Swine Disease, Politics, and the Prohibition of Pork

Since last few days,  people of  this planet earth were jolted  by the news of the out break of ” Swine Flu”. According to the wire news, the original clusters of  out break started in Mexico. It seems that the “Swine Flu” virus has mutated pretty fast to be able to spread among the human.

There are more than enough information about “Swine Flu” in the media. But so little was mentioned  about prohibition of eating pork among the religions.

I have found the following post from Islam online, which was posted a year ago.But for those who wish to know the teaching of Islam, I hope the following post will shed the light.


Kyaw Kyaw Oo

Copied from Islam online.net

by Amel Abdullah

Freelance Writer – United States

It is commonly known that Muslims, Jews, and some Christians do not eat pork. In the Bible (King James Version), one can read,

And the swine, though it has a split hoof completely divided, yet it chews not the cud; it is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall you not eat, and their carcass shall you not touch; they are unclean to you. (Leviticus 11:7–8)

And among other verses in the Qur’an addressing the issue, we read,

[He (Allah) has only forbidden you dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name has been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience or transgression of due limits, then he is guiltless. For Allah is Forgiving, Most Merciful.] (Al-Baqarah 2:173)

According to an authentic saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him),

The trade of swine is also prohibited in Islam (Al-Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 34, Number 438).

Peoples of various faiths and backgrounds often express curiosity about these restrictions on both diet and trade. In many places, pork products, such as pigs’ feet or certain kinds of sausage, are considered delicacies. They are such an integral part of these cultures’ cuisines that people often do not comprehend why this meat in particular is singled out for prohibition.

Muslim scholars are typically cautious in their response.

Unlike the Bible, which (in the English translation) explicitly calls the meat and carcass of swine unclean, the Qur’an (Al-An`am 6:145) describes it as rijs, an Arabic word denoting impurity or — according to Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid, a prominent lecturer and author residing in Saudi Arabia — “anything that is regarded as abhorrent in Islam and according to the sound human nature.” (Al-Munajjid)

Although pigs are associated with numerous zoonoses (animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans), rijs can be spiritual or physical. Thus, most scholars say that the potential for pigs to infect humans with diseases is not automatically the reason for prohibition. Obeying the commandments of Allah is also an expression of a believer’s faith.

However, we know from the Qur’an (Al-A`raf 7:157) that Allah’s laws are not arbitrary. It is therefore only natural for people to seek out the possible wisdoms behind these laws from worldly (scientific) sources. Doing so is in line with Islam’s emphasis on seeking knowledge and taking the time to reflect on the intricacies of Allah’s vast creation.

In the case of pigs, there are certainly many “worldly” reasons not to consume their meats or come into contact with them.

Pigs are highly adaptable and will generally consume anything available, ranging from plants, leaves, grasses, worms, snails, and eggs to rotting carcasses, excrement, garbage, disease-ridden rodents, and other animals (Dewey and Hruby).

Pigs have played a role in the waste-management systems of many countries. In the US, for example, pigs were once allowed to roam the streets in order to eat garbage of all types, and the early 1900s saw numerous “piggeries” established to help manage the country’s mounting garbage problem.

They Eat Anything

Through the late 1960s, garbage and offal were fed in the most hideous of conditions to pigs making piggeries a prime breeding ground for diseases and causing the spread of trichinosis (a type of roundworm infection) in the human population (Hickman and Eldredge; Milestones in Garbage: A Historical Timeline of Municipal Solid Waste Management; Trichinosis).

When other disease-infecting pigs (with vesicular exanthema) threatened to wipe out the pig population of the nation’s piggeries, new laws were enacted, stating that the garbage fed to pigs had to be cooked instead of raw. In many US farms, cooked garbage still makes up the staple diet of the hogs that are later slaughtered and put on the market for popular consumption.

Modern piggeries are now called swine “garbage-feeding facilities” and are regulated by the government; however, these regulations generally do not apply to individual pig farmers, who may feed various types of household waste to their pigs at home (Hickman and Eldredge; Swine Garbage Feeding; Mebus).

Although one may think of the old-style piggeries as an unfortunate chapter from the ignorant past, pigs as raw-garbage collectors are still a reality in some areas of the world.

In Cairo, Egypt, for example, about a third of the city’s trash is collected by a network of Coptic Christians who have worked in the industry for decades. By hand, the trash collectors bring the garbage to run-down areas of the city, where they work to separate items that might be sold or recycled. The remaining “organic” refuse is then fed to pigs, goats, and dogs, which roam the slums as scavengers (unlike pigs, goats may express interest in garbage but don’t actually eat it). According to one report, pig meat from the slums is then sold to restaurants and hotels catering to Westerners (Epstein; Is It True That Goats Eat Anything?).



“Major problems with this disease occur in Latin America and non-Islamic parts of Africa and Asia, especially India.”

Similar operations exist all over the developing world and are a Diseases Unique to Pigs

Partial list of zoonoses related to swine:

  • Balantidiasis
  • Brucellosis
  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Colibacillosis
  • Cysticercosis
  • Erysipelas
  • Leptospirosis
  • Trichinosis
  • Yersiniosis

To learn more about these diseases, click here.

While many domesticated animals (including cows, sheep, and poultry) are capable of infecting humans with disease, Dr. Darwish says that pigs are unique in that they “harbor almost all the diseases that [can] be transmitted from animal to man.” This is, he says, “unlike other species, where each [can] transmit only some of these diseases.” According to Dr. Darwish, pig diseases may be parasitic, bacterial, or viral.

“The virulence of the disease in pigs is much more than [that of] other animals,” Dr. Darwish tells IslamOnline.net, explaining the difference between two strains of Taenia (tapeworm) present in both cows and pigs.

The species saginata (cow Taenia) “can be expelled through diarrhea and [can] respond well to drugs,” Dr. Darwish says. The species solium (pig Taenia) “is more virulent, can resist treatment, and can’t be easily washed [out] by drugs causing diarrhea. [The species] saginata sticks itself to human mucosa through suckers, while solium has [both] suckers and hooks and is carcinogenic. If it reaches the brain, spinal cord, or heart, it may be very dangerous,” Dr. Darwish adds.

Some diseases associated with swine occur when people touch or consume raw or improperly cooked pork products, while other infections can be transmitted by being in close contact with pigs, drinking water contaminated with their urine, or even inhaling soil that contains particles of pig waste. It is not always obvious when a pig is ill or infected with a particular type of bacteria – thus, it is considered unwise to touch pigs or handle them without taking certain precautions (Zoonotic Disease Prevention).

At highest risk for disease are those who handle swine on a regular basis, especially those who work in farms or in slaughterhouses and those who work as veterinarians. “If we [in vet medicine] find even one [tapeworm] cyst on the carcass of a pig, we exterminate the whole [carcass],” Dr. Darwish says, highlighting the dangers of these cysts to people working in the field of animal research.

Swine Politics

“Who can guarantee that there are no other undiscovered diseases in the swine’s flesh?”

It is interesting to note that many of the diseases associated with pigs are also present in carcasses of other animals forbidden for consumption in Islam, including cats, dogs, rats, bears, and beasts of prey. Bear meat, for example, is currently the leading cause of cases of trichinosis in the US (Trichinosis).

While most people in the Western World would not dream of eating dogs, cats, or rats (and would express disgust when hearing of people in other parts of the world who do eat these animals), it seems that there is a peculiar cultural bias when it comes to swine. Such a bias exists despite the fact that many people are well aware of the dangers swine poses to human health and are old enough to remember the trichinosis outbreaks that plagued the US during the first half of the 20th century.

Swine herding, along with the production, sale, and export of swine products, is a billion-dollar industry in the US which may be a reason for downplaying the role of swine in various health conditions (US Breaks Pork Export Volume and Value Records).

Raising pigs requires enormous vigilance, care, and attention to their health and hygiene. In many countries, regulations may exist but are not meaningfully enforced, and the potential for disease to spread to humans is ever-present.

While some of the above diseases are admittedly rare, others are much more common, depending on the area of the world, the conditions pigs are raised in (and what they eat), the personal hygienic habits of the people responsible for the pigs, and other factors.

A disease that has been controlled for the time being in a particular location may easily appear again in the face of shifting government policies (and people’s willingness to follow them), access to equipment and vaccines, wars, natural disasters and their impact on the environment, economic conditions, migration patterns, and people’s level of knowledge and education (Arnold and other sources).

Several years ago, Egyptian writer and scholar Sayyid Qutub (1906-1966) commented on the controversy surrounding pork consumption when he wrote,

Some people may argue that modern cooking facilities could eliminate the affliction of these worms by the high temperatures used, but these people overlook the fact that it took them centuries to come to know about this one disease. Who can guarantee that there are no other undiscovered diseases in the swine’s flesh?

Are we not supposed to trust the sacred law which preceded human science by tens of centuries and let it give us the decisive ruling on the matter? Are we not supposed to adhere to its laws whereby permission and prohibition come from our Lord who is full of wisdom and well acquainted with everything? (Al-Majid)

For many Muslims, the sentiments of Qutub and other scholars, combined with sound scientific data, provide the intellectual stimulation and food for thought to continue research on this issue, which is almost certain to magnify in importance as time progresses and environmental conditions deteriorate around the world.

(Interview with Dr. Anwar Darwish conducted by Mona Salama.)


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