts of a very small region. They had different kings, gods, and hats, but they were really the same biologically.

      As for alcohol, it actually is toxic. Getting drunk (intoxication) is a function of alcohol being toxic, and it can certainly kill you. Different groups of people have differing levels of resistance to alcohol. Also, I have never heard of Semites getting drunk faster than any other group.

      Thank you for your thought provoking comments!

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    2. Well, an alternative explanation could be this: the pig in its appearance resembles a naked and fat human being. Nakedness and and corpulence are symbols of decadence. The Orient's history has already had much experience of decadence, abudance and thus is aware of its detrimental effects. The holy booko can be regarded as an instruction on how to avoid decadence. -

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  7. I continue to stand by the conclusion I presented in my essay as the most likely explanation for the Jewish prohibition on consumption of pork.

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