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Why was eating pork taboo in many cultures?

  1. Jun 7, 2005 #1

    arildno

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    In order to focus on an interesting point in lwymarie's recently closed thread (due to my outburst), I'd like to criticize the commonly accepted notion that this taboo arose in order to avoid trichinosis.

    Some reflections ought to make this proposition highly dubious:
    1. The incubation period of the trichines(?) is fairly long (up to several years, if I'm not mistaken)
    That is, you can go a long time after having eaten infected pork before you actually get ill.

    Thus, it seems unlikely that any culture which does not allocate resources to scientific research would be able to identify the culprit (i.e, what part of their diet caused an eventual disease) .

    Note that this doesn't mean that earlier cultures were unaware of that certain
    products should not be eaten; for example, it is quite universal that "self-dead" animals should not be eaten (that is, using a found carcass as a food source).
    But food-poisoning, which is a common complication by eating rotten meat, will develop in the course of HOURS, rather than years.
    Thus, a "primitive" culture's ability to identify the culprit here is much easier than in the trichinosis case.

    2. There exists a much simpler explanation:
    Pigs have been extensively used as REFUSE EATERS, even as eating sewage (i.e, s**t).
    They had a sanitary function in many village communities, but that these animals were regarded as "unclean" is not highly surprising from this perspective..
    We can certainly still understand (and feel) the physical revulsion at the thought of eating s**t eaters.

    To bolster up the argument here, we may note that goats had a similar sanitary function in many Norwegian mountain villages; and sure enough, in these areas, people would not eat goat.

    The taboos against eating dog meat might well have a similar origin.

    EDIT:
    I googled on trichinosis; although it can occur within a couple of days, it is more usual that symptoms appear 2-8 weeks after digestion. See for example:
    http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/trichinosis/factsht_trichinosis.htm

    The argument in 1. still holds, though; what "primitive" culture keeps careful track and control of what they ate a month ago?
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 9, 2005 #2
    Possibly because of the risk of salmonella infection due to poor hygene during slaughter?
    Afterall pigs, like chicken, eat pretty much anything so their prone to carry salmonella infections.

    P.s. just a guestimate here, but salmonella is a quick noticed infection.
     
  4. Jun 9, 2005 #3

    arildno

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    The problem with that, is that then chicken ought to have been taboo to eat as well.
    It is a highly dubious assumption to say that at some early, primitive time people were perceptive enough to discover disease mechanisms, which these people then afterwards forgot about so that the injunctions against eating some particular type of meat is remembered in the form of taboo.

    It is more sensible to try and locate the origin of taboos in (still understandable, in this case) emotionalisms, rather than regarding taboos as originating from critical, rational thought.
     
  5. Jun 9, 2005 #4

    iansmith

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    For what it is worth, I found this on the internet.

    http://www.dialognow.org/node/view/907

    http://members.aye.net/~abrupt/house/islam6.html

    http://hirr.hartsem.edu/ency/Taboo.htm
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2005
  6. Jun 9, 2005 #5

    arildno

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    Very interesting alternative views, iansmith!
    Thanks for the links.
     
  7. Jun 10, 2005 #6
    Well done all.
    Remarkably you're probably all correct to some extent, but what is the overall conclusion? To prohibit a food or anything to others seems to be a means to power. If you can prohibit or endorse one thing, you may be able to prohibit or endorse everything else. Pick something easy to prohit as you begin. Pigs aren't particularly attractive to humans, are they . . .?
    Realize I think that the founders of all the major religions of the world are complete scoundrels living in a world where being the biggest scoundrel wins the day. It's time to end the reign of scoundrels. Woah! That eliminates a lot of what we got goin' on now don't it?
    Mostly if not exclusively bad persons have been in power since the Reagan revolution in this country - if not since the end of WW II. What's the common sign of the scoundrels? Self-interest, selfishness, ignorance, violence, unconcern with the environment, unconcern with others, tricksters, liars, cheaters . . . inflicters of taboos, (political correctness).

    Peace and love,
    NN
     
  8. Jun 10, 2005 #7

    loseyourname

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    Jules from Pulp Fiction would agree with arildno. As he says, "I don't dig on swine. A pig's a filthy animal. I don't eat anything that doesn't have sense enough not to eat its own sh*t."
     
  9. Jun 10, 2005 #8

    Les Sleeth

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    Just like I said, religio-psychosis. :eek:


    That's just fine, thanks a lot Arildno for trying to humiliate me.


    Well, the Israelite culture was very old, especially if you include their supposed pre-flood Black Sea tribal life some 5000 years ago. People do tend to learn when they endure a couple-plus millenia.


    Others figured out sex caused babies 9 months in the future, so it's not inconceivable that someone could have linked pork to trichinosis that occurred a few days later.


    Simpler doesn't equate to accurate.


    Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. :yuck: I can't even relate to eating dead rotting flesh (being a veggie-tari-un).

    Some of my friends bugged me to watch HBO's production of Deadwood, so finally I accepted last year's season on DVD from one of them. I immediately echoed the critics for the use of the F and CS words as being inaccurate (and backed it up with this link: http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/news/people/columns/intelligencer/n_10191/ . . . Geez, how far is that from Fonda in My Darlin' Clementine?

    Anyway, Deadwood's habit of feeding the pigs corpses pretty much convinced me they have no class, and I'd never eat one even if I were a pterodactyl (aka: dead rotting flesh eater).


    LOL. But you forget the Jews kept track of everything, they are famous for it! That's why books have been written called "the Bible as history."

    However, I will admit that I repeated the "common belief" as you say without researching it in depth. You caught me being scholastically cavalier. :redface: You have a point too that in terms of Jewish temple religion, cleanliness was obsessively highly esteemed, and required. After reading what others have posted here however, I am not convinced that getting sick from pork didn't play a role in the decision not to eat it. (BTW, another "common belief" about why Mohammed prohibited pork was because it was a respectful nod to Moses and Jesus who he accepted as fellow prophets.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2005
  10. Jun 11, 2005 #9

    arildno

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    Humiliate?
    How, because you offered the most cited explanation for the pork taboo?
    If you did feel offended by that, sorry.

    1. It is unsubstantiated that people were aware of the trichinosis danger by eating pork meat.
    If you can't substantiate that claim, it is simply an unfounded assertion to say that they once upon a time did have that knowledge and then later on forgot about it.

    2. How pigs have been used in various societies is, however, something we do have evidence for.
    If one therefore can construct a reasonable explanation on basis on evidenced material, rather than using unfounded assertions like 1., then this is to be preferred from a scientific point of view.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2005
  11. Jun 11, 2005 #10

    Les Sleeth

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    I was 100% joking (like I was in most of the post) . . . just teasing you a little. :wink: I think it was an interesting topic to bring up, and I don't mind being wrong if I learn something!
     
  12. Jun 11, 2005 #11

    arildno

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    Well, I guess I deserved that as well as a deserved warning from the mentors. :smile:
     
  13. Nov 16, 2005 #12
    pork taboo

    The pork taboo most likely came about because pigs foul water supplies, which, as you know, are few and far between in the middle eastern deserts.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2005
  14. Nov 16, 2005 #13

    Bystander

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    Diamond's Collapse presents the case of pork taboo in some Pacific island cultures. The hypothesis here is that the critters were too hard to keep out of the vegetable gardens to make it worth using them as protein sources. That is, they ate more food being raised for people than they produced at slaughter. Given the agricultural productivity of SW Asia, there may have been a similar problem. Little hard to explain the Egyptian taboo with that argument, though.
     
  15. Nov 16, 2005 #14
    I think that it was a combination of various things. If they didnt cook it perfectly, pork is crawling with parasites raw, so it would cause alot of disease. Also, it poisoned the water, like what was said, and water was scarce. So the best the Jews could come up with is that it was a punishment from God, since they didnt understand the concept of bacteria. So they would outlaw it and then the disesae would end. They obviously found a coorelation between pork and disease, so they blamed it on God and made it a sin.
     
  16. Nov 16, 2005 #15

    jim mcnamara

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    Arildno -
    T. spiralis general information:
    http://www.mass.gov/dph/cdc/gsrman/trichi.pdf
    Basically, the incubation period can be a few days to over a month.

    Whitewolf -
    Virtually all domesticated mammals up to recent times had parasite loads.
    Not just domestic suine.

    One way to differentiate species of origin for animal scat samples from archeological sites is via parasites. In modern industrialized countries with good meat inspection programs, parasites are nowhere near as common.
     
  17. Nov 18, 2005 #16
    yes, I know. But pork was like the worst as I understood it. Plus, I would imagine there is a reason that people eat fish and red meat pretty darn close to raw, but not pork. I would say chicken, but perhaps in Moses's time, samonella wasnt a big concern. Plus, that is bacterial, not parasitic.
     
  18. Nov 20, 2005 #17

    arildno

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    There doesn't exist any empirical evidence whatsoever for the reason behind pork taboos being disease prevention. The only injunctions we know of cited as reasons for the pork taboo are statements like pigs being filthy, unclean animals. No reference to diseases here.
    (Furthermore, there was no general recognition that lack of personal hygiene might be detrimental to individuals' health)

    Of course, you might construct a fantasy history in which previous generations "knew" that you might get sick from eating pork, and then all generations thereafter had just forgotten about this and lived by the mindless taboo instead.
     
  19. Nov 22, 2005 #18

    jim mcnamara

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    Salmonella bacteria on poultry are like staph bacteria on humans - one species of bacteria likely to be in skin flora of a given animal.

    Arildno is right - up to the time of Joseph Lister humans had only vague concepts of what caused most contagious diseases. And it usually related to filth, dank environments, or obvious skin conditions like leprosy and scabies.

    "sus scrofa" is the latin name for the domestic pig species. scrofa (scrofulae) is related to the English word scrofulous - having scrofula - which are rather unpleasant looking swollen lymph glands caused by tuberculosis.

    scrofulae is the word from latin meaning brood sow, so people for a long time must have thought pigs were unpleasant. By the way, scrofulous was a very great insult to English speaking people a few hundred years ago.

    In short pigs are, well, disgusting. Would you want to eat McDonald's burgers fresh from the landfill? Same idea.
     
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