THE PIG is one of the oldest forms of livestock, having been domesticated as early as 5000 BC. It is believed to have been domesticated either in the Near East or in China from the wild boar. The adaptable nature and omnivorous diet of this creature allowed early humans to domesticate it much earlier than many other forms of livestock, such as cattle. Pigs were mostly used for food, but people also used their hide for shields and shoes, their bones for tools and weapons, and their bristles for brushes. Pigs have other roles within the human economy: their feeding behavior in searching for roots churns up the ground and makes it easier to plough; their sensitive noses lead them to truffles, an underground fungus highly valued by humans; and their omnivorous nature enables them to eat human rubbish, keeping settlements cleaner than they would otherwise have been.
Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, providing about 38 percent of daily meat protein intake worldwide, although consumption varies widely from place to place. This is despite religious restrictions on the consumption of pork and the prominence of beef production in the West. Pork consumption has been rising for thirty years, both in actual terms and in terms of meat-market share.
Throughout the Islamic world, as well as in Israel, many countries severely restrict the importation or consumption of pork products. Examples are Iran, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Pork is one of the best-known of a category of foods that are forbidden under traditional Jewish dietary law. The biblical basis for the Jewish prohibition of pork is in Leviticus 11:7. The Qur'anic basis for the Islamic prohibition of pork can be found in surahs 2:173, 5:3, 5:60, 6:145 and 16:115.
Seventh-day Adventists likewise eat no pork. Rastafarians too avoid the consumption of pork, their basis is also the book of Leviticus. [The Rastafarian religion is essentially a quirky spin-off of Judaism.]
The Scottish pork taboo was Donald Alexander Mackenzie's phrase for discussing an aversion to pork amongst Scots, particularly Highlanders, which he believed to stem from an ancient taboo. Several writers who confirm that there was a prejudice against pork, or a superstitious attitude to pigs, do not see it in terms of a taboo related to an ancient cult. Any prejudice is generally agreed to have been fading by 1800.
(From the Wikipedia entry on PORK)
Think about this for a moment. Several ethnic and religious groups on earth share a pork taboo: Jews, Arabs, Malays, and Rastafarians. Okay, some Seventh-Day Adventists avoid eating pork - probably because of the Gadarene swine story in the New Testament that describes how Jesus arrives in an area called Gadara and encounters a man possessed by demons. Jesus then chases the demons into the bodies of 2,000 innocent swine... who, maddened by the demons, stampede into the sea and drown. In this scenario the pigs were blameless and ought to be profusely thanked for taking on the possessed man's evil karma.
What else do these pork-fearing tribes have in common? A deeply-embedded religious fervor, perhaps, that makes it virtually impossible for them to get close to other tribes - especially the pork-loving ones. In effect, the pork taboo serves as a tribal, cultural and culinary barrier isolating a few groups from everybody else.
Problem is, even though the Arabs and Jews don't eat pork, they still can't get along with each other. In fact, they've been at loggerheads since Abraham, on the wicked advice of his wife Sara, dumped his mistress Hagar. You see, Hagar was the mother of Ishmael, Abraham's firstborn and forefather of the Arabs; while Sara gave birth to Isaac, forefather of the Jews. Yup... deadly sibling rivalry, owing to parents playing favorites among their kids.
Who are the world's biggest pork-eaters? The Chinese, Germans, English, Irish, most Scandinavians, Balinese, Papua New Guineans and Americans (in that approximate order). What characteristics do these racial groups share? Well, they are all known for pragmatism, industriousness, resourcefulness, an ability to learn from other cultures and enjoy a joke at their own expense. Doesn't that make you wonder if there may be some hitherto unidentified substance present in the flesh of pigs that tends to ground people in common sense, good humor, and enhances their long-term survival quotient?
*Khinzir = Arabic for "swine"
[First posted 11 August 2008, reposted 19 September 2015]