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Taboo food and drink are food and beverages which people abstain from consuming for religious, cultural or hygienic reasons. Many food taboos forbid the meat of a particular animal, including mammals, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, bony fish, and crustaceans. Some taboos are specific to a particular part or excretion of an animal, while other taboos forgo the consumption of plants, fungi, or insects.
Food taboos can be defined as rules, codified or otherwise, about which foods or combinations of foods may not be eaten and how animals are to be slaughtered. The origins of these prohibitions and commandments are varied. In some cases, these taboos are a result of health considerations or other practical reasons. In others, they are a result of human symbolic systems. Some foods may be prohibited during certain festivals (e.g., Lent), at certain times of life (e.g., pregnancy), or to certain classes of people (e.g., priests), although the food is in general permissible.
- 1 Causes
- 2 Taboo food
- 2.1 Amphibians and reptiles
- 2.2 Bats
- 2.3 Bears
- 2.4 Birds
- 2.5 Camels
- 2.6 Cats
- 2.7 Cattle
- 2.8 Crustaceans and other seafood
- 2.9 Deer and ungulates
- 2.10 Dogs
- 2.11 Elephants
- 2.12 Fish
- 2.13 Fungi
- 2.14 Guinea pig and related rodents
- 2.15 Horses and other equines
- 2.16 Insects
- 2.17 Living animals
- 2.18 Offal
- 2.19 Pigs/Pork
- 2.20 Rabbit
- 2.21 Rats and mice
- 2.22 Snails
- 2.23 Squirrel
- 2.24 Vegetables
- 2.25 Whales
- 2.26 Primates
- 2.27 Animal fetus
- 3 Taboo drinks
- 4 Salt
- 5 Genetically modified foods taboo
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Various religions forbid the consumption of certain types of food. For example, Judaism prescribes a strict set of rules, called Kashrut, regarding what may and may not be eaten. Islam has similar laws, dividing foods into haraam (forbidden) and halal (permitted). Jains often follow religious directives to observe vegetarianism. Hinduism has no specific proscriptions against eating meat, but some Hindus apply the concept of ahimsa (non-violence) to their diet and consider vegetarianism as ideal, and practice forms of vegetarianism.
Aside from formal rules, there are cultural taboos against the consumption of some animals. One cause is the classification of a food as famine food – the association of a food with famine, and hence association of the food with hardship. Within a given society, some meats will be considered taboo simply because they are outside the range of the generally accepted definition of a foodstuff, not necessarily because the meat is considered repulsive in flavor, aroma, texture or appearance. (Dog meat is eaten, in certain circumstances, in Korea, Vietnam, and China, although it is nowhere a common dish.) Similarly, horse meat is rarely eaten in the Anglosphere, although it is part of the national cuisine of countries as widespread as Kazakhstan, Japan, and France.
In some instances, a food taboo may only apply to certain parts of an animal.
Sometimes food taboos enter national or local law, as with the ban on cattle abattoirs in most of India, and horse slaughter in the United States. Even after reversion to Chinese rule, Hong Kong has not lifted its ban on supplying meat from dogs and cats, imposed in colonial times.
Environmentalism, ethical consumerism and other activist movements are giving rise to new taboos and eating guidelines. A fairly recent addition to cultural food taboos is the meat and eggs of endangered species or animals that are otherwise protected by law or international treaty. Examples of such protected species include some species of whales, sea turtles, and migratory birds.
Similarly, sustainable seafood advisory lists and certification consider certain seafoods to be taboo due to unsustainable fishing. Organic certification prohibits most synthetic chemical inputs during food production, or genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge. The Fair Trade movement and certification discourage the consumption of food and other goods produced in exploitative working conditions. Other social movements generating taboos include Local Food and The 100-Mile Diet, both of which encourage abstinence from non-locally produced food, and veganism, in which adherents endeavour not to use or consume animal products of any kind.
Amphibians and reptiles
Judaism strictly forbids the consumption of amphibians, such as frogs. Consumption of reptiles, such as crocodiles and snakes, is also forbidden. In other cultures, foods such as frog legs and alligator are treasured as delicacies, and the animals are raised commercially.
In Judaism, the Deuteronomic Code and Priestly Code explicitly prohibit the bat. Likewise, Islamic Sharia forbids their consumption.
In the predominantly-Muslim nation of Indonesia, however, bat meat is known to be a prized delicacy, especially within the Batak and Minahasa minority communities, but also in Java.
The Torah (Leviticus 11:13) explicitly states that the eagle, vulture, and osprey are not to be eaten. A bird now commonly raised for meat in some areas, the ostrich, is explicitly banned as food in Leviticus 11:16.
In North America, while pigeons (as doves), sometimes known as squab, are a hunted game bird, urban pigeons are avoided due to the presumption of uncleanness and the parasites which they may carry. Swan was at one time a dish reserved for royalty. The English custom of Swan Upping derives from this period. In more modern times, swans have been protected in parts of Europe and the United States, making swan unavailable. Reports about the eating of swans are seen from time to time.
Scavengers and carrion-eaters such as vultures and crows are avoided as food in many cultures because they are perceived as carriers of disease and unclean, and associated with death. An exception is the rook which was a recognised country dish, and which has in more recent times been served in a Scottish restaurant in London. In Western cultures today, most people regard songbirds as backyard wildlife rather than as food. In addition, some migratory birds are protected internationally by the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds.
The eating of a camel is strictly prohibited by the Torah in Deuteronomy 14:6-7. Although the camel is a cud-chewer, the Torah still considered it "unclean". While the foot of a camel is split into two toe-like structures, this passage explicitly states that the camel does not meet the cloven hoof criterion.
The eating of camel is allowed in Islam, and indeed is traditional in the Islamic heartland in Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula more generally. The hump in particular is considered a delicacy and eaten on special occasions.
- Main article: Cat meat
Cat meat is eaten as part of uncommon cuisines of Cantonese in China, Vietnam, and some rural Swiss cultures. In desperate times, people of other areas have been known to resort to cooking and eating cats. Cat meat was eaten, for example, during the famine in the Siege of Leningrad. In 1996, a place that served cat meat was supposedly discovered by the Argentine press in a shanty town in Rosario, but in fact the meal had been set up by media from Buenos Aires.
In 2008, it was reported that cats were a staple part of the local diet in Guangdong, China, with many cats being shipped down from the north and one Guangzhou-based business receiving up to 10,000 cats per day from different parts of China. Protesters in other parts of China have urged the Guangdong provincial government to crack down on cat traders and restaurants that serve cat meat, although no law says it is illegal to eat cats.
The term "roof-hare" (roof-rabbit, German Dachhase) applies to cat meat presented as that of a hare, another small mammal used as a source of meat. Subtracting the skin, feet, head and tail, hare and cat carcasses appear similar. The only way to distinguish them is by looking at the processus hamatus of the feline scapula, which should have a processus suprahamatus. Dar gato por liebre ("to pass off a cat as a hare") is an expression common to many Spanish-speaking countries, equivalent to "to pull the wool over someone's eyes" derived from this basic scam. There is an equivalent Portuguese expression Comprar gato por lebre, meaning "to buy a cat as a hare". More specifically, in Brazil, cat meat is seen as repulsive and people often shun barbecue establishments suspected of selling cat meat. The expression churrasco de gato ("cat barbecue") is largely used in Brazil with a humorous note, especially for roadside stands that offer grilled meat on a stick (often coated with farofa), due to their poor hygiene and that the source of the meat is mostly unknown. Also, in the Philippines, there is an urban legend and a joke that the some vendors use cat meat to make siopao (steamed bun), leading some Filipinos to name their pet cats "Siopao". Meanwhile "kitten cakes" and "buy three shawarma - assemble a kitten" are common Russian urban jokes about the suspect origin of food from street vendors' stalls.
The inhabitants of Vicenza in northern Italy are reputed to eat cats, although the practice has been out of use for decades. In February 2010, a popular Italian gastronome was criticized and suspended from a show for talking about the former practice of eating cat stew in Tuscany.
During the so called "Bad Times" of hunger in Europe during and after World War I and World War II "roof-rabbit" was a common food. Those who thought that they were eating Australian rabbits were really eating European cats.
Some restaurants in the Hai Phong and Hạ Long Bay area in north Vietnam advertise cat meat hot pot as "little tiger", and cats in cages can be seen inside.
- Main article: Cattle in religion
Many Hindus, particularly Brahmins, are vegetarian, abstaining from eating meat. Those Hindus who do eat meat abstain from the consumption of beef, as the cow holds a sacred place in Hinduism. Consumption of beef is taboo out of respect for the cow. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and particularly ghee are highly revered and used in holy ceremonies. Cow milk was the nearest substitute of mother's milk for orphaned new-born babies before the advent of modern medicine, when many pregnant women would die in the birthing process. Also, cow dung (which in Indian climate quickly dries out hard) is applied as antiseptic floor covering, and it is a natural fertilizer for farmland and also used as fuel. Cow urine is used for its medicinal properties in Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine). Bullocks were the primary source of agricultural power and transportation in the early days, and as India adopted an agricultural lifestyle, the cow proved to be a very useful animal: this respect stemmed out of necessity led to abstaining from killing cows for food; for example, if a famine-stricken village kills and eats its bullocks, they will not be available to pull the plough and the cart when next planting season comes.
By Indian law, the slaughter of female cattle (i.e. cows) is banned in almost all Indian states except Kerala, West Bengal and the seven north eastern states. Slaughter of cows is an extremely provocative issue for many Hindus.
Many Zoroastrians do not eat beef, because of the cow that saved Zoroaster's life from murderers when Zoroaster was a baby. Actual Pahlavi texts state that Zoroastrians should be fully vegetarian.
Some ethnic Chinese may also refrain from eating cow meat, because many of them feel that it is wrong to eat an animal that was so useful in agriculture. Some Chinese Buddhists discourage the consumption of beef, although it is not considered taboo. A similar taboo can be seen among Sinhalese Buddhists, who consider it to be ungrateful to kill the animal whose milk and labour provides livelihoods to many Sinhalese people.
Crustaceans and other seafood
Template:Refimprove section Almost all types of non-piscine seafood, such as shellfish, lobster, shrimp or crawfish, are forbidden by Judaism because such animals live in water but do not have both fins and scales.
As a general rule, all seafood is permissible in the 3 madh'habs of Sunni Islam except Hanafi school of thought. However, the Ja'fari school of jurisprudence, which is followed by most Shia Muslims, generally prohibits non-piscine seafood (with the exception of shrimp) on more or less the same grounds as (and possibly by analogy with) Kashrut.
Deer and ungulates
Caribou or reindeer is popular as a dish in Norway, Sweden, Finland (especially sautéed reindeer), Russia and Canada, along with Alaska, but is unusual in United Kingdom and Ireland. This may relate to the popular culture myth of the reindeer as assistant to Father Christmas/Santa Claus ("eating Rudolph"), as opposed to the "cows of the north" vision of the northern countries.
Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang was not allowed to bring dried reindeer with him on-board a shuttle mission as it was unthinkable for the Americans so soon before Christmas. He had to go with moose instead.
- Main article: Dog meat
Generally in all Western countries eating dog or cat meat is considered taboo, though that taboo has been broken under threat of starvation in the past. Dog meat has been eaten in every major German crisis at least since the time of Frederick the Great, and is commonly referred to as "blockade mutton." In the early 20th century, consumption of dog meat in Germany was common. In 1937, a meat inspection law targeted against trichinella was introduced for pigs, dogs, boars, foxes, badgers, and other carnivores. Dog meat has been prohibited in Germany since 1986. In 2009 a scandal erupted when a farm near Częstochowa was discovered rearing dogs to be rendered down into smalec - lard. There are many (unsubstantiated) reports of dog meat being served by low grade Curry Houses and Chinese restaurants in both the UK and the USA, either as generic 'meat' or as a substitute for other meats.
According to the ancient Hindu scriptures (cf. Manusmṛti and medicinal texts like Sushruta Samhita), dog's meat was regarded as the most unclean (and rather poisonous) food possible. Dog's meat is also regarded as unclean under Jewish and Islamic dietary laws; therefore, both of those religious traditions also discourage its consumption.
In Irish mythology, legend recounts how Cú Chulainn, the great hero of Ulster, was presented with a Morton's fork, forcing him to either break his taboo about eating dog meat (his name means Culann's Hound) or break his taboo about declining hospitality; Cuchulain chose to eat the meat, leading ultimately to his death.
In Southeast Asia, most countries excluding Vietnam rarely consume dog meat either because of Islamic or Buddhist values or animal rights as in the Philippines. Manchus have a prohibition against the eating of dog meat, which is sometimes consumed by the Manchus' neighboring Northeastern Asian peoples. The Manchus also avoid the wearing of hats made of dog's fur.
Dog meat is used as food in parts of China (e.g. Guangxi) and Korea.
In Western societies, elephants have often been associated with circuses and used for entertaining purposes. However, in Central and West Africa, elephants are hunted for their meat. Some people in Thailand also believe that eating elephant meat improves their sex lives and elephants are sometimes hunted specifically for this.
Judaism prohibits consumption of elephant meat as an unfit-for-consumption land animal.
Speak not to me with a mouth that eats fish—Somali nomad taunt
There are taboos on eating fish among many upland pastoralists and agriculturalists (and even some coastal peoples) inhabiting parts of southeastern Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, and northern Tanzania. This is sometimes referred to as the "Cushitic fish-taboo", as Cushitic speakers are believed to have been responsible for the introduction of fish avoidance to East Africa, though not all Cushitic groups avoid fish. The zone of the fish taboo roughly coincides with the area where Cushitic languages are spoken, and as a general rule, speakers of Nilo-Saharan and Semitic languages do not have this taboo, and indeed many are watermen. The few Bantu and Nilotic groups in East Africa that do practice fish avoidance also reside in areas where Cushites appear to have lived in earlier times. Within East Africa, the fish taboo is found no further than Tanzania. This is attributed to the local presence of the tsetse fly and in areas beyond, which likely acted as a barrier to further southern migrations by wandering pastoralists, the principal fish-avoiders. Zambia and Mozambique's Bantus were therefore spared subjugation by pastoral groups, and they consequently nearly all consume fish.
There is also another center of fish avoidance in Southern Africa, among mainly Bantu speakers. It is not clear whether this disinclination developed independently or whether it was introduced. It is certain, however, that no avoidance of fish occurs among southern Africa's earliest inhabitants, the Khoisan. Nevertheless, since the Bantu of southern Africa also share various cultural traits with the pastoralists further north in East Africa, it is believed that, at an unknown date, the taboo against the consumption of fish was similarly introduced from East Africa by cattle-herding peoples who somehow managed to get their livestock past the aforementioned tsetse fly endemic regions.
Certain species of fish are also forbidden in Judaism such as the freshwater eel (Anguillidae) and all species of catfish. Although they live in water, they appear to have no fins or scales (except under a microscope) (see Leviticus 11:10-13). Sunni Muslim laws are more flexible in this and catfishes and sharks are generally seen as halal as they are special types of fish. Eel is generally considered permissible in the four Sunni madh'hab, but the Ja'fari jurisprudence followed by most Shia Muslims forbids it.
Many tribes of the Southwestern United States, including the Navaho, Apache, and Zuñi, have a taboo against fish and other water-related animals, including waterfowl.
Vedic Brahmins, Gaudiya Vaishnavs, tantriks and some buddhist priests abstain from fungi and all vegetables of the onion family (Alliaceae). They believe that these excite damaging passions. Fungi are eschewed as they grow at night.
In Iceland and rural parts of Sweden, although not taboo, fungi were not widely eaten before the Second World War. It was considered a food for cows and was also associated with the stigma of being a wartime and famine food.
Guinea pigs, or cuy, are a significant part of the diet in Peru, in the southwestern cities and villages of Colombia, and among some populations in the highlands of Ecuador, mostly in the Andes highlands. Cuyes can be found on the menu of most restaurants in Lima and other cities in Peru, as well as in Pasto, Colombia. Guinea pig meat is exported to the United States and European nations.
In 2004, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation took legal action to stop vendors serving cuy at an Ecuadorian festival in Flushing Meadows Park. New York State allows for the consumption of guinea pigs, but New York City prohibits it. Accusations of cultural persecution have since been leveled.
The guinea pig's close rodent cousins, capybara and paca, are consumed as food in South America. The Catholic Church's restriction on eating meat during Lent does not apply to the capybara, as early missionaries gave a faulty description to the Pope, leading him to declare it a fish.
Horses and other equines
- Main article: Horse meat
- See also: Horse slaughter
Horse meat is part of the cuisine of countries as widespread as Italy with 900 g per person per year, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, where horse meat is common in supermarkets, Germany with only 50 g per person per year, Polynesia , Serbia, Slovenia and Kazakhstan , but is taboo in some religions and many countries. It is forbidden by Jewish law, because the horse is not a ruminant, nor does it have cloven hooves.
Horse meat is forbidden by some sects of Christianity. In 732, Pope Gregory III instructed Saint Boniface to suppress the pagan practice of eating horses, calling it a "filthy and abominable custom". The Christianisation of Iceland in 1000 AD was achieved only when the Church promised that Icelanders could continue to eat horsemeat; once the Church had consolidated its power, the allowance was discontinued. Horsemeat is still popular in Iceland and is sold and consumed in the same way as beef, lamb and pork.
In Islam, opinions vary as to the permissibility of horse meat. Some cite a hadith forbidding it to Muslims, but others doubt its validity and authority. Various Muslim cultures have differed in the attitude in eating the meat. Historically, Turks and Persians have eaten the meat while in North Africa this is rare.
Horse meat consumption is modestly counter-cultural in the Anglosphere. In Canada, horse meat is legal, but there is only really a market in the French-speaking province of Quebec, and in a few (mostly French) restaurants elsewhere. Most Canadian horse meat is exported to Continental Europe or Japan. In the United States, sale and consumption of horse meat is illegal in California and Illinois.Template:Failed verification However, it was sold in the US during WW II, since beef was expensive, rationed and destined for the troops. In the UK, this strong taboo includes banning horse meat from commercial pet food and DNA testing of some types of salami suspected of containing donkey meat.
Horse meat is also avoided in the Balkans, as horse is considered to be a noble animal, or because eating horse meat is associated with war-time famine.
- See also: Entomophagy and
Except for certain locusts and related species, insects are not considered Kosher foods; dietary laws also require that practitioners check food carefully for insects. In Islam locusts are considered lawful food along with fish that do not require ritual slaughtering.
Western taboos against insects as a food source generally do not apply to honey (concentrated nectar which has been regurgitated by bees). For example, honey is considered kosher even though honey bees are not, an apparent exception to the normal rule that products of an unclean animal are also unclean. This topic is covered in the Talmud and is explained to be permissible on the grounds that the bee does not make the honey, the flower does, and it is only stored in bees.
Many vegans avoid honey as they would any other animal product. Some vegans disagree with avoiding honey, on the grounds that nearly all plants are propagated by insects or birds, and the harvesting of them would be similarly exploitative.
Islamic and Judaic law (including Noahide Law) forbids any portion that is cut from a live animal (Genesis 9:4, as interpreted in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 59a.) Judaism restricts this prohibition to land animals and birds; fish does not require kosher slaughter, but must first be killed before being eaten.
Examples of the eating of animals that are still alive include "raw oyster on the half shell" (also called "shooters") and ikizukuri (live fish). Sashimi using live animals has been banned in some countries. Ikizukuri of fish with scales would be acceptable under this law of kashrut, but prohibited under the law forbidding unnecessary pain to animals.
Another example occurs in Shanghai, China, and surrounding areas, live shrimp is a common dish served both in homes and restaurants. The shrimp are usually served in a bowl of alcohol, which makes the shrimp sluggish and complacent.
Offal is the internal organs of butchered animals, and may refer to parts of the carcass such as the head and feet ("trotters") in addition to organ meats such as sweetbreads and kidney. Offal is a traditional part of many European and Asian cuisines, including such dishes as the well-known steak and kidney pie in the United Kingdom. Haggis has been Scotland's national dish since the time of Robert Burns. In northeast Brazil there is a similar dish to haggis called "buchada", made with goats intestine. The French eat calf's brains.
In Australia, Canada and the United States, on the other hand, many people are squeamish about eating offal. In these countries, organ meats that are considered edible in other cultures are more often regarded as fit only for processing into pet food under the euphemism "meat by-products". Except for heart, tongue (beef), liver (chicken, beef, or pork), and intestines used as natural sausage casings, organ meats consumed in the U.S. tend to be regional or ethnic specialities; for example, tripe as menudo or mondongo among Latinos, chitterlings in the Southern United States, fried-brain sandwiches in the Midwest, and beef testicles called Rocky Mountain oysters or "prairie oysters" in the west.
In some regions, such as the European Union, brains and other organs which can transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease") and similar diseases have now been banned from the food chain as specified risk materials.
Although eating the stomach of a goat, cow, sheep, or buffalo might be taboo, ancient cheesemaking techniques utilize stomachs (which contain rennet) for turning milk into cheese, a potentially taboo process. Newer techniques for making cheese include a chemical process with artificial rennet. This means that the process by which cheese is made (and not the cheese itself) is a factor in determining whether it is forbidden or allowed.
- Main article: Religious restrictions on the consumption of pork
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data reports pork as the most widely eaten meat in the world. Consumption of pigs is forbidden among Muslims, Jews, certain Christian denominations, such as Seventh-day Adventists, and some others. There are various hypotheses concerning the origins of this taboo (e.g. Qur'an 16:115, biblical injunctions in Leviticus 11:7-8 and Deuteronomy 14:8), but none have been universally accepted.
In the 19th century some people attributed the pig taboo in the Middle East to the danger of the parasite trichina. Marvin Harris posited that pigs are not suited for being kept in the Middle East on an ecological and socio-economical level; for example, pigs are not suited to living in arid climates and thus require far more water than other animals to keep them cool, and instead of grazing they compete with humans for foods such as grains. As such, raising pigs was seen as a wasteful and decadent practice.
A common explanation to the fact that pigs are widely considered unclean in the Middle East is that they are omnivorous, not discerning between meat or vegetation in their natural dietary habits. The willingness to consume meat sets them apart from most other domesticated animals which are commonly eaten (cattle, horses, goats, etc.) who would naturally eat only plants.
The book of Leviticus in the Bible classifies the rabbit as unclean because it does not have a split hoof, even though it does chew and reingest partially digested material (equivalent to "chewing the cud" among ruminants). Further possibilities against the consumption of rabbit may also include the phenomenon known as rabbit starvation, a form of acute malnutrition caused by excess consumption of any lean meat (specifically rabbit) coupled with a lack of other sources of nutrients. The consumption of rabbit is allowed in Sunni Islam and is popular in several majority-Sunni countries (e.g. Egypt, where it is a traditional ingredient in molokheyya), but it is forbidden in the Ja'fari jurisprudence of Twelver Shia Islam.
Rats and mice
In most Western cultures, rats and mice are considered either unclean vermin or pets and thus unfit for human consumption, traditionally being seen as carriers of plague. However, rats are commonly eaten in rural Thailand and Vietnam and other parts of Indochina. Cane rats (Thryonomys swinderianus and Thryonomys gregorianus) and some species of field mice are a rich source of protein in Africa. Bamboo rats are also commonly eaten in the poorer parts of Southeast Asia.
In Ghana, Thryonomys swinderianus locally referred to as "Akrantie", "Grasscutter" and (incorrectly) as "Bush rat" is a common food item. The proper common name for this rodent is "Greater Cane Rat", though actually it is not a rat at all and is a close relative of porcupines and guinea pigs that inhabit Africa, south of the Saharan Desert. In 2003, the U.S. barred the import of this and other rodents from Africa because of an outbreak of at least nine human cases of monkeypox, an illness never before been seen in the Western Hemisphere.
Historically, rats and mice have also been eaten in the West during times of shortage or emergency, such as during the Siege of Vicksburg and the Siege of Paris. Dormice were also domesticated and raised for food in Ancient Rome. In some Asian countries, mice are eaten, and go by the name of vole. In France, rats bred in the wine stores of Gironde were cooked with the fire of broken wine barrels and eaten, dubbed as cooper's entrecôte. In some communities the muskrat (which is not a rat at all) is hunted for its meat (and fur) (e.g. some parts of Flanders); see also under "Fish" for consumption of beaver tails. Nutria, another large rodent, has been hunted or raised for food in the United States.
Handling and eating rat runs the risk of Weil's disease. Among the British SAS regiment, the only species of meat that they are forbidden to eat is rat.
In Indonesia, live baby mice are sometimes eaten by sailors for physical strength.
Land snails have been eaten for thousands of years, beginning in the Pleistocene. They are especially abundant in Capsian sites in North Africa, but are also found throughout the Mediterranean region in archaeological sites dating between 12,000 and 6,000 years ago. They are also considered a delicacy in China and in several Asian countries, as well as in France, Italy, Portugal, Greece and other Mediterranean countries. However, in Britain, Ireland, and the United States, eating land snails is sometimes seen as disgusting. Some English-speaking commentators have used the French word for snails, escargot, as an alternative word for snails, particularly snails for consumption.
Sea snails (for example periwinkles) and even freshwater snails (for example nerites) are also eaten in various parts of the world.
As they are molluscs, snails are not kosher.
Many rural hunting families in Northeastern U.S. shoot and eat squirrels. Technically a rodent, they fall under the small game category during hunting season. Recently, squirrel has been added to gourmet restaurant menus in countries such as France and Italy. People living in cities often are disgusted when they think of eating the rodents that ravage their cities' garbage cans, but squirrels living in rural areas have a heavy diet that consists of acorns, hickory nuts, and chestnuts. Squirrel meat is actually one of the most flavorful and nutty meats, which is why it's becoming a trendy item on gourmet menus.
In certain versions of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism, vegetables of the onion genus are taboo. Among Hindus many people discourage eating onion and garlic along with non-vegetarian food during festivals or Hindu holy months of Shrawan and Kartik. However, discouraging onion and garlic is not so much popular among Hindus as compared to non-vegetarian foods and many people are leaving this custom.
Jains not only abstain from consumption of meat, but also don't eat root vegetables (such as carrots, potatoes, radish, turnips, etc) as doing so kills the plant and they believe in ahimsa (that is, respect for living beings).
Chinese Buddhist cuisine traditionally prohibits garlic, Allium chinense, asafoetida, shallot, and Allium victorialis (victory onion or mountain leek), while Kashmiri Brahmins forbid "strong flavored" foods. This encompasses garlic, onion, and spices such as black pepper and chili pepper, believing that pungent flavors on the tongue inflame the baser emotions.
In Yazidism, the eating of lettuce and butter beans is taboo. The Muslim religious teacher and scholar, Falah Hassan Juma, links the sect's belief of evil found in lettuce to its long history of persecution by Muslims and Christians. Historical theory claims one ruthless potentate who controlled the city of Mosul in the 13th century ordered an early Yazidi saint executed. The enthusiastic crowd then pelted the corpse with heads of lettuce.
The followers of Pythagoras were vegetarians, and "Pythagorean" at one time came to mean "vegetarian". However, their creed prohibited the eating of beans. The reason is unclear: perhaps the flatulence they cause, perhaps as protection from potential favism, but most likely for magico-religious reasons.
Vegetables like broccoli, while not taboo, may be avoided by observant Jews and other religions due to the possibility of insects hiding within the numerous crevices. Likewise, fruits such as blackberries and raspberries are recommended by kashrut agencies to be avoided as they can not be cleaned thoroughly enough without destroying the fruit.
The common Egyptian dish mulukhiyah, a soup whose primary ingredient is jute leaves (which leaves did not have any other culinary purpose), was banned by the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah sometime during his reign (996-1021 CE). The ban applied specifically to mulukhiyah, and also to other foodstuffs said to be eaten by Sunnis. While the ban was eventually lifted after the end of his reign, the Druze, who hold Al-Hakim in high regard and give him quasi-divine authority, continue to respect the ban, and do not eat mulukhiyah of any kind to this day.
Although it might not be a taboo in a strictest sense, older Germans might not eat swede (Swedish turnip, rutabaga), as they see it as a "famine food", not for general consumption. This taboo existed from the 1916-17 famine Steckrübenwinter (Rutabaga winter) when Germany, already drained by World War I's endless Western Front, had one of the worst winters in memory, where often the only food available was Swedish turnips. This led a distaste to the vegetable which still continues today with the older generations having had experiences from World War II or having had a childhood with parents talking about the aforementioned famine. However, in recent years this taboo has been vanishing as Germans have re-discovered many traditional or local cooking recipes, including those including swede, such as Steckrübeneintopf. One reason for this, is a trend to traditional and organic cuisine. Also for most Germans in 2008, the "Steckrübenwinter" famine from 1916-17 is history and has no more relevance on today's choice of food and dish.
- Main article: Whale meat
The International Whaling Commission passed a moratorium on commercial whaling on July 23, 1982, that came into force for the 1985-86 season.
Norway protested the moratorium and thus isn't bound by it. For a period, Norway officially harvested whales for scientific purposes. Norway resumed commercial whaling of minke whales in 1993 and it is still a popular meat, especially on Norway's western coast. Once considered an inexpensive substitute for beef, whale meat is now a highly priced delicacy. Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006. Japan's whaling is officially done for research purposes. This is specifically sanctioned under IWC regulations that also specifically require that whale meat be fully utilized upon the completion of research. Many international scientific and environmentalist groups, notably Greenpeace argue that the killing is not necessary to conduct the research.
The United States Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 prohibits, with certain exceptions, the taking of marine mammals in United States waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S. Despite the general ban on whale hunting in the United States and Canada, some indigenous groups are allowed to hunt for cultural reasons.
Islam permits Muslims to consume the flesh of whales as there is a famous hadith which cites Muhammad's approval of such.
Monkeys, especially monkey brains, are also eaten in Southeast Asia (especially Indonesia). Most of it is "bushmeat" or caught from the wild, in areas of high primate populations such as Central Africa and Southeast Asia. One of the major theories for the origin of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in humans is the butchering of primates infected with the similar simian immunodeficiency virus.
- Main article: Cannibalism
Of all the taboo meat, human flesh ranks as the most proscribed. In recent times humans have consumed the flesh of fellow humans in rituals and out of insanity, hatred, or overriding hunger — never as a common part of their diet, but it is thought that the practice was once widespread among all humans. This consumption of human flesh is forbidden by Hinduism. Catholics and Orthodox Christians do not view themselves as engaging in cannibalism when taking communion, as it is believed that although the bread and wine become of the same substance as the body and blood of Christ before being consumed, they remain bread and wine in all ways to the senses. Catholics refer to this as transubstantiation; the Orthodox believe the transformation occurs, but hesitate to attempt a description of the mechanism. Protestants and other Christian denominations do not believe that transubstantiation occurs at all. The Old Testament and Jewish Torah warn that if God's commandments are not obeyed then the Israelites will suffer from famine so severe that they might become hungry enough to eat even their own children. Islam also forbids cannibalism and uses its likeness to forbid and describe other activities, such as slander and racism. It used to be required in certain tribes; the Fore people of Papua New Guinea were particularly well-studied in their eating of the dead, because it led to kuru, a disease believed to be transmitted by prions.
In the book Daily life in China, on the eve of the Mongol invasion, 1250-1276 Jacques Gernet refers to restaurants that specialized in human flesh. From the context, it does not appear that this was a freak event associated with famine.
Very few people customarily eat the placenta after the baby's birth, but those who advocate placentophagy in humans (mostly in modern America and Europe, Mexico, Hawaii, China, and the Pacific Islands) believe that eating the placenta prevents postpartum depression and other pregnancy complications.
- See also: Donner Party, Alferd Packer, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, and Martin Hartwell
- See Kutti pi (a dish from the Anglo-Indian cuisine, consisting of the flesh of an unborn fetus from an animal)
- See Balut (egg) (a fertilized duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell)
- See also: Christianity and alcohol and Islam and alcohol
Some religions—including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Jainism, Rastafari movement, Bahá'í Faith, and various branches of Christianity such as the Methodists, the Latter-day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists and the Iglesia ni Cristo — forbid or discourage the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Jehovah's Witnesses have no prohibition and only encourage moderation.
The Hebrew Bible describes a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:1-21) that includes abstinence from alcohol (specifically wine and probably barley beer), although there is no general taboo against alcohol in Judaism. In Islam there is a complete ban on all intoxicants, even in the smallest of amounts.
There are also cultural taboos against the consumption of alcohol, reflected for example in the Teetotalism or Temperance movement. There is also something of a cultural taboo in several Western countries, including the United States, against the consumption of alcohol by women during pregnancy for health reasons.
- See also: Blood as food
Some religions prohibit drinking or eating blood or food made from blood. In Islam the consumption of blood is prohibited (Haraam). Halal animals should be properly slaughtered to drain out the blood. Unlike in other traditions, this is not because blood is revered or holy, but simply because blood is considered unclean or Najis, with certain narratives prescribing ablutions (in the case of no availability of water) if contact is made with it. In Judaism all mammal and bird meat (not fish) is salted to remove the blood. Jews follow the teaching in Leviticus, that since "the life of the animal is in the blood", no person may eat (or drink) the blood. Iglesia ni Cristo and Jehovah's Witnesses prohibit eating or drinking any blood.
According to the Bible blood is only to be used for special/sacred purposes in connection with worship (Exodus chapters 12, 24, 29, Matthew 26:29 and Hebrews). In the first century, Christians, both former Jews (the Jewish Christians), and new Gentile converts, were in dispute as to which particular features of Mosaic law were to be retained and upheld by them. The apostles decided that, among other things, it was necessary to abstain from consuming blood:
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 offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well, Fare ye well.—King James Version — Acts, 15:28-29
These New Testament verses repeated certain elements of the Jewish law, and included the prohibition regarding blood, thus making it also binding upon the Early Christian church. See also Council of Jerusalem and the Seven Laws of Noah. This Apostolic Decree is still observed today by the Greek Orthodox Church.
Coffee and tea
Hot drinks are taboo for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The term "hot drinks" is misleading as the ban is attributed exclusively to coffee and tea (i.e. not hot cocoa or herbal tea). The Word of Wisdom, a code of health used by church members, outlines prohibited and allowed substances. While not banned, Mormons are taught to avoid caffeine in general, including cola drinks. Seventh-day Adventists also generally avoid caffeinated drinks.
Some Catholics urged Pope Clement VII to ban coffee, calling it "devil's beverage". After tasting the beverage, the Pope is said to have remarked that the drink was "... so delicious that it would be a sin to let only misbelievers drink it. Let's defeat Satan by blessing his beverage."
Human breast milk
While many people in the Western world now seek to reduce the salt content in their diet for health reasons, the Ital style of cooking, which originated among Rastafarians in Jamaica, excludes all added salt in prepared food for religious reasons.
Genetically modified foods taboo
Attitudes concerning genetically modified food like genetically modified soya, maize or rapeseed (canola) vary from accepted to taboo in the U.S. and Canada, while many Europeans have a taboo on it as they are more concerned with eating natural food sources. In the UK, only 2% of Britons are said to be "happy to eat GM foods", and more than half of Britons are against genetically modified foods being available to the public, according to a 2003 study.
In Europe, regulations state that all food and animal feed containing more than 0.5 percent GM ingredients are required to have strict labelling and traceability, and many supermarkets proudly boast the fact that they don't sell GM foods.
In Judaism, there are some opinions that consider GM foods to be a form of kil'ayim.
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- Fleischhygienegesetz (Law on Meat Hygiene), § 1 para. 1 sent. 4, BGBl. (Federal Law Gazette) 1986 I p. 398 (in German).
- Polish couple accused of making dog meat delicacy , Telegraph
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- Karl Josef von Hefele's commentary on canon II of Gangra notes: "We further see that, at the time of the Synod of Gangra, the rule of the Apostolic Synod with regard to blood and things strangled was still in force. With the Greeks, indeed, it continued always in force as their Euchologies still show. Balsamon also, the well-known commentator on the canons of the Middle Ages, in his commentary on the sixty-third Apostolic Canon, expressly blames the Latins because they had ceased to observe this command. What the Latin Church, however, thought on this subject about the year 400, is shown by St. Augustine in his work Contra Faustum, where he states that the Apostles had given this command in order to unite the heathens and Jews in the one ark of Noah; but that then, when the barrier between Jewish and heathen converts had fallen, this command concerning things strangled and blood had lost its meaning, and was only observed by few. But still, as late as the eighth century, Pope Gregory the Third (731) forbade the eating of blood or things strangled under threat of a penance of forty days. No one will pretend that the disciplinary enactments of any council, even though it be one of the undisputed Ecumenical Synods, can be of greater and more unchanging force than the decree of that first council, held by the Holy Apostles at Jerusalem, and the fact that its decree has been obsolete for centuries in the West is proof that even Ecumenical canons may be of only temporary utility and may be repealed by disuse, like other laws."
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- Frederick J. Simoons. Eat Not This Flesh: Food Avoidances from Prehistory to the Present.
- Marvin Harris. Good to Eat. Harris applies cultural materialism, looking for economical or ecological explanations behind the taboos.
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- Americans squeamish over horse meat
- Korean Animal Protection Society
- China exotic food FAQ
- Laws of Judaism and Islam concerning food
- Traditional German gourmet recipes with horse meat
- Insects as food
- Karl Ammann, wildlife photographer and bushmeat activist
- Guide to Migratory Bird Laws and Treaties
- Crow recipes
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