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Swine are considered non-kosher (unfit or unclean) in Judaism and haraam (forbidden) in Islam.

Taboo food and drink are food and beverages which people abstain from consuming for religious or cultural reasons.

Food taboos can be defined as a codified set of rules about which foods or combinations of foods may not be eaten and how animals are to be slaughtered. The origin of these prohibitions and commandments is varied. In some cases, these taboos are a result of health considerations or other practical reasons.[1] In others, they are a result of human symbolic systems.[2] 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.


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 haram (forbidden) and halal (permitted). Jains often follow religious directives to observe vegetarianism. Hinduism has no specific proscriptions against eating meat, but Hindus who apply the concept of "ahimsa" (non-violence) to their diet practice forms of vegetarianism.

Aside from overt 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. For example, even though there is no law against eating dog meat in the United States and Europe, it is widely considered unacceptable. (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 English-speaking world, although it is part of the national cuisine of countries as widespread as Kazakhstan, Japan and France.

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 resumption 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 that of eating the meat or 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 seafood 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 progressive 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.

Taboo food

Amphibians and reptiles

Judaism and Islam strictly forbid the consumption of amphibians such as frogs and reptiles such as crocodiles and snakes. In other cultures, foods such as frog legs and alligator are treasured as delicacies, and the animals are raised commercially.


In Islam "birds of prey" are haram. In Judaism, most of the laws of Kashrut pertain to animals. The Torah explicitly states which animals are permitted or forbidden. In regard to birds, the Torah provides no general rule, and instead the Deuteronomic Code and Priestly Code explicitly list the prohibited birds, using names that have uncertain translations; the list seems to mainly consist of birds of prey, fish-eating water-birds, and the bat.[3]

Bat meat is known to be a prized delicacy within the Batak and Minahasa minority communities of Indonesia.


Bears are not considered kosher in Judaism while all predatory terrestrial animals are forbidden in Islam. Observant Jews and Muslims would therefore abstain from eating bear meat.[4][5] Bear meat must be cooked thoroughly as it can often be infected with trichinosis.[6][7][8][9]


The Hebrew Bible (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) are a hunted game bird[10][11][12][13] urban pigeons are considered unfit for consumption.

Swan was at one time a dish reserved for royalty. The English custom of Swan upping derives from this period.[14] In more modern times, swans have been protected in parts of Europe and America, making swan unavailable. Reports about the eating of swans are seen from time to time.[15][16]

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 London restaurant.[17]

In Western cultures today, most people regard songbirds as backyard wildlife rather than as food. In addition, some migratory birds are protected by international treaty.

In Islam the birds that are halal must have feathers (which presumably excludes bats) and not be a bird of prey (which follows from Islam's general prohibition on eating carnivores). Moreover, it must be the kind of bird that when it flies, if so, it must flap its wings to fly more than just simply gliding. This includes fowls, pigeons and ducks.


The eating of a camel is strictly prohibited by the Torah in Deuteronomy 14:6-7. Although the camel is a cud-chewer, the Levites 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.


In desperate times, people have been known to resort to cooking and eating cats, but under normal conditions there is no cuisine that chooses to do so, except in China and Vietnam. 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 ashanty 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.[18] Protesters in other parts of China have urged the Guangzhou provincial government to crack down on cat traders and restaurants that serve cat meat, although no law says it is illegal to eat cats.[19]

The term "roof-hare" (roof-rabbit, German: Dachhase) applies to cat meat presented as that of a hare, another pest (or pet) used as a source of meat. Subtracting the skin, feet, head and tail, hares and cats are practically identical. 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 conditions and the fact that the source of the meat is mostly unknown. Cases of passing off cat meat as lamb shish kabab in less reputable shops, are also regularly reported in Egypt. "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.[20]

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.[21] Those who thought that they were eating Australian Rabbits[22] were really eating European cats.

Some restaurants in the Haiphong and Halong Bay area in north Vietnam advertise cat meat hot pot as "little tiger", and cats in cages can be seen inside.[23]


Many Hindus, particularly Brahmins, are vegetarian, abstaining from eating the flesh of any living creature. Even those Hindus who do eat meat abstain from the consumption of beef, as the cow holds a sacred place in Hinduism. The taboo does not extend to dairy products. Quite the contrary, dairy items such as milk, yoghurt and ghee (particularly the latter) are highly revered and used in holy ceremony.

By Indian law, the slaughter of cattle is banned in almost all Indian states except the states of Kerala and Arunachal Pradesh.

In modern times, beef-eating has gained some acceptance in various parts of India, despite the opposition of most Hindus. Slaughter of cows is an extremely provocative issue for Hindus. The vast majority of beef consumed in India is by Muslims, and Christians.

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.

Many Zoroastrians do not eat beef, because of the cow that saved Zoroaster's life, from the evil murderers when Zoroaster was a baby. Actual Pahlavi texts state that Zoroastrians should be fully vegetarian.

Crustaceans and other seafood

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 (Leviticus 11:10-12).

As a general rule, all seafood is permissible in Sunni Islam except the Hanafi school. In the Hanafite school, non-piscine seafood is regarded as reprehensible though not forbidden. In Shia Islam, only scaled fish and shrimp are allowed.

Deer and ungulates

Deer meat or venison is a dish with a long association with royalty and aristocracy. These days, several species of deer are farmed for their meat. Caribou or reindeer is popular as a dish in Alaska, Norway, Sweden, Finland (especially sautéed reindeer), Russia and Canada, but is unusual in the United Kingdom and Ireland. This may relate to the popular culture myth of the reindeer as assistant to Father Christmas ("eating Rudolph"), as opposed to the "cows of the north" vision of the Northern countries.[24][25][26]

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.[27][28]


Generally in all Western countries eating the meat of any type of animal commonly kept as pets or companion animals (i.e. dogs and cats) is considered taboo, though that taboo has been broken under threat of starvation in the past. However, in some rural areas of Poland, dog fat is by tradition believed to have medicinal properties - being good for the lungs for instance. In 2009 a scandal erupted when a farm near Czestochowa was discovered rearing dogs to be rendered down into smalec - lard.[29]

According to the ancient Hindu scriptures (cf. Manusmriti and medicinal texts like Sushrut-Samhita), dog's meat was regarded as the most unclean (and rather poisonous) food possible. In Mexico during the pre-Columbian era a hairless dog named xoloitzcuintle was commonly eaten.[30] After colonization, this custom stopped.

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.


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.[31][32]

Judaism prohibits consumption of elephant meat as an unfit for consumption land animal, a taboo similar to the prohibition on camel meat.


Speak not to me with a mouth that eats fish

—Somali nomad taunt[33]

Among the Somali people, most clans have a taboo against the consumption of fish, and do not intermarry with the few occupational clans that do eat it.[34][35]

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.[35][36] 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.[35]

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.[35]

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). 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 considered permitted in the majority of the Islamic schools while Shia Muslims forbid it.[37][38][39] A common interpretation regarding some of the Islamic prohibitions is that animals that "live in both worlds" may not be consumed. This applies to primarily aquatic animals that nest or breed on land.

Many tribes of the American Southwest, including the Navaho, Apache, and Zuñi, have a taboo against fish and other water-related animals, including waterfowl.[40]


Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness abstain from fungi and all vegetables of the onion family (Alliaceae). They believe that these excite damaging passions.[41] Fungi are eschewed as they grow at night. The spice asafoetida (hing) is used instead of onion or garlic and provides a somewhat similar taste in their vegetarian cookery.[41] 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 pig and related rodents

Guinea pigs, or cuy, are a significant part of the diet in Peru and among some populations in the highlands of Ecuador, mostly in the Andes Mountains highlands.[42] However, cuyes can be found on the menu of most restaurants in Lima and other cities in Peru. Guinea pig meat is exported to the United States and European nations.[43][44]

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.[45] New York State allows for the consumption of guinea pigs, but New York City prohibits it. Accusations of cultural persecution have since been leveled.[46]

The guinea pig's close rodent cousins, capybara and paca, are consumed as food in South America. The Roman 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. [47][48]

Horses and other equines

Horse meat is part of the cuisine of countries as widespread as Japan, France, Germany, 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. In Islamic law, horses are generally considered makruh, i.e. the meat is not haram (forbidden) but the eating of it is strongly discouraged. It is forbidden in Hinduism.

Horse meat is forbidden by some sects of Christianity. The Battle of Tours in 732 CE showed the emergent importance of cavalry, so Pope Gregory III began an effort to stop the practice of horse eating, calling it "abominable". Horses were far more necessary to stop the Muslim cavalry, which was defeating Christian armies in Europe. His edicts are based on the same scripture as the Jewish prohibitions and this ban remained until the 18th century (see also Biblical law in Christianity). The Christianisation of Iceland in 1000 CE 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.[49]

Horse meat is generally taboo in the English-speaking world. In Canada, horse meat is legal, but there is only really a market—and that a small one—in the French-speaking province of Quebec, where the taboo is not so strong, 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.[50] However, it was sold in the US during World War II, since beef was expensive, rationed and destined for the troops. In the UK, this strong taboo includes banning horsemeat from commercial pet food and DNA testing of some types of salami suspected of containing donkey meat.

Horsemeat is also avoided by most people from the Balkans, mostly for ethical reasons, as horse is considered to be a noble animal, or because eating horsemeat is associated with war time famine. A similar taboo exists in Poland.

In Sunni Islam, Al-Bukhari reports that Muhammad forbade the eating of a donkey,[51] but the general applicability of this hadith is unclear.


Except for certain locusts and related species, insects are not considered kosher; dietary laws also require that practitioners check food carefully for insects.[52] 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 honeybees 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.

Living animals

Islamic and Judaic law (including Noahide Law) forbids any portion that is cut from a live animal. (Genesis 9:4)

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.

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, see also Drunken shrimp. Local belief is that live shrimp are "healthier" than those served "already dead" or cooked.


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.[53] The French eat calves' brains. The Irish and French enjoy tripe (cow stomach).

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 specialties; for example, tripe as menudo or mondongo among Latinos, chitterlings in the southern states, scrapple in the Mid-Atlantic region, and beef testicles called Rocky Mountain oysters or "prairie oysters" in the west.

In some regions, such as the EU, brains and other organs which can transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease") and similar diseases have now been banned from the foodchain as specified risk materials.


USDA data reports pork as the most widely eaten meat in the world. Consumption of pigs is forbidden among Muslims, Jews, Seventh-day Adventists, and others. There are various theories 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. This theory still circulates outside scientific circles, but is now rejected by most anthropologists.

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 (cows, horses, goats, etc.) who would naturally eat only plants.

The Vietnamese bred pot bellied pigs for meat and lard; however, in the United States they are kept as pets, and there is a stigma on eating them.

A culture-based pork taboo was attributed to Scottish highlanders until approximately 1800.


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 (often loosely translated "chew the cud" in English).[54][55][56] 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 but forbidden for Shia Islam.[57]

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, 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.[58] In 2003, the U.S. barred the import of this and other rodents from Africa because an outbreak at least nine human cases of monkeypox, an illness never before been seen in the Western Hemisphere.[59]

Historically, rats and mice have also been eaten in the West during times of shortage or emergency, such as during the Battle 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). Nutria, another large rodent, has been hunted or raised for food in the United States.[60]


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.[61] [62] They are also seen as a delicacy in China and in several Asian countries along with France, Greece and other Mediterranean countries. However, in Britain, Ireland, and the United States, eating them may be 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.

As they are molluscs, snails are not kosher.


In certain versions of Buddhism and Hinduism, vegetables of the onion genus are taboo. Specifically, 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 Jainism, any kind of roots are considered taboo, since the process of uprooting causes the organisms associated with the root in the soil to die.

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 (in fact, "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.[63][64]

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.[65]

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 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 to 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. 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.


Over the last couple of decades, the eating of whale has become increasingly taboo. The International Whaling Commission passed a moratorium on commercial whaling on July 23, 1982 that came into force for the 1985-86 season.

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.

Whale meat was eaten in Britain during World War II, but it was never popular.

Islam permits Muslims to consume the flesh of whales as there is a famous Hadith which cites the Prophet Muhammad's approval of such.[66]


The consumption of monkeys and apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas, mandrills and guenons is quite common in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.[67][68][69][70] Bonobos (also known as pygmy chimpanzees), have been extensively hunted in Congo to the level that they are now considered an endangered species. In certain parts of Congo the hands and feet of gorillas are regarded as a delicacy and are served to special guests.[68] Monkeys are also eaten in southeast Asia (especially Indonesia).[71] The consumption of primates may be considered to be too close to human cannibalism due to the similarity of our own species. The similarity increases the danger of viruses. 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 a similar virus[72][73][74]

Human meat

Of all the taboo meat, human flesh ranks as the most proscribed. Historically, 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. This consumption of human flesh is forbidden in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, as well as most other religions. However, 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. Additionally all humans continually undergo cellular autophagy and occasionally muscle atrophy which are both forms of self-cannibalism.

Very few people customarily eat the placenta after the baby's birth, but those who advocate placentophagy in humans (mostly in modern North America and Europe, Mexico, Hawaii, China, and the Pacific Islands) believe that eating the placenta prevents postpartum depression and other pregnancy complications.

Taboo drinks


Some religions—including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Rastafari movement, the Bahá'í Faith, and various branches of Christianity such as the Methodists, the Baptists,[75] the Latter-day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists and the Iglesia ni Cristo — forbid or discourage the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Despite popular belief, Jehovah's Witnesses has no prohibition, and only encourages moderation.[76]

The Hebrew Bible describes a Nazarite vow (Numbers 6:1-21) that includes abstinence from alcohol (specifically wine and probably barley beer[77]), although there is no general taboo against alcohol in Judaism.

There are also cultural taboos against the consumption of alcohol, reflected for example in the Temperance movement.


Drinking blood is a strong taboo in many countries, and is often vaguely associated with vampirism.

Blood sausage, or blood made into cake form, is quite popular in many parts of the world. In the Philippines, and China there is a delicacy of pigs blood made into a square form and roasted. Dinuguan, is a pork blood stew—meat simmered in a rich, spicy gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili and vinegar. In Finland the blood patties and mustamakkara type blood sausage are seen as national cuisine.

Some religions prohibit drinking or eating blood or food made from blood. In Judaism all mammal and bird meat (not fish) is salted to remove the blood. Jews and Jewish Proselytes follow the teaching in Leviticus 17:10-14, that since "the life of the animal is in the blood", no person may eat (or drink) the blood. However, they have no rules regarding blood transfusions since the blood is not consumed and because a transfusion is a medical procedure (Jews may break kosher laws, and Muslims may break harams, if it is for saving life). Iglesia ni Cristo also prohibits eating or drinking any blood. Jehovah's Witnesses, in addition, prohibit acceptance of blood transfusion based upon their sect's interpretation of Judaeo-Christian teaching.[78]

According to the Bible blood is only to be used for special/sacred purposes in connection with worship [Exodus chapters 12, 24, 29; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22]. 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 (Acts 15:28-29King James Version):

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.

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 Noahide Law. The Apostolic Decree is still observed today by the Greek Orthodox.[79]

Coffee and tea

Hot drinks are taboo for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[80] Most Mormons interpret this as referring exclusively to coffee and tea (e.g. not hot cocoa or herbal tea). The Word of Wisdom, a code of health used by church members, outlines prohibited and allowed substances. It is also sometimes extended as a taboo against caffeine in general, including cola drinks.[81] Coffee is also taboo for Rastafarians and Seventh Day Adventists.

Originally, coffee was considered taboo among Roman Catholics as it was considered a Muslim wine until it was deemed acceptable by Pope Clement VIII. Supposedly, Pope Clement tried coffee and liked it so much that he was quoted as saying "This devil's drink is so good... we should cheat the devil by baptizing it." Whether this story is true is unknown.

Raw milk

Consumption of raw milk and raw milk products such as unpasteurized cheese, with the exception of breast milk, is opposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other government organizations in the United States. This opposition is met with the displeasure of foreign producers of dairy products, who find it difficult to sell in the United States and countries with similar regulations, and the displeasure of many domestic dairy producers, who feel that the pasteurization requirement makes it more difficult for American dairy products to compete with foreign ones.

Pasteurization was first used in the United States in the 1890s after the discovery of germ theory to control the hazards of highly contagious bacterial diseases including bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis that could be easily transmitted to humans through the drinking of raw milk.[82] Initially after the scientific discovery of bacteria, no product testing was available to determine if a farmer's milk was safe or infected, so all milk had to be treated as potentially contagious. After the first test was developed, some farmers actively worked to prevent their infected animals from being killed and removed from food production, or would falsify the test results so that their animals would appear to be free of infection.[83]

Pasteurization could make raw milk from any source safer to drink whether infected or not. Although farm sanitation has greatly improved and effective testing has been developed for tuberculosis and other diseases, pasteurization continues to be used as a stopgap measure in case infectious milk from a mismanaged farm with poor sanitation should enter the food supply.


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. This is believed to be due to the various food scares in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s, such as BSE/vCJD, salmonella and dioxin poisoning. 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.[84]

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.

Personal taboos

Australian Aborigines traditionally had personal totems. While religious practices varied from group to group, it was common that the eating of the totemic animal was considered taboo, either by the entire clan, or the individual with the personal totem . A similar custom once existed in pagan Ireland. Legend recounts how Cuchulain the great hero of Ulster, was tricked into eating dog meat (his name means Little Hound) and thus breaking his personal taboo, leading ultimately to his death.

See also


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  78. Jehova's Witnesses base their faith on the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, a translation of the Bible published in 1961 by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Bible verses considered relevant to blood transfusions include Acts 15:20, 15:29, and 21:25.
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  • Stewart Lee Allen. In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food. ISBN 0-345-44015-3. 
  • Calvin W. Schwabe. Unmentionable Cuisine. ISBN 0-8139-1162-1. 
  • Frederick J. Simoons. Eat Not This Flesh: Food Avoidances from Prehistory to the Present. ISBN 0-299-14250-7. 
  • Marvin Harris. Good to Eat. ISBN 0-04-306002-1.  Harris applies cultural materialism, looking for economical or ecological explanations behind the taboos.
  • Morales, Edmundo (1995). The Guinea Pig : Healing, Food, and Ritual in the Andes. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-1558-1. 
  • Gidi Yahalom, "The Pig's Testimony", Antiguo Oriente 5 (2007): 195-204.

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Taboo food and drink. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.