out of class journal


Question Description

The Abominable Pig - Questions to consider and take notes

  • What reasons does Harris give that pork aversion is irrational?
  • What are ruminants and why are they better adapted to the Middle East than pigs?
  • What other Middle Eastern civilizations, besides the Israelites, abhorred the pig?
  • What happened in the Middle East that made pigs less adapted for agriculture?
  • What rationale does Harris give for the Levite ban of camel meat?
  • The Muslim religion bans only the pig. How does this inhibit the spread of a religion that rivals Christianity in its number of followers? And why has Indonesia converted to the Muslim religion whereas China has not?

Journal Prompt:

In your out of class journal, please answer at least three of the six above questions. You pick which questions you would like to answer. Like the last out of class journal, it should be a minimum of 500 words and please provide a word count. Any of the questions above could be fair game for the midterm so even though I am asking you to only provide answers to at least three questions for the journal, you really should prepare answers to all of them for your studying purposes.

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le heart, or the womb. In and set apart for God (3: )at fat is conceived as the the best of the land of The sciatic nerve, which zxcellence of locomotion, ith the angel, he was parhe sciatic nerve may well Logique du vivant (Paris, naturally included among :s among you, which shall e nourishment is not simltions of the Supernatural the first time at the begin3oney is an already "pre)urs forth ambiguity from attention after I had finproach, and the similarity stones again to stone him. 1 the Father; for which of ork that we stone gy Cri he e,. .tom a bird's nest. e milk represents the kid's 3g on the same day a cow ad to culinary incest. nations!" (Num. 23: 9). ;h translation. The Savage able Pig I MARVIN HARRIS 1 An aversion to pork seems a t the outset even more irrational than an aversion to beef. Of all domesticated mammals, pigs possess the greatest potential for swiftly and efficiently changing plants into flesh. Over its lifetime a pig can convert 35 percent of the cnergy in its feed to meat compared with 13 percent for sheep and a mere 6.5 percent let can gain a pound for every three to five pounds it eats while a calf eeds to eat ten pounds to gain one. A cow needs nine months to drop a single calf, and the calf needs another four months to reach four hundred pounds. ur months after insemination, a single sow can give birth to eight or of which after another six months can weigh over four hundred pounds. rly, the whole essence of pig is the production of meat for human nourishment and clectation. Why then did the Lord of the ancient Israelites forbid his people to savor ork or even to touch a pig alive or dead? Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you (Lev. 11: 1). .. everyone who touches them shall be unclean. (Lev. 11:24) Unlike the Old Testament, which is a treasure trove of forbidden flesh, the Koran is eat taboos. Why is it the pig alone who suffers Allah's disapproval? hese things only has He forbidden you: carrion, blood, and the flesh of swine. t Jews, the Old Testament's characterization of swine as "unclean" n of the taboo self-evident: "Anyone who has seen the filthy habits sk why it is prohibited," says a modern rabbinical authority. The ding of the fear and loathing of pigs in self-evident piggishness goes back at least time of.Rabbi Moses Maimonides, court physician to the Islamic emperor Salcentury in Egypt. Maimonides shared with his Islamic hosts a nd pig eaters, especially Christian pigs and pig eaters: "The prin.reason why the law forbids swine-flesh is to be found in the circumstance that its s and food are very filthy and loathsome." If the law allowed Egyptians and Jews . ~ Marvin Harris to raise pigs, Cairo's streets and houses would become as filthy as those of Europe, for "the mouth of a swine is as dirty as dung itself." Maimonides could only tell one side' of the story. He had never seen a clean pig. The pig's penchant for excrement is not a defect of its nature but of the husbandry of its human masters. Pigs prefer and thrive best on roots, nuts, and grains; they eat excrement only when nothingheper presents itself. In fact, let them get hungry enough, and they'll even eat each other, a trait which they share with other omnivores, but most notably with their own masters. Nor is wallowing in filth a natural characteristic of swine. Pigs wallow to keep themselves cool; and they much prefer a fresh, clean mudhole to one that has been soiled by urine and In condemning the pig as the dirtiest of animals, Jews and Moslems left unexplained their more tolerant attitude toward other dung-eating domesticated species. Chickens and goats, for example, given motivation and opportunity, also readily dine on dung. The dog is another domesticated creature which easily develops an appetite for human feces. And this was especially true in the Middle East, where dung-eating dogs filled the scavenging niche left vacant by the ban on pigs. Jahweh prohibited their flesh,,yet dogs were-not abominated, bad to touch, or even bad t o look at,jas were pigs. Maimonides could not be entirely consistent in his efforts to attribute the abstention from pork tothe pig's penchant for feces. TheBook of Leviticus prohibits the flesh of many othercreatures, such as cats and camels, which are not notab1y:inclined to eat excrement. And with the exception of the pig, had not Allah said all the others were good to eat? The fact that Maimonides's Moslem emperor could eat every kind of mc except pork wouldhave made it impolitic if not dangerous to identify the biblical sens, of cleanliness exclusively with freedom from the taint of feces: So instead of adopting a cleaner-than-thou attitude, Maimonides offered a proper court physician's theory of the entire set of biblical aversions: the prohibited items were not good to eat because not only was one of them-the pig-filthy from eating excrement but all of them were not good for you. "I maintain," he said, "that food forbidden by the Law is unwholesome." But in what ways were the forbidden foods unwholesome?The great rabbi was quite specific in-the case of pork: it "containedmore moisture than necessary and too much superfluous matter.'' As for the other forbidden foods, their "injurious character" was too self-evident t o merit further. discussion. Maimonides's public health theory of pork avoidance had to wait seven hundred years before it acquired what seemed to be a scientific justification. In 1859 the first clinical association between trichinosis and undercooked pork was established, and from then on it became the most popular explanation of the Jewish and Islamic pork taboo. Just as Maimonides said, pork was unwholesome. Eager to reconcile the Bible with the findings of.medical science, theologians began to embroider a whole series of additional public healthexplanations for the other biblical food taboos: wild animals and beasts of burden were prohibited because the flesh gets too tough to be digested properly; shellfish were to be avoided because they serve as vectors of typhoid fever; blood is not good to e a t because the.bloodstrearn i s a perfect medium for .microbes. .In the case of pork this line of rationalization had a paradoxical outcome. Reformist Jews began to argue thatsince they now understood the scientificand medica1,basisof the taboos,-pork avoidancewas no longer necessary; all they had to do was to s& toit that the meat was thoroughly cooked.Predictably, this ~rovokeda reaction among Orthodox Jews, who were appallec - - ly ah ~ s of e Europe, fol s could only tell one sidc nt for excrement is not ;I rs. Pigs prefer and thrivc 1 nothing better presents each other, a trait which ~wm n asters. Nor is wal:o keep themselves cool; Ieen soiled by urine and The Abominable Pig +I 111, b I I t seven hundred years 1859 the first clinical [shed, and from then nic pork taboo. Just :Bible with the findseries of additional animals and beasts :stedproperly; shell.r; blood is not good In the case of pork ews began to argue taboos, pork avoidneat was thoroughly who were appalled \I 1 that the book of God's law was being relegated to the "class of a minor med- ." They insisted that God's purpose in Leviticus could never be fully . . , l ) l B11c.nded; ~ nonetheless the dietary laws had to be obeyed as a sign of submission F s > $ I t , I I I V will. I i I111~13lly the trichinosis theory of pork avoidance fell out of favor largely on the , I I I I I \ that a medical discovery made in the nineteenth century could not have been L I I ~llousandsof years ago. But that is not the part of the theory that bothers me. t. !I( 'lo not have to possess a scientific understanding of the ill effects of certain foods *+ to put such foods on their bad-to-eat list. If the consequences of eating pork 1 , ( $ 1 I,,,cn exceptionally bad for their health, it would not have been necessary for the I IIIC.\ to know about trichinosis in order to ban its consumption. Does one have to 1111 I \ t ~ n d the molecular chemistry of toxins in order to know that some mushrooms ~ l . ~ ~ ~ g e rIto is u sessential ? for my own explanation of the pig taboo that the trichi.I, ~lieorybe laid to rest on entirely different grounds. My contention is that there is ~l~ltely nothing exceptional about pork as a source of human disease. All domestic 1 , I I I I 1.1 Is are potentially hazardous to human health. Undercooked beef, for example, is I ,,Ic~lific source of tapeworms, which can grow to a length of sixteen to twenty feet III..IIIC the human gut, induce a severe case of anemia, and lower the body's resistance I , I I I her diseases. Cattle, goat, and sheep transmit the bacterial disease known as bruI I c ),IS,whose symptoms include fever, aches, pains, and lassitude. The most dangerous cl~,c..lsetransmitted by cattle, sheep, and goats is anthrax, a fairly common disease of 1 1 11 animals and humans in Europe and Asia until the introduction of Louis Pasteur's 1 1 I I l~rax vaccine in 1881. Unlike trichinosis, which does not produce symptoms in the I I 1.1 (ority of infected individuals and rarely has a fatal outcome, anthrax runs a swift ltlrse that begins with an outbreak of boils and ends in death. If the taboo on pork was a divinely inspired health ordinance, it is the oldest recorded I,C of medical malpractice. The way to safeguard against trichinosis was not to taboo i ) ~ l rbut k to taboo undercooked ~ o r k A . simple advisory against undercooking pork rv~uldhave sufficed: "Flesh of swine thou shalt not eat until the pink has been cooked 11c1rnit." And come to think of it, the same advisory should have been issued for cat[Ic, sheep, and goats. But the charge of medical malpractice against Jahweh will not \ I ~ck. The Old Testament contains a rather precise formula for distinguishing good-to-eat llcsh from forbidden flesh. This formula says nothing about dirty habits or unhealthy Ineat. Instead it directs attention to certain anatomical and physiological features of ani111alsthat are good to eat. Here is what Leviticus 11: 1says: ( I a t t $ $ 1 , 11 .oslems left unexplained cated species. Chickens o readily dine on dung. ; an appetite for human ~g-eatingdogs filled the ted their flesh, yet dogs were pigs. ittribute the abstention s prohibits the flesh of lotably inclined to eat aid all the others were eat every kind of meat ntiF 'ie biblical sense 10 'd of adopting :physlcian's theory of t good to eat because t but all of them were the Law is unwhole? The great rabbi was an necessary and too sir "injurious charac- 11lr.1 1 69 I I 11 11 61 r 1 8 17 .I 8 I 111 t 1 Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven footed and chews the cud among animals, you may eat. Any serious attempt to explain why the pig was not good to eat must begin with this formula and not with excrement or wholesomeness, about which not a word is said. Leviticus goes on to state explicitly of the pig that it only satisfies one part of the formula. "It divideth the hoof." But the pig does not satisfy the other part of the formula: "It cheweth not the cud." To their credit, champions of the good-to-eat school have stressed the importance of Marvin Hams the cud-chewing, split-hoof formula as the key to understanding Jahweh's abomination of the pig. But they do not view the formula as an outcome of the way the Israelites used domestic animals. Instead they view the way the Israelites used domestic animals as an outcome of the formula. According to anthropologist Mary Douglas, for example, the cud-chewing, split-hoof formula makes the split-hoof but non-cud-chewing pig athing that's "out of place." Things that are "out of place" are dirty, she argues, for the essence of dirt is "matter outof-place." Thepig, however, is more than out of place; it is neither here nor there. Such :things are both dirty and dangerous. Therefore the pig is abominated as wel1:as not good to eat. But doesn't the force of this argument lie entirely in its circularity? To observe that the pig is out of place taxonomically is merely to observe that Leviticus classifies good-to-eat animals in such a way as to make the pig bad to eat. This avoids the question of why the taxonomy is what it is. Let me attend first to the reasonwhy Jahweh wanted edible animals to be cud-chewers. I began this puzzle by saying-thatpigsare the most efficient mammalian converters of pl8ntfoods into animal flesh, but I neglected t o say what kinds of plant foods. Eeed them on wheat, maize, potatoes, soybeans, or anything low in cellulose, and pigs will ~erform veritable miracles-of transubstantiation; feed them on grass, stubble, leaves, or anything high in cellulose, and they will lose weight. . Pigs >areomnivores, but they a r e not ruminants.-:In fact, in -digestiveapparatus.and nutrient:requirements- pigs resemble humans in p o r e -ways than :any mammal except monkeys And apes, which is why pigs' i r e huch in demand for-medical researchcohi :nutrientabsorption,:and metabolism. cerned with -ather6sclerosis,calorie-protek~~trition, ' ': The Abominable Pig ;Jahweh's abomination f the way -the Israelites e plants. Pigs carry the additional onus of not being well adapted to ology of the Middle East. Unlike the ancestors of cattle, sheep, or used domestic animals ~ry Douglas, for exam~tnon-cud-chewing pig e dirty, she argues, for nore than out of place; .OUS. Therefore the pig is argument lie entirely UY is merely to observe ake the pig bad t o eat. is ill suited for life in the hot, sun-parched habitats which .were the children of Abraham. Tropical breeds of cattle, sheep, and goats can sweat like a pig," the expression lacks an anatomical basis. Pigs can't lals to be cud-chewers. e cud-chewers: cattle, )od-producing species riciouslyto think &at on diets consisting of nals, those which are brous materials such hich are like big fer- I xi^' %iletropping 3 ti= men, the f i s t to time the contents -the "cudn-which ergo further fermen- as pigs whose flanks are merely soaked with water; and here also is some of the pig's dmy habits. As temperatures rise above thlrty degrees degrees Fahrenheit), a pig deprived of clean mudholes will become xcial to the relationt. By raising animals able to obtain meat: la%stubble, bushes, luman consumption rtiher and traction lmalian converters f plant foods. Feed dose, and pigs will stubble, leaves, or ive apparatus and Y mammal except icaJ --search con- A ave consumed significant quantities of pork even had they desired it. This historrience undoubtedly contributed to the development of a traditional aversion at as an unknown and alien food. But why was this tradition preserved and by being written down as God's law long after the Israelites had become s? The answer as I see it is not that the tradition born of pastoralism conil by mere inertia and ingrown habit, but that it was preserved because ing remained too -costly. .-- i i L Z 72 Marvin Harris Critics have opposed the theory that the ancient Israelite pork taboo was essentially a costtbenefit choice by pointing to evidence of pigs being raised quite successfully in many parts of the Middle East including the Israelite's promised land. The facts are not in dispute. Pigs have indeed been raised for ten thousand years in various parts of the Middle East-as long as sheep and goats, and even longer than cattle. Some of the oldest Neolithic villages excavated by archaeologists-Jericho in Jordan, Jarmo in Iraq, and Argissa-Magulla in G r e e c ~ o n t a i npig bones with features indicative of the transition from wild to domesticated varieties. Several Middle Eastern pre-Bronze Age villages (4000 B.C. to 2000 B.C.) contain concentrated masses of pig remains in association with what archaeologists interpret as altars and cultic centers, suggestive of ritual pig slaughter and pig feasting. We know that some pigs were still being raised in the lands of the Bible at the beginning of the Christian era. The New Testament (Luke) tells us that in the country of the Garadines near Lake Galilee Jesus cast out devils from a man named Legion into a herd of swine feeding on the mountain. The swine rushed down into the lake and drowned themselves, and Legion was cured. Even modern-day Israelites continue to raise thousands of swine in parts of northern Galilee. But from the very beginning, fewer pigs were raised than cattle, sheep, or goats. And more importantly, as time went on, pig husbandry declined throughout the region. Carlton Coon, an anthropologist with many years of experience in North America and the Levant, was the first scholar to offer a cogent explanation of why this general decline in pig husbandry had occurred. Coon attributed the fall of the Middle Eastern pig to deforestation and human population increase. At the beginning of the Neolithic period, pigs were able to root in oak and beech forests which provided ample shade and wallows as well as acorns, beechnuts, truffles, and other forest floor products. With an increase in human population density, farm acreage increased and the oak and beech forests were destroyed to make room for planted crops, especially for olive trees, thereby eliminating the pig's ecological niche. To update Coon's ecological scenario, I would add that as forests were being destroyed, so were marginal farmlands and grazing lands, the general succession being from forest to cropland to grazing land to desert, with each step along the way yielding a greater premium for raising ruminants and a greater penalty for raising swine. Robert Orr Whyte, former director general of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, estimated that in Anatolia the forests shrank from 70 percent to 13 percent of the total land area between 5000 B.C. and the recent past. Only a fourth of the Caspian shorefront forest survived the process of population increase and agricultural intensification; half of the Caspian mountainous humid forest; a fifth to a sixth of the oak and juniper forests of the Zagros Mountains; and only a twentieth of the juniper forests of the Elburz and Khorassan ranges. If I am right about the subversion of the practical basis of pig production through ecological succession, one does not need to invoke Mary Douglas's "taxonomic anomaly" to understand the peculiarly low status of the pig in the Middle East. The danger it posed to husbandry was very tangible and accounts quite well for its low status. Thc pig had been domesticated for one purpose only, namely to supply meat. As ecological conditions became unfavorable for pig raising, there was no alternative function which could redeem its existence. The creature became not only useless, but worse than usc less-harmful, a curse to touch or merely to see-a pariah animal. This transformatio~l 3 I 1 d II 8 2 B The Abominable Pig pork taboo was essentially :aised quite successfully in .sed land. The facts are not :ars in various parts of the an cattle. Some of the oldin Jordan, Jarmo in Iraq, ures indicative of the tran:rn pre-Bronze Age villages )ig remains in association rs, suggestive of ritual pig 1 being raised in the lands Testament (Luke) tells us ,ast out devils from a man . The swine rushed down ;venmodern-day Israelites :alilee. But from the very ;. And more importantly, ~n. :rience in North America ation of why this general 311 of the Middle Eastern :gi5 of the Neolithic 0 : - ample shade and : floor products. With an and the oak and beech ly for olive trees, thereby sts were being destroyed, :cession being from forie way yielding a greater vine. Robert Orr Whyte, tural Organization, esti1 3 percent of the total h of the Caspian shorecultural intensification; . of the oak and juniper per forests of the Elburz big production through ~ S ' S"taxonomic anomiddle East. The danger for its low status. The )ly meat. AS ecological rnative function which S, hilt worse than use1. transforma ...
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The abominable pig
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Q.1 What are ruminants and why are they better adapted to the Middle East than pigs?
The ruminants that were discussed by the author in the article include cattle, sheep and
goats. They were called by the name cud chewers. They were best known as the meat producing
species in the middle east. On the same, they were highly regarded because they were herbivores
who would survive on feeding on plants alone. This is in contrary with pigs who would eat even
their own piglets if they were hungry. The herbivores were rumina...

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Tutor went the extra mile to help me with this essay. Citations were a bit shaky but I appreciated how well he handled APA styles and how ok he was to change them even though I didnt specify. Got a B+ which is believable and acceptable.

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