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Stinley's avatar

Why do so many of the world's religions ban eating pork?

Asked by Stinley (5906 points ) May 24th, 2011

What is it about pork that it would feature so highly on a meta list of religiously banned foodstuffs? Are there other foods that are also commonly banned? I’m not really wondering about the reasons that religions give for not eating pork (though these might give clues) but why it would feature in so many.

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19 Answers

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Pig is really unclean. You can kill all the tapeworms and whatnot inside it by cooking it properly, but not high enough or long enough and it can be really bad for you. If you look at a lot of the various laws, they’re just codes for health and cleanliness so people could live longer.

meiosis's avatar

In the days before refrigeration and efficient cooking methods, the various dietary restrictions were sensible, precaution based codes.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Trichinosis

In the beginning…. Some people ate pork and got sick. The ones who did not, remained healthy. People sitting around the camp fire talked about it and noticed the correlation and decided not to eat it. They made rules. Kids asked “why?”. Parents answered any way they could. And so it goes…

Ron_C's avatar

Banning the eating of pork or cows for Hindu’s was originally an economic issue rather than a religious one. It was meant to stop farmers from eating their livelihood during lean times. As far as I know, there are more religious groups banning alcohol than pork. I even know some southern Baptist types that ban non-religious music and dancing.

Muslims and Jews put religious prohibitions against pork, some Christians insist on eating pork to assure themselves that they are not the dreaded Jew or Muslim. Personally, I am a pork avoiding atheist because I just don’t like the taste and it gives me the runs.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I was told that it was because traditionally, pigs at slops, or food scraps and waste, that other animals wouldn’t eat. In the 1700’s and 1800’s (and before), pigs roamed the streets in cities, eating garbage and sewage from the streets, which made them “unclean.”

I like pork, but I don’t eat a whole lot of meat or fish.

starsofeight's avatar

The prohibition was against ‘ceremonially’ unclean animals, which included such as the vulture, an animal that eats carrion. It was not based on nastiness – because chickens are really nasty too. All omnivores are on that list, because: you are what you eat. If your pig raising neighbor threw his enemy in with the pigs, the pigs would eat him. If you then, bought and ate one of those pigs, you would be a cannibal.

snowberry's avatar

I have been told that pork is harder to digest. What with my digestive issues, pork is definitely not on my list.

Qingu's avatar

Only two religions do, and one (Islam) is heavily based on the other (Judaism).

In addition to the reasons already mentioned, I’ve also heard that the Jews, originally, wanted to differentiate themselves from other tribes in ancient Mesopotamia who relied heavily on pork.

crisw's avatar

Yet another reason, which I think was first articulated by Jared Diamond- in a desert environment, raising pigs is difficult and wasteful of resources and thus discouraged.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

The actual religious reason for it is that God told mankind to NOT eat of the pig in the Old Testament because it was “unclean”.

King_Pariah's avatar

@Qingu actually, there are many Jews who no longer take into consideration the pork ban since it was mainly put into place due to health reasons originally. (this is my understanding that it was for health reasons, and I personally know many who disregard the ban).

Technically, a true Hindu wouldn’t eat meat at all.

Stinley's avatar

Thanks folks, it seems you mostly agree with me and what I was thinking – a rule for health that got translated into doctrine.

YoBob's avatar

I only know of two that ban pork specifically and a hand full of others that ban meat all together. The ones that ban all meat do not single out pork as a special case. As for the two I know if that specifically single out pork, Judaism and Islam, I believe the roots of the practice are similar.

During the time when the Jewish law was being laid down, people did not know about things like parasites. Pigs often carried trichinosis and eating an infected pig (if not thoroughly cooked) could transmit the parasite to humans. So… the simple way to protect the population was to simply ban the consumption of pork. Islam has it’s roots in the traditions, plus it sprang up in a part of the world that has much closer cultural ties to “the old ways”. To them, pigs = unclean beasts simply because that’s the way it’s been for the past couple of thousand years.

ETpro's avatar

What I have always heard is the danger in contracting parasitic infestations, some of which can be life threatening, first lead to restrictions against eating pork. Trichinosis is a disease of the pancreas caused by eating undercooked pork carrying a specific parasitic Trichinella spiralis larva. It is often fatal if untreated. This larva, however, is not restricted to pigs. Most wild game can carry it as well, and the primary cause of the trichinosis disease in the US is eating undercooked wild game or home grown pigs. Commercially produced pork here is now guarded by feeding practices against ever getting infected with the larva.

But I grew us in Southeastern Virginia. There were no pig farms nearby, but every time the family took a road trip out through Smithfield County, the stench of pig farms would almost make me throw up even though we were about a mile or more away from the actual farm out on the main road. So it’s easy to understand why the ancients, not knowing about safe farming, meat handling and cooking techniques, and smelling the filth, developed the notion that pigs are unclean.

Sunflower100's avatar

The traditonal dinner in Ireland is, Bacon cabbage and potatoes. Never heard of anyone been ill, because they ate bacon (pig)

snowberry's avatar

@Sunflower100 It’s undercooked pork (doesn’t matter how it’s prepared) that’s the problem. Not pork in general.
Oh, and welcome to Fluther.

skyphoenix1's avatar

I think that many religions ban eating pork mostly because it is considered unclean. For example, in the bible, it starts saying in Leviticus ch.10 verse 3,4,6,7 some examples of unclean foods, it mentions pig at the 7th verse; 3)” ‘You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews cud. 4)” ’ There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. 6) The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. 7) And the pig, though it has a split hood completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.’ ” Its also unclean because of health issues and it can contract infections which can be life threatening like YoBob put it. (comment above).

Ejmulla's avatar

It has come to my attention that God’s decree against pork and other unclean meats, not only stands for the Jews and Muslims. When Christ was alive, he declared he would not abolish God’s law, but to uphold it. In other words, Jews, Muslims AND Christians should not eat any meats that are unclean. I don’t want to sound all “high and mighty”, so please don’t jump on me right now. I’ll go gather more supporting evidence and present my case thoroughly.

ETpro's avatar

Welcome to FLuther, @Ejmulla. You are quite right that the New Testament does not set aside the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 5: 17–20 says:

“17 Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil.”

“18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished.

“19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

“20 For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

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