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Unclean animals

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Sow and five piglets

The pig is considered an unclean animal in Judaism and Islam

Unclean animals, in some religions, are animals on whose consumption or handling is labeled a taboo. According to these religions' dogmas, persons who handle such animals may need to purify themselves to get rid of their uncleanness.


The origins of practices in relation to "clean animals" and "unclean animals" are lost to prehistory, but are maintained by several large religions. The idea that some animals are dangerous or disgusting is present in almost all known human cultures. This could be due to the fact that in ancient times people had not realized how to preserve and prepare some foods. For instance, pork not prepared or stored properly can cause illness, as can some seafood. Pigs are also common vectors in transmission of the flu to humans from birds since they are immunologically similar to humans. By labeling the animal as unclean and forbidden, consumption and handling of those potentially dangerous foods would not occur.


In Judaism, Kashrut (kosher) is the set of dietary laws governing what can or cannot be consumed. These laws are based upon the Torah and the Talmud. According to Jewish law, mammals that both chew their cud (ruminate) and have cloven hooves are kosher[1]. Animals with one characteristic but not the other (the camel, the hyrax and the hare because they have no cloven hooves, and the pig because it does not ruminate) are specifically excluded[2] (Leviticus 11:3–8).[3] Jews are forbidden to eat pork, as swine are considered to be unclean. In the context of Judaism, the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy from the Hebrew Bible specify what must not be consumed.

The Book of Leviticus states:

Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.

– Leviticus 11:4

54986main mouse med

Mice are forbidden "crawling creatures" (Leviticus 11:29).


Bats are forbidden (Leviticus 11:19).

These are the animals considered to be unclean according to Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:

Blue crab on market in Piraeus - Callinectes sapidus Rathbun 20020819-317

Crabs are considered unclean because they have "neither fins nor scales".

It should be noted that the translations of some of the aforementioned animals from the Hebrew are a matter of dispute in classical Jewish commentaries. With respect to birds, the Torah only specifies ones which may not be eaten, and the translations of these are also a matter of contention in traditional Jewish texts. It is therefore common practice to eat only birds with a clear tradition of being kosher, eg. domestic fowl.

Many additional animals are not mentioned specifically by name, but from the characteristics mentioned in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, may also be considered to be unclean. For example, all shellfish are generally considered unclean. Examples of animals often considered to be unclean by their characteristics:

Leviticus 11:20–23 permits certain kinds of "winged swarming things" (i.e. insects) while prohibiting others; however, today rabbis are uncertain as to which insects were specifically permitted, so now all insects are prohibited to be on the safe side.[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_insects] An exception to this is a number of Yemenite communities that have retained their own traditions with respect to kosher locusts. As a result these particular locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) are considered kosher for the specific community which has the tradition. Bees' honey is, however, considered kosher[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_honey] because the honey is not made by bees, but is rather collected nectar and concentrated by bees. There are no exceptions to the rule that any product of a non-kosher animal is also non-kosher, for example gelatin (but see the controversy on shellac). Within the past twenty years "kosher gelatin" has begun appearing. Some of this is derived from cows or from fish and made in a manner keeping with kosher traditions; others are derived from a plant or seaweed base using agar or pectin.[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_gelatin]

In order to eat an animal or bird it must be slaughtered according to Jewish law (Shechita). This involves cutting the animal's trachea and esophagus, the carotid artery and jugular vein are also severed in this operation – as are most arteries and veins leading to and from the brain – with a sharp knife that has been thoroughly checked for imperfections beforehand. The cut must be swift and without pause, to avoid tearing, and must be performed by an expert. Fish and Locusts must be killed before allowed to be eaten, but no particular method has been specified in Jewish law.

The animal must then be determined to be free of treifot – which are 70 different categories of injuries, diseases and abnormalities – whose presence renders the animal non-kosher.

Not all parts of the animal may be eaten; certain fats, known as Chelev, may not be eaten. As much blood as possible must be removed from the meat, either by soaking, salting and rinsing or by broiling over a fire. In addition the sciatic nerve in each leg and the fat surrounding the nerve must be removed.

It is forbidden to cook, eat, or derive any benefit from mixtures of milk and meat (and their by-products). It is also forbidden to cook or eat dairy products together with poultry as a rabbinic injunction against mixing milk and meat.

Clean animals in Judaism

The term clean animals in the Hebrew bible is a misnomer as the actual term refers to the 'purity' and 'impurity' of the animal, which itself is a reference to the status the animal has in terms of Kashrut and its eligibility for sacrifice. Hence all pure or clean animals are allowed to be eaten [are Kosher] while the unclean or impure animals may not be eaten. These land, sea, or air creatures are listed in the book of Leviticus in the Torah and have different criteria for kosher consumption as follows: All animals that have the characteristics of having completely divided hooves and also chew their cud are by definition clean. All fish that have both scales and fins are clean. There are no biblical signs for poultry as the bible simply delineates 24 specific species of bird as being non-kosher with all other birds being by default, kosher.

Examples of Kosher animals

This list contains animals which, while not specified in the Hebrew Bible(not), are considered to be clean, based on characteristics described in Leviticus 11.


In Islamic dietary laws several animals are considered unclean and not to be eaten (Haraam), while others are permitted (Halaal), as long as they have been killed or slaughtered in the correct manner. Halaal and Haraam are dissimilar to the Jewish Kashrut in that they also encompass behaviour, speech, dress, conduct and manner. In non-Arabic-speaking countries however, the terms are most commonly used in the narrower context of Muslim dietary laws, especially where meat and poultry are concerned, though they can be used for the more general meaning as well.

The Qur'an states:

"Forbidden to you are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which have been invoked the name of other than Allah. that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it; that which is sacrificed on stone [altars]; [forbidden] also is the division by raffling with arrows: that is impiety...But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-Forgiving Most Merciful." – Al-Maidah 5:3

According to Muslims the most important condition is that bismillah (pronouncing the name of Allah) be performed at the time of slaughter. Also important is that the meat of those animals were ended by Zabiha (Sharia slaughter) of which tasmiyah is a condition. If not those animals are considered Maytah (carrion) and are expressly forbidden. The meat of animals slaughtered by a Mushrik (polytheist) is forbidden. However, the food of Jews and Christians are permissible: "The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them." – Al-Maidah 5:4</blockquote>


Saluki dog breed

Dogs are considered unclean according to some scholars of Islamic law, but Salukis, such as the above, are cherished companions for some Muslims.

Dogs are mentioned in the book of Islam the Quran several times e.g. in sura 18 where a dog is a companion of the dwellers of the Cave. The Quran also tells that it is permissible to eat what trained dogs catch (5:4). Nevertheless, many Islamic teachers state dogs should be considered unclean and that Muslims licked by them must perform purification. According to a Sunni Islam Hadith, a plate that a dog has used for feeding must be washed seven times, including once with clean sand mixed with the water, before a person may eat from it.

According to the majority of Sunni scholars, dogs can be owned by farmers, hunters, and shepherds, for the purpose of hunting and guarding.

Another exception appears to be made by the Bedouin in the case of the Saluki. They are allowed in the tents and considered special companions.


In the Bible, the books Leviticus and Deuteronomy contain lists of unclean animals but the idea can also be found in the Book of Genesis in the story of Noah and the Ark.

Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth

Wikisource:Bible (King James)/Genesis/Chapter 7

In the very early days of Christianity it was debated if converts ought to follow Jewish customs (including circumcision and dietary laws) or not. A decision was reached at the Council of Jerusalem, though the extent and application of this decision has been a matter of some debate. (Some see a parallel with the Noahide Laws - See also: Genesis 7:2). In the Acts of the Apostles the "apostles and elders" promulgated the decision in a letter "to the Gentile believers":

"For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_grkbroma] offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled ..." – Acts 15:28-29

The commonly held theological position is that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, the "Old Covenant" and its restrictions no longer apply (See Christian View of the Law for the different viewpoints).

In the First Epistle to Timothy it states:

"...commanding to abstain from meats[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_grkbroma1], which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_grkktisma] of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." – 1 Timothy 4:3-5

In the Epistle to the Colossians it states:

"...Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ....Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days." – Colossians 2:8-16

Some scriptures do more adequately clarify the apparent contradiction between the decision of the aposltes and elders and Paul's later statements. The earliest converts to Christianity were by majority proselytes from the Jewish faith, as attested in the Book of Acts chapters 2 and 3. There was a general concern about the conscience of the new believer being exposed to new spiritual freedoms which had before been taboo, potentially encouraging activity without regard to more important moral mandates that regulate behaviors which tarnish the soul, as Paul states in his first letter to the church at Corinth:

"4As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."I Corinthians 8:4-13

However, there are Torah-submissive Christians who hold different interpretations of passages such as those cited and believe that the dietary restrictions continue under the new covenant. For example, in Acts 11:8 Peter was convinced that it would be out of character for the Lord to recommend an unclean diet. (See also Acts 10:10-17 for context.) Acts 11:11,18 clarifies Peter's vision. These verses indicate that God was instructing him not to refer to gentiles as "unclean" as it was common in Israel, indicating that salvation had been extended to the gentiles. One modern example of a Torah-submissive group is the Seventh-day Adventist Church whose co-founder Ellen G. White was a proponent of vegetarianism. Many Seventh-day Adventists avoid meat for health reasons, though vegetarianism is not a requirement. Members of the United Church of God as well as other Sabbath-keeping Christian Churches also believe in abstaining from unclean meats. In their publication on the subject, they state that

the Bible teaches that the distinction between clean and unclean has never been rescinded and that the distinction continues to exist for a good reason.

Conversely to the claim made by this publication, Jesus did plainly state several times that consumption of unclean food did not cause impurity:

"10And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."Matthew 15:10-11

" 14And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. "Mark7:14-23

Here in Mark 7:19, what the King James translates as "purging all meats" reads in the original Koine Greek: καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα, "[thereby] consecrating all food," as rendered in most other translations (ESV, Young's Literal). The Greek separates the statement into two clauses.[4] Therefore these statements of Jesus' for some arguably qualify the apostle Paul's directive on the matter.

In the Roman Catholic Church, it was forbidden to eat meat (defined as the flesh of any warm-blooded animal) on Friday, but as a penance to commemorate Christ's death rather than for meat's being regarded as "unclean" (exceptions are few, such as when Christmas falls on a Friday, in which case Thursday is the day of abstinence). After the Second Vatican Council, the mandatory Friday abstinence from meat was limited to Lent, although some traditionalist Catholics still maintain the abstinence year-round. In Eastern Orthodoxy, both Friday and Wednesday were similarly considered off-limits. Many Protestants on the other hand have never observed the tradition, and may consider the tradition to be pagan in origin.

Some Christians believe that there is proof in the New Testament that the Apostle Paul and his close followers actually opposed Christ's teachings on the Law of Moses and that most modern Christians follow Paul's erroneous teachings.

Seemingly proof of this can be found in many passages, for example Christ said,

" 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."Matthew 5:17-20

The fact that Christ was circumcised and kept every tradition & feast of the Law of Moses - including the Passover - is held by some to support the view that He expected future Christians to do the exact same thing. However, Christ and His death and resurrection are asserted by Paul, Peter, James, and John to be a permanent sacrifice for sins, once for all people. This then will mean that Christ fulfilled the Law in our place, and that Christians are no longer under the auspices of a dietary law:

" 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."Romans 3:19-26

Still, some Christians feel that there is no one quote of Christ in the entire New Testament where He clearly, explicitly 'does away with' or denounces the Law of His fellow practicing Jews, but again see Jesus' statements in Matthew 15 and Mark 7 that he imparted to "multitudes" and then later intimated to His disciples in greater detail. Jesus' feelings on the matter plainly discredit Jewish kosher regulations, and for many, contradict some modern Christian opinions that require Levitical protocol be adhered to.

Scientific studies

In 1966, British anthropologist Mary Douglas published the influential study Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. In Purity and Danger, Douglas first proposed that the kosher laws were not, as many believed, either primitive health regulations or randomly chosen as tests of Jews' commitment to God. Instead, Douglas argued that the laws were about keeping symbolic boundaries. Prohibited foods were those which did not seem to fall neatly into any category. Her theory was that pigs were declared unclean in Leviticus because pigs' place in the natural order was ambiguous since they shared the cloven hoof of the ungulates, but did not chew cud.

A 1985 study by Nanji and French[{{fullurl:{{wikipedia:FULLPAGENAME}}}}#endnote_nanji] found that there was a significant correlation between cirrhosis and pork consumption. Modern day swine raising is very different from earlier times with greater exposure to toxins but reduced exposure to pests and disease.

See also


  1. ^ Retrieved October 21, 2005.
  2. ^  ibid.
  3. ^  ibid.
  4. ^  ibid.
  5. ^ Ohr Somayach, Jerusalem Website "Ask the Rabbi - Swan Vs. Giraffe" which itself references Mazon Kasher Min Hachai, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Levinger pp. 19,22 for its answer. Retrieved October 21, 2005.
  6. ^  Support for "swan" in Sept., Vulg., and Targum Onkelos(?).
  7. ^ Retrieved October 25, 2005.
  8. ^ Retrieved October 22, 2005.
  9. ^ Retrieved October 31, 2005.
  10. ^  "Lawful food in the Quran " Retrieved March 2, 2007.
  11. ^  "Jibra'eel said that we, the group of Angels do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or pictures. (Sahih Muslim Hadith no.3928)"
  12. ^  "Religious traditions hold that if a dog - or woman - passes in front of you as you prepare to pray, it pollutes your purity and negates your prayer. Dogs are permissible as watchdogs or for other utilitarian purposes but not simply for companionship. Abou El Fadl says this zealous adherence to doctrine led one religious authority to advise a Muslim that his pet dog was evil and should be driven away by cutting off its food and water." Retrieved October 21, 2005.
  13. ^ rec.pets.dogs: Salukis Breed-FAQ Retrieved October 22, 2005.
  14. ^  "broma" (bro'-mah) Meaning: "that which is eaten, food" [Strong: #1033]
  15. ^  "broma" (bro'-mah) Meaning: "that which is eaten, food" [Strong: #1033]
  16. ^  "ktiðsma" (ktis'-mah) Meaning: "1. thing founded 2. created thing" [Strong: #2938]
  17. ^ (PDF) Macht, D. M.D., (1953). “An Experimental Pharmacological Appreciation of Levitcus XI and Deuteronomy XIV,”] Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 27. 444-450. Retrieved October 21, 2005.
  18. ^  Macht, D.I. , Contributions to phytopharmacology or the applications of plant physiology to medical problems Science 1930, 71 :302
  19. ^  Macht, D.I. , Science and the Bible, Science 1951 114: 505
  20. ^  Macht, D.I., (1953). “An Experimental Pharmacological Appreciation of Leviticus XI and Deuteronomy XIV,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine. 27. 444-450
  21. ^ Nanji AA, French SW. Relationship between pork consumption and cirrhosis. Lancet. 1985 Mar 23;1(8430):681-3. Retrieved October 21, 2005.
  22. ^  Jane Cahill and Peter Warnock, "It had to happen, Scientist Examines Ancient Bathrooms of Romans 586B.C." BAR May/June 1991


  1. Glover, Alfred Kingsley (1900). Jewish Laws and Customs: Some of the Laws and Usages of the Children of the Ghetto. Original from Harvard University: W.A. Hammond. p. 157.,M1. 
  2. Eisenberg, Ronald L. (2005). The 613 Mitzvot: A Contemporary Guide to the Commandments of Judaism. Schreiber Publishing, Incorporated. p. 251. ISBN 0884003035. 
  3. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 79

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