What Are Unclean Animals In The Bible

Many people have heard the term “unclean animals” in the Bible but most don’t understand what is meant by that. Unclean animals, in the biblical context, are animals that are considered not to be suitable for use as food, either because they are related to, or live in the same environment they inhabit. In other words, unclean animals are not fit to eat or even touch by the people of Israel. Scripture commands the people of Israel to abstain from eating unclean animals. According to the Bible, the animals that are considered to be unclean are traditional Jewish dietary laws based mainly on Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

The list of unclean animals in the Bible consists of four main categories: animals that live in the sea and air, animals that are related to other animals of the same species, animals that live in a specific environment and animals that have unusually large or small body parts. For example, in Leviticus 11: 9-12, it states: “These shall you not eat of those that chew the cud, or of those who have a cloven hoof; the camel, because he chews the cud, but does not have a cloven hoof, is unclean for you. The coney, because he chews the cud, but does not have a cloven hoof, is unclean for you.

The Bible explicitly identifies some of the animals that are considered unclean, most notably pigs and camels, as well as animals like crabs, lizards, rodents, eagles and owls. However, some of the animals that were considered unclean were once eaten in the past, due to cultural norms and practices. Rabbits, for example, were traditionally considered unclean, but today are not. The same goes for some shellfish, which are considered kosher for consumption.

The reasons behind why some animals are considered unclean vary, but scientists suggest that the reasons may be due to nutritional or health concerns. For instance, pigs and camels are not permitted in the Bible because they are scavengers and typically live in an unhygienic environment. This means that these animals are more susceptible to diseases and parasites, thus making them unfit to eat. On the other hand, other animals like eagles and owls are considered unclean due to their predatory nature. This means that they are more likely to carry salmonella or other bacteria, leading to greater risk of food poisoning.

Overall, the concept of unclean animals in the Bible is rooted in ancient taboos and beliefs. Although some of these restrictions are still observed by religious Jews and Christians, some societies have adapted and accepted new dietary norms, such as the modern Jewish and Christian populations. Furthermore, some of the restrictions on animals to be eaten have been overturned, such as with rabbits and shellfish. As time passes, some of these dietary restrictions may be lifted, though it’s unlikely most will ever be completely abolished.

Levitical Unclean Animals

The book of Leviticus in the Bible lists a total of 25 unclean animals, most of which are mentioned above in the previous section. Of the 25 unclean animals, 15 are prohibited land animals, while the remaining 10 are prohibited marine creatures. According to the King James Version of the Bible, the 15 land animals are, “the hare, and the coney, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail and the mole”. Meanwhile, the 10 animals prohibited to eat from the sea are, “the little owl and the great owl, and the swan, and the pelican, and the vulture, and the cormorant”.

The laws from the Bible related to Levitical unclean animals is still followed by some religious communities even today. Such religious communities are more strict with their interpretation of the biblical dietary laws by avoiding any unclean animals. Additionally, the unclean animals in the Bible are never used for sacrificial offerings and other religious activities. Such measures are a source of protection for the community, as it is believed that eating them could spread diseases and illnesses to people.

In many cases, unclean animals are seen as a sign of uncleanliness and contamination. As such, avoiding these animals can signify purity and holiness. It is believed that eating the animals listed in the Bible contributes to defilement, and so the people of Israel abstain from it altogether. Furthermore, some religious communities also believe that such animals should be avoided for their symbolic meaning.

In other cultures, unclean animals are not prohibited from eating as the meaning behind them is not understood by them. For example, most countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, are quite diverse in terms of food. In these countries, one can find dishes containing pork, which is considered an unclean animal in the Bible.

Modern Food Regulations

In the modern world, food regulations are now implemented by governments to ensure safety and health of the people. Such rules are strictly enforced in many countries, where food businesses must adhere to set regulations or risk getting their licenses revoked or being fined. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the organization that sets the standards for food businesses in order to ensure safety. For this purpose, a certification process is required, wherein businesses must undergo an inspection and demonstrate that they are following food safety regulations.

The FDA also enforces regulations on food production and processing, such as hygiene protocols, use of veterinary drugs and animal nutrition. In addition, some countries have adopted food laws that regulate the production of food from unclean animals. For instance, some laws forbid the sale of contaminated meat from swine and other animals. In other countries, such laws are in place to ensure that food from unclean animals is produced safely and hygienically, so as to not bring harm to people.

These regulations ensure that food from unclean animals is safe for human consumption as it is produced and processed in an environment of safety and health. With the right controls in place, eating unclean animals no longer pose a risk to people’s health. Thus, people can enjoy eating these animals without worrying about getting sick.

Modern Religious Interpretations

As mentioned earlier, some religious communities still observe the dietary laws from the Bible, which includes abstaining from eating unclean animals. Today, some communities have modernised their interpretation of the laws by arguing that avoiding unclean animals is no longer about purity and holiness, but more about health and safety. This means that people are now allowed to eat food from unclean animals, as long as it is produced and processed in a safe, healthy and hygienic environment.

Apart from health and safety, some religions also argue that eating unclean animals is an act of kindness and mercy towards animals. This opinion promotes a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, which is seen as a sign of respect towards animals and their lives. As such, it is argued that refraining from eating unclean animals, such as pork and camels, can be an act of kindness towards animals.

Additionally, some modern religions that interpret the biblical laws in a different light do not consider some animals to be unclean. As such, some religious Jews may eat rabbit and shellfish, as mentioned above. This is in contrast to traditionalists, who believe that all animals from the Bible should be avoided.


In the Bible, there are specific animals that are declared to be “unclean” and are prohibited from eating. These animals are listed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, although some interpretations have changed over time. These animals are usually seen as unclean because they can carry illnesses or parasites, as well as bring defilement and contamination to people.

Modern regulations on food production and processing have been implemented in many countries to ensure safety and health. Such regulations ensure that food from unclean animals is safe for consumption, as long as it has been produced and processed in a hygienic environment. In addition, some modern interpretations of the biblical laws suggest that refraining from eating unclean animals is not only out of health and safety concerns, but also an act of respect and kindness towards animals.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

Leave a Comment