Why Was Pork Forbidden In The Bible

Pork has been both a culinary favourite and dietary staple for many cultures over the centuries. Despite its enduring ubiquity, some have taken issue with its consumption due to its presence in the Bible—wherein the consumption of pork is explicitly forbidden. The rationale for pork’s prohibition in the Bible has been a source of much speculation.

To many, the religious perspective on pork has always been something of an enigma. The first time pork is mentioned in the Bible, it is directly prohibited. Specifically, Leviticus 11:7 outlines that “of theirs that chew the cud, or part the hoof are unclean unto you: whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet… they shall be unclean unto you”.

Though this sentiment of uncleanliness was the primary means by which pork was seen as unacceptable in early years, as time progressed, other factors such as dietary health, prevalence of disease and livestock management began to factor into morality-based subjugation. It is likely that early Jewish communities began to recognize the potential health benefits of avoiding pork; this is evidenced by ancient Jewish dietary laws that forbid the consumption of pork, which was viewed as a practical measure of cleanliness.

In modern times, many have reframed pork’s prohibited status. For example, some scholars have speculated that the ban may have resulted from the strictures of nomadic life, which meant that livestock had to be managed in close proximity to human settlements. It is believed that as a result, pork was viewed as an inconvenient and inefficient dietary choice.

Still others suggest that the restriction on pork is less theoretically rooted and more of a gesture of social solidarity—the prohibition being a testament to the ‘otherness’ of the Jewish people in the midst of their peers. This analysis suggests that the biblical aversion to pork helped foster community cohesion and ultimately became an extension of the Jewish communal identity.

Though many tales have been spun in an attempt to explain the reasons behind the biblical prohibition of pork, the undeniable fact remains that the consumption of pork is still largely discouraged in the Jewish faith — and other historical religions and beliefs — due to it being considered unclean.

Efficiency of Animal Sourcing

Pork has always gotten a bad rap in terms of animal sourcing efficiency. It is commonly considered to be an inefficient and expensive form of animal resource, due to its longer maturation period and the difficulty of keeping pigs contained and contained. Pigs are also less hardy and vulnerable to the elements than other animals. The religious prohibition on pork may have been an effort to limit the demand for animal resources from the land’s limited supply.

The original nomadic populations would have needed to constantly move their flocks and herds with them, searching for greener pastures for their livestock. Pigs, unlike ruminants, do not roam and must be contained in a pen. Raising pigs would have been impractical for these early nomadic peoples, resulting in a religious focus on the efficiency of sourcing ruminants, and thereby a prohibition on pork.

Though efficiency may have had something to do with the banning of pork, it is important to note that in many agricultural practices, pigs were a high-yield meat source – particularly in older, traditional agricultural practices. Pigs were able to consume almost any human food waste that may have been deemed inedible by other livestock, making it a far more sustainable and efficient method of food production than many other sources.

Dietary Restrictions For Health

Another commonly cited factor in the Bible’s prohibition on pork is the health-conscious attitudes that were prevalent in early monotheistic religions. The Bible’s authors could have been attempting to protect their flocks from potential unhealthy dietary choices. In some regions, for example, pork that was raised in close proximity to garbage and excrement may have been a source of unhealthy parasites and diseases.

These parasites can range from tapeworms and trichinosis to salmonella and E. coli, which can cause food borne illnesses in those who ingest contaminated meat. This could explain why pork was deemed unclean, as an attempt to protect the health and wellbeing of the populace.

In certain cases, pork can be responsibly raised and then prepared in a clean environment. But it appears the Bible’s authors feared the potential health consequences of eating pork, and sought to limit their citizen’s exposure to such foods.

Environmental Considerations

In addition to the health considerations, it is possible that avoiding pork may also have been a practical matter intended to protect the environment. On arid or otherwise arable land, raising livestock that require significant amounts of water can be a difficult and expensive process. If the people of the land could not commit to such demands, the land may have been farmed inefficiently or abused, leading to farmland erosion or salinization.

It is likely that early Jewish texts found this environmentally conscious approach attractive and banned pork as a result. Such a limitation may nevertheless be seen as a reasonable means of protecting the environment from potentially damaging agricultural practices.

These environmental considerations are relevant to this day in areas where water is scarce. Cattle ranches in certain parts of the Southwest United States, for example, have employed the strategy of no-pork diets for their livestock, as a more efficient use of their water resources.

Social Significance of Pork’s Forbidden Nature

The idea of pork being forbidden in the Bible has been, for millennia, an archetypal signifier of Judaism and other monotheistic faiths. Certain aspects of the bible’s content are universal and are meant to be symbols of the distance between one faith or culture and another. The prohibition of pork has become a powerful symbol, standing alongside other religious taboos such as alcohol, drugs, and mixed-gender gatherings.

These symbols are powerful, not only in reinforcing the community cohesion and faith of adherents, but also in creating a tangible distinction between cultures and a powerful sense of tradition and identity which can be used to distinguish Jews and other monotheistic believers from the many other cultures which might encounter them.

In this sense, it is possible that the biblical prohibition on pork was meant, not only to protect adherents from unhealthy food and environmental damage, but also to serve as a powerful symbol of the Jewish community’s status as a separate and unique culture.


Pork has been forbidden in the bible for centuries, yet the reasons behind its prohibition remain elusive. Though various perspectives exist, ranging from the practical to the philosophical, one thing is certain: pork’s forbidden status holds immense religious, cultural, environmental and practical significance — one that has endured throughout the centuries and will, no doubt, continue to do so.

Hilda Scott is an avid explorer of the Bible and inteprator of its gospel. She is passionate about researching and uncovering the mysteries that lie in this sacred book. She hopes to use her knowledge and expertise to bring faith and God closer to people all around the world.

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