Book: What the Bible Teaches About "Clean" and "Unclean" Meats

Why are some meats considered unclean by God? As noted earlier, it is not God’s intention to deny mankind legitimate pleasure and enjoyment from the consumption of foods. Look at the vast array of foods—with an incredible variety of textures and flavors—God has created for us to enjoy. Does it really make sense that God would forbid man to eat pork, catfish, shellfish, rabbit, and numerous other meats for any reason except to protect us from damaging or ruining our health?

One of the key purposes of the Bible is to reveal things to mankind that we could not otherwise discover on our own. God tells us in Scripture which animals are not good for food because we would simply have no other way of knowing. Trial and error may effectively indicate that a certain food is harmful if there is immediate and consistent harm following consumption. But the long -term consumption of unclean meats typically results in the slow, chronic degeneration of one’s health—something that cannot be easily traced to a specific cause.

Modern medical science is finally beginning to “catch up” to God as they discover why certain animal meats are less healthy than others. But from their perspective, the picture is far from black and white. For example, people are routinely warned of the dangers of eating pork, yet told that proper cooking is the solution. But why not just stop eating pork altogether?

Pork—A “Homo-Toxin”

Of all the world’s animals, the pig is one of the most unclean—yet it is hailed as the “other white meat.” Pigs are ravenous scavengers and will eat any kind of food, including garbage, maggots, rodents, rotting carcasses, excrement—even their own offspring. Farmers often use pigs as virtual “garbage disposals”—which includes things like dead chickens. But even farmers who claim their pigs are fed a grain-only diet cannot stop the animals from eating rodents (carriers of numerous parasites and diseases) and feces.

Swine are excellent incubators of toxic parasites and viruses, and often carry a variety of disease-causing organisms while appearing to be healthy. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), numerous viruses and other infectious agents are brought into the United States each year in pigs (mostly from China). Of course, you’re probably familiar with H1N1, better known as the “swine flu”—a virus that has made the leap from pig to human.3

In his book The Genesis Diet, Dr. Gordon Tessler writes that “the indiscriminate eating patterns of omnivores like pigs make them disease carriers. Pigs are known to carry up to 200 diseases and 18 different parasites and worms, including the deadly [round] worm called trichinella spiralis…. Trichinosis [the disease caused by this particular worm] can mimic other diseases such as arthritis, rheumatism, or typhoid fever…. Perhaps many other diseases are misdiagnosed [when] their real cause is … [the] many parasites found in the flesh of the unclean swine. A person may be committing slow suicide when he or she eats bacon, ham, sausage, or pork chops.” Tessler adds that pork “should be considered a homo-toxin (human poison) and the probable cause of many common sicknesses and degenerative diseases.” 4

As a disease, trichinosis was once quite common—and fatal. Once ingested via infected meat, trichinella spiralis cysts are dissolved in the stomach, releasing the young worms. The worms then pass into the small intestine where they mature and mate. The female lays eggs that develop into immature worms, which travel extensively though the arteries into muscle tissue where they become encysted.

Both tapeworms (also carried by pigs) and trichinosis can cause a significant inflammatory response in the body, leading to numerous chronic conditions. Often, however, there are no obvious symptoms—or the symptoms resemble those of other illnesses (such as the flu). This has led to the frequent misdiagnosis or nondiagnosis of the disease. The CDC reports that just under three dozen cases of pork related trichinosis occurred from 1997 to 2007.5 These are officially diagnosed cases. But because the disease goes easily unrecognized, some believe as many as one in six are infected in the United States and Canada! 6

Research conducted in Bolivia illustrates the point that trichinosis can be unknowingly prevalent in a population. The Bolivian government noted that zero cases of trichinosis had been reported over a period of several years. Puzzled, they began testing pigs, and discovered that at least 25 percent were infected. Subsequently, they tested a cross-section of the general population and discovered widespread infection. The primary symptoms of trichinosis in humans are headaches, muscle aches, fever, and swelling of the extremities. Because these are nonspecific symptoms that do not necessarily indicate any one particular disease, those infected were simply unaware that they were suffering from trichinosis. 7

This begs the question: how many people unknowingly suffer from pork-derived trichinosis while assuming that they are dealing with a common degenerative condition?

Central to the problem is that the CDC declares pork safe as long as it is well cooked. But apparently not everyone cooks pork well enough! The fact is, trichinosis is actually difficult to kill when cooking. This is why there are so many warnings about eating undercooked pork. The CDC gives this warning on their Web site: “If you eat raw or undercooked meats, particularly bear, pork, wild feline (such as a cougar), fox, dog, wolf, horse, seal, or walrus, you are at risk for trichinellosis.”8 But God had long ago warned people of this very risk—don’t defile yourself by eating what is unclean.

Dr. Rex Russell has studied the dangers of pork for decades. A graduate of Baylor School of Medicine in Houston, Texas, Russell writes: “Many outbreaks of vicious infections have developed in so-called cooked food. If the food is [biblically] unclean, don’t count on cooking it to protect you…. A sobering report from Scotland revealed that food poisoning by toxins, virus or bacteria occurred in spite of thorough inspection at every stage of food preparation, including handling and cooking.” 9

He continues: “One reason for God’s rule forbidding pork is that the digestive system of a pig is completely different from that of a cow…. Pigs are gluttonous, never knowing when to stop eating. Their stomach acids become diluted because of the volume of food, allowing all kinds of vermin to pass through this [would-be] protective barrier. Parasites, bacteria, viruses, and toxins can pass into the pigs flesh because of overeating. These toxins and infectious agents can be passed on to humans when they eat a pig’s flesh.” 10

Why do pigs carry more disease and toxins than other farm animals? Aside from the dangerous garbage they typically eat, part of the answer has to do with their digestive systems. A pig digests whatever it eats rather quickly, in four hours or less. This fast transit time does not allow for the efficient removal of toxins from the system; the result is that toxins tend to be absorbed and stored in fat, muscle tissue, and organs—which are then eaten by people. Another issue is that pigs lack toxin-eliminating sweat glands. Thus, swine are typically toxin-saturated, and cooking does nothing to eliminate toxins. 11

By contrast, a cow takes a good 24 hours to digest the grass, hay, or grain it has eaten. This is typical of clean animals that chew the cud. The slow transit time—made possible by their multi-stomach design—allows for complete digestion and the efficient removal of any present toxins.

Pigs have high histamine levels (no doubt as an immune response to their own toxicity), which cause allergic reactions in many people. Their tissues are also particularly rich in sulfur. Too much sulfur is dangerous because it causes a corresponding loss of calcium, potentially leading to osteoporosis (in general, meat-rich diets are linked to bone loss). Moreover, studies have shown that over 50 percent of pigs are contaminated with salmonella by the time they reach the processing plant (compare this to only 15 percent of clean animals). 12

A Mysterious Swine Related Blood Disorder

Aside from the dangers already discussed, the consumption of pork appears to have a mysterious detrimental effect on human blood clotting mechanisms. In her book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon writes: “Investigation into the effects of pork consumption on blood chemistry has revealed serious changes [lasting] for several hours after pork is consumed. The pork used [in theses tests] was organic and free of trichinosis, so the changes that occurred in the blood were due to some other factor, possibly a protein unique to pork. In the laboratory, pork is one of the best mediums for feeding the growth of cancer cells. The prohibition against pork found in the Bible and the Koran may thus derive from something other than a concern for parasite contamination.” 13

Fallon cites a study conducted by the Weston Price Foundation on the effects of pork consumption on blood chemistry. The organization’s findings were summarized by Beverly Rubik, Ph.D.— who participated in the study—in the Foundation’s quarterly journal Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts. According to Rubik, the research involved feeding either marinated or nonmarinated cooked pork chops to test subjects, followed by an analysis of their blood chemistry over a period of several hours. Blood can be easily monitored for rapid changes in response to the introduction of substances such as nutrients, drugs, toxins, etc. The blood was examined using advanced dark-field microscopes, which give an excellent view of the blood’s “biological terrain” including such factors as the stickiness of red blood cells and their tendency to aggregate and clot, as well as the formation of fibrin, the chief clotting protein.

The study demonstrated that the consumption of non-marinated pork has a profound effect on human blood chemistry. Rubik writes: “The results show unequivocally that consuming un-marinated cooked pork shows a significant negative effect on the blood. Five hours after consumption, subjects showed extremely coagulated blood, with extensive red blood cell (RBC) rouleaux (cells in the formation of stacked coins), RBC aggregates, and the presence of clotting factors, especially fibrin.” She adds that “not a single free-floating RBC was observed” in the blood samples. 14

The changes “appeared quite rapidly, in less than ten minutes after blood draw, and did not clear up during an hour of observing the blood under the microscope.” Moreover, some of the subjects “felt fatigued after eating the pork chop, which suggests reduced peripheral blood circulation due to RBC stickiness and aggregation. Because the tiniest micro-capillaries are smaller than the diameter of a single blood cell, each cell must pass through singly and deform its shape in order to do so; blood cell aggregates simply cannot pass through [such capillaries].” 15

It is widely accepted that blood clotting disorders are a causative factor in chronic systemic inflammation, which is at the root of chronic disease. Rubik notes that “this condition in the blood, if chronic, is associated with increased risk of chronic degenerative disease, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders and others.” 16

Apparently, the consumption of marinated pork does not produce the same changes in blood clotting as caused by the consumption of non-marinated pork. Rubik and her colleagues are at a loss to explain why. She speculates that “pork contains a toxin”—or perhaps, as suggested by Fallon, an unidentified rogue protein—“that heat alone from cooking cannot destroy,” but is somehow rendered harmless through the fermentation of marinating. 17

Much of the pork consumed today is not marinated. Yet how many people who routinely eat pork are aware of the serious changes taking place in their blood chemistry? Undoubtedly, pork’s ability to restrict normal micro-capillary blood flow is a significant factor in today’s epidemic of degenerative disease.

Rabbits Eat Their Own Excrement

Rabbit is still consumed in many parts of the world, including the United States. While rabbits do chew the cud, they have paws and not cloven hooves. Thus, they are defined as unclean in Scripture. But even the hare’s chewing of cud is suspect, being unlike that of other ruminants. In order for the rabbit to obtain sufficient nutrients from the vegetation it eats, it must ferment what it ingests. This requires a fermentation chamber with an alkaline environment. Unlike the cow, the rabbit does not have a rumen, or “prestomach”—but it does have an unusually large caecum. In rabbits, the caecum (basically a pouch where nutrients are absorbed) is located between the intestine and the rectum. According to researchers, the cud the rabbit chews comes from this area and is contaminated with feces. Thus, the rabbit is coprophagic—an animal that consumes its own excrement. 18

Consequently, the toxicity levels of rabbits are significantly higher than in other herbivores. Bile salts, fatty acids, gases, and ammonia levels are all at unacceptable levels for human consumption. Many other rodents have similar digestive issues.

Shellfish—Eat at Your Own Risk

As a general rule, unclean aquatic creatures are either scavengers or predatory carnivores (such as most sharks). Most clean, edible marine life—those with both fins and scales—are found in deep or fast-running waters and primarily consume algae. However, many varieties (such as the common bass) eat smaller fish, frogs, insects, etc.—but clean fish do not eat dead matter. They also have an efficient enzymatic system of detoxification.

Most unclean aquatic creatures are bottom feeders— scavengers that scour marine beds for dead, decaying matter. The highly popular catfish—which has fins but no scales—is a bottomfeeding scavenger. This feature is precisely what makes unclean marine life unsafe to eat.

Several poisoning syndromes are associated with the consumption of shellfish (mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops). Four are particularly common: amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP), diarrheal shellfish poisoning (DSP), neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP), and paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).19 Human toxicity and mortality sometimes occur after the ingestion of shellfish, but toxicity is also seen in wild animal populations.

Shellfish are bivalve filter feeders and thus rapidly accumulate toxins produced by microscopic algae such as dinoflagellates, diatoms, and cyanobacteria. The toxicity levels of marine bed algae are often seasonal: when the algae of a given area are in “bloom,” the toxicity is high; shellfish that feed on such algae become highly toxic.20 However, it is important to understand that such toxins are a normal byproduct of their existence. In other words, shellfish are always toxic, and have the potential to become dangerously toxic at any time. Attempting to predict the toxicity level of shellfish is highly problematic—a bit like playing Russian roulette!

Paralytic shellfish poisoning is a persistent problem in Alaska and along the West Coast of the United States. Consequently, the State of California once proposed that the following warning label be required on all shellfish packaging: “This food may be dangerous to your health.” The principal toxin responsible for PSP is saxitoxin— a deadly neurotoxin estimated to be 1,000 times more toxic than cyanide (there is no antidote for PSP, and all cases require immediate medical attention). According to research by the State of Alaska, “bivalve shellfish feed on a literal smorgasbord of microscopic algae. Bivalves are ideal conveyers of the PSP toxin because they are relatively indiscriminate filter feeders and consume massive amounts of algae; [shellfish] are not generally killed by saxitoxins, and pass the accumulated saxitoxins on to any animal [or human] that eats them.” 21

It is a common practice to schedule shellfish harvesting around periods of algal bloom. Yet shellfish can store this toxin for several weeks after an algal bloom passes; others, such as butter clams, are known to store high levels of such toxins for up to two years. Moreover, toxic algae can form cysts that reside in the sediment during the non-bloom seasons. “These cysts are as toxic as the suspended vegetative form that are present during a toxic bloom. Shellfish, being bottom dwelling filter feeders, can continue to consume cysts during non-bloom periods and accumulate PSP toxin.”22

In many areas, “off-season occurrences of PSP are most likely caused by [the] retention of toxins from the summer”—long after an episode of algal toxic bloom. Toxic algae are “moved, concentrated, or dispersed by winds, tides, and water currents.” This “patchy distribution” of toxic algae can result in adjacent bays producing shellfish with disparate levels of toxicity—again, making the prediction of risk quite uncertain. For example, in 1993 there were five outbreaks of PSP in the Kodiak area of Alaska, none of which were related to episodes of seasonal algal bloom.23

The fact is, bottom feeders such as shellfish contain hundreds of times more toxins, heavy metals, and harmful chemicals than fish that feed above the bottom—and just happen to have fins and scales. Moreover, the toxins responsible for most shellfish poisonings are water-soluble, heat- and acid-stable, and are thus unaffected by ordinary cooking methods.24

Severe illness from the consumption of raw oysters from the Gulf of Mexico is associated with the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus. Septicemia from this bacteria carries a fatality rate of greater than 50 percent. Some 140 cases were reported by the CDC from 1988 through 1995. “V. vulnificus is present in up to 50% of oyster beds with the water conditions that prevail in the Gulf of Mexico during warm months…. Cases are most commonly reported during warmweather months (April-November), and often are associated with eating raw oysters.” 25

All aquatic scavengers—shellfish, shrimp, catfish, crabs, lobster, squid—are toxic, and their consumption violates God’s instructions designed to protect human health. Why gamble with your health by eating what God has declared to be unclean? Has not God given mankind an abundance of clean fish to eat?

Clean and Unclean Birds

As a rule, unclean birds are predatory—those that kill and eat other animals—or are scavengers, such as the vulture, that eat carrion. Most of them are listed by name or genus in Leviticus 11 as unclean. Generally, clean birds are herbivores; however, farm birds such as chickens do eat a certain amount of small bugs and worms— and ducks eat small fish. (On most commercial poultry farms today, chickens are fed fishmeal or carcass meal—processed dead animals—which raises questions as to their suitability for human consumption.)

While Scripture does not mention clean birds having a “crop,” it does appear that this unique pre-digestion chamber assists in the complete digestion of food and the avoidance of fermentation.

Animals That Eat Animals

God does not reveal in Scripture the precise reasons why the eating of unclean animals is dangerous to our health. Yet we can make certain generalizations based on a particularly notable feature of unclean animals: they are generally consumers of “secondary” materials—that is, they are animals that eat other animals (or their byproducts). God forbids the consumption of all scavengers and carrion eaters—those that devour other animals. Pigs and vultures scavenge decaying flesh; predatory animals such as wolves and various cats typically prey on the weakest (and often the diseased) of a herd. While unclean marine creatures do eat tremendous amounts of algae, they also scavenge dead, decaying matter—even sewage.

The common denominator seems to be the fact that unclean animals habitually eat flesh that would normally sicken or kill humans. By contrast, clean animals almost exclusively consume “primary” materials—various forms of plant life. Moreover, clean animals never eat dead animals or animal byproducts.

It is apparent that God created numerous unclean animals for the express purpose of cleaning up after other animals. Calling them the “sanitation workers of our ecology,” nutritionist David Meinz writes: “Could it be that God, in His wisdom, created certain creatures whose sole purpose is to clean up after the others?”26

Dr. Russell agrees: “Pigs have eaten Philadelphia’s garbage and sewage for more than 100 years, saving the city $3 million a year in landfill costs. This is a wise use of hogs. They are designed [by God] to clean our environment.” Certain scavenger species of marine life perform a similar function. Catfish, for example, “always show the highest levels of contamination in chemically polluted water. After chemical spills, local fishermen are warned not to eat catfish.” Dr. Russell concludes: “Although swine help clean the earth, and shellfish and catfish are ideally designed to purify the water, we don’t want to eat what they clean up!”27