Kosher, Halal, and Christian Meat Eating
There are many similarities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God, share some of the same prophets, and believe that humans have a responsibility to take care of creation. But there is one important difference that comes to mouth… er, mind. Jews, Christians, and Muslims take their own approaches to the slaughter and consumption of animals.
Jews follow the dietary kosher laws. Although kosher laws cover an array of foods that are forbidden to eat, we will just focus on the consumption and slaughter of animals here.
The first law prohibits the consumption of “unclean” animals.
This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth: To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten. (Lev. 11:46-47.)
Mammals that are considered unclean to eat include pigs, rabbit, horse, dogs, and cats. Any fish that has fins and scales is clean, but crustaceans like shrimp and lobster are not. And bugs and “creeping things” are also unclean (I totally agree).
The second law prohibits the mixture of milk and meat.
Thou shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. (Deut. 14-21.)
The Torah actually prohibits the mixture of milk and meat on three separate occasions in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Rabbis have over time extended the prohibition to include not eating milk and poultry together to avoid the appearance of impropriety. For example, if you eat chicken parmigiano, people may assume you’re disobeying the kosher laws and eating veal parmigiano instead.
Slaughter is not described in the Torah, but still practiced and known as shechitah. The method is a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a sharp blade. The method ensures the rapid, compete draining of blood, which is also necessary to render the meat kosher. There is no requirement that the butcher be a rabbi. But the shochet, or the one who performs the slaughter should be pious and well-trained in kosher law.
Unlike Jews, Christians have no laws regarding the consumption and slaughter of meat. Christians believed that Jesus saved them from original sin and there was no need to worry about clean and unclean animals or dietary laws.
Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. (1 Corinthians 10:25-26.)
Christians can eat whatever they want, no matter how it’s bred or butchered.
Islamic dietary laws define foods that are halal, meaning lawful or permitted and haram, meaning not permitted. Like Judaism, these laws govern the slaughter and consumption of animals.
The Quran describes unlawful meats as:
Forbidden unto you (for food) are: carrion and blood and swine flesh, and that on which hath been invoked the name other than Allah, and the strangled, and the dead through beating, and the dead through falling from a height, and that which hath been gored to death, and the devoured of wild beasts, saving that which ye make lawful (by slaughter) and that which hath been immolated to idols and that ye swear by the divining arrows. This is an abomination. (Al-Maeda 5:3.)
Pork is the only meat that is specifically haram. But other meat may be considered haram if it is procured in a forbidden way (i.e. not slaughtered correctly).
Meat may only be eaten if the name of Allah was pronounced at the time of slaughter.
Eat of that over which the name of Allah hath been mentioned, if ye are believers in his revelations. (Al-Anaam 6:118.)
The Quran also teaches that all animals should be treated with respect at the time of slaughter. It is forbidden to beat animals unnecessarily, to brand them on the face, or to allow them to fight each other for human entertainment. “They must not be mutilated while they are alive.”
Despite the many similarities between the Abrahamic religions, it’s interesting how different the three religions regard the slaughter and consumption of animals. I wonder what the early Christians thought the first time they tried bacon…
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