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Which Animals Does the Bible Designate as 'Clean' and 'Unclean'?

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Which Animals Does the Bible Designate as 'Clean' and 'Unclean'?

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God states that cud-chewing animals with split hooves can be eaten (Leviticus 11:3 Leviticus 11:3Whatever parts the hoof, and is cloven footed, and chews the cud, among the beasts, that shall you eat.
American King James Version×
; Deuteronomy 14:6 Deuteronomy 14:6And every beast that parts the hoof, and separates the cleft into two claws, and chews the cud among the beasts, that you shall eat.
American King James Version×
). These specifically include the cattle, sheep, goat, deer and gazelle families (Deuteronomy 14:4-5 Deuteronomy 14:4-5 4 These are the beasts which you shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat, 5 The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois.
American King James Version×
). He also lists such animals as camels, rabbits and pigs as being unclean, or unfit to eat (Leviticus 11:4-8 Leviticus 11:4-8 4 Nevertheless these shall you not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean to you. 5 And the coney, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean to you. 6 And the hare, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean to you. 7 And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he chews not the cud; he is unclean to you. 8 Of their flesh shall you not eat, and their carcass shall you not touch; they are unclean to you.
American King James Version×
). He later lists such “creeping things” as moles, mice and lizards as unfit to eat (Leviticus 11:29-31 Leviticus 11:29-31 29 These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30 And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole. 31 These are unclean to you among all that creep: whoever does touch them, when they be dead, shall be unclean until the even.
American King James Version×
), as well as four-footed animals with paws (cats, dogs, bears, lions, tigers, etc.) as unclean (Leviticus 11:27 Leviticus 11:27And whatever goes on his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean to you: whoever touches their carcass shall be unclean until the even.
American King James Version×
).

He tells us that salt and freshwater fish with fins and scales may be eaten (Leviticus 11:9-12 Leviticus 11:9-12 9 These shall you eat of all that are in the waters: whatever has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall you eat. 10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination to you: 11 They shall be even an abomination to you; you shall not eat of their flesh, but you shall have their carcasses in abomination. 12 Whatever has no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination to you.
American King James Version×
), but water creatures without those characteristics (catfish, lobsters, crabs, shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters, squid, octopi, etc.) should not be eaten.

God also lists birds and other flying creatures that are unclean for consumption (Leviticus 11:13-19 Leviticus 11:13-19 13 And these are they which you shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, 14 And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; 15 Every raven after his kind; 16 And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind, 17 And the little owl, and the cormorant, and the great owl, 18 And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle, 19 And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.
American King James Version×
). He identifies carrion eaters and birds of prey as unclean, plus ostriches, storks, herons and bats.

Birds such as chickens, turkeys and pheasants are not on the unclean list and therefore can be eaten. Insects, with the exception of locusts, crickets and grasshoppers, are listed as unclean (Leviticus 11:20-23 Leviticus 11:20-23 20 All fowls that creep, going on all four, shall be an abomination to you. 21 Yet these may you eat of every flying creeping thing that goes on all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap with on the earth; 22 Even these of them you may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. 23 But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination to you.
American King James Version×
).

Why does God identify some animals as suitable for human consumption and others as unsuitable? God didn’t give laws to arbitrarily assert control over people. He gave His laws (including those of which meats are clean or unclean) “that it might be well” with those who seek to obey Him (Deuteronomy 5:29 Deuteronomy 5:29O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
American King James Version×
).

Although God did not reveal the specific reasons some animals may be eaten and others must be avoided, we can make generalized conclusions based on the animals included in the two categories.

In listing the animals that should not be eaten, God forbids the consumption of scavengers and carrion eaters, which devour other animals for their food.

Animals such as pigs, bears, vultures and raptors can eat (and thrive) on decaying flesh. Predatory animals such as wolves, lions, leopards and cheetahs most often prey on the weakest (and at times the diseased) in animal herds.

When it comes to sea creatures, bottom dwellers such as lobsters and crabs scavenge for dead animals on the sea floor. Shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels similarly consume decaying organic matter that sinks to the sea floor, including sewage.

A common denominator of many of the animals God designates as unclean is that they routinely eat flesh that would sicken or kill human beings. When we eat such animals we partake of a food chain that includes things harmful to people.

As nutritionist David Meinz observes:

“Could it be that God, in His wisdom, created certain creatures whose sole purpose is to clean up after the others? Their entire ‘calling’ may be to act exclusively as the sanitation workers of our ecology. God may simply be telling us that it’s better for us believers not to consume the meat of these trash collectors”.  Eating by the Book , 1999, p. 225

The following list, based on Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, identifies many of the animals God designates as clean and unclean. The list uses their common names.


Clean Animals

Mammals That Chew the Cud and Part the Hoof

Antelope, Bison (buffalo), Caribou, Cattle (beef, veal), Deer (venison), Elk, Gazelle, Giraffe, Goat, Hart, Ibex, Moose, Ox, Reindeer, Sheep (lamb, mutton)

Fish With Fins and Scales

Anchovy, Barracuda, Bass, Black pomfret (or monchong), Bluefish, Bluegill, Carp, Cod, Crappie, Drum, Flounder, Grouper, Grunt, Haddock, Hake, Halibut, Hardhead, Herring (or alewife), Kingfish, Mackerel (or corbia), Mahimahi (or dorado, dolphinfish [not to be confused with the mammal dolphin]), Minnow, Mullet, Perch (or bream), Pike (or pickerel or jack), Pollack (or pollock or Boston bluefish), Rockfish, Salmon, Sardine (or pilchard), Shad, Silver hake (or whiting), Smelt (or frost fish or ice fish), Snapper (or ebu, jobfish, lehi, onaga, opakapaka or uku), Sole, Steelhead, Sucker, Sunfish, Tarpon, Trout (or weakfish), Tuna (or ahi, aku, albacore, bonito, or tombo), Turbot (except European turbot), Whitefish

Birds With Clean Characteristics

Chicken, Dove, Duck, Goose, Grouse, Guinea fowl, Partridge, Peafowl, Pheasant, Pigeon, Prairie chicken, Ptarmigan, Quail, Sagehen, Sparrow (and other songbirds), Swan*, Teal, Turkey

* In the King James Version, Leviticus 11:18 Leviticus 11:18And the swan, and the pelican, and the gier eagle,
American King James Version×
and Deuteronomy 14:16 Deuteronomy 14:16The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan,
American King James Version×
list “swan” among unclean birds. However, this seems to be a mistranslation. The original word apparently refers to a kind of owl and is so translated in most modern Bible versions.

 Insects

Types of locusts that may include crickets and grasshoppers


Unclean Animals

Animals With Unclean Characteristics

 Swine

Boar, Peccary, Pig (hog, bacon, ham, lard, pork, most sausage and pepperoni)

 Canines

Coyote, Dog, Fox, Hyena, Jackal, Wolf

 Felines

Cat, Cheetah, Leopard, Lion, Panther, Tiger

 Equines

Donkey (ass), Horse, Mule, Onager, Zebra (quagga)

Other Animals

Armadillo, Badger, Bat, Bear, Beaver, Camel, Elephant, Gorilla Groundhog, Hippopotamus, Kangaroo, Llama (alpaca, vicuña), Mole, Monkey, Mouse, Muskrat, Opossum, Porcupine, Rabbit (hare), Raccoon, Rat, Rhinoceros, Skunk, Slug, Snail (escargot), Squirrel, Wallaby, Weasel, Wolverine, Worm, All insects except some in the locust family

Marine Animals Without Fins and Scales

 Fish

Bullhead, Catfish, Eel, European Turbot, Marlin, Paddlefish, Shark, Stickleback, Squid, Sturgeon (includes most caviar), Swordfish

 Shellfish

Abalone, Clam, Conch, Crab, Crayfish (crawfish, crawdad), Lobster, Mussel, Oyster, Scallop, Shrimp (prawn)

Soft body

Cuttlefish, Jellyfish, Limpet, Octopus, Squid (calamari)

Sea mammals

Dolphin, Otter, Porpoise, Seal, Walrus, Whale

Birds of Prey, Scavengers and Others

Albatross, Bittern, Buzzard, Condor, Coot, Cormorant, Crane, Crow, Cuckoo, Eagle, Flamingo Grebe, Grosbeak, Gull, Hawk, Heron, Kite, Lapwing, Loon, Magpie, Osprey, Ostrich, Owl, Parrot, Pelican, Penguin, Plover, Rail, Raven, Roadrunner, Sandpiper, Seagull, Stork, Swallow, Swift, Vulture, Water hen, Woodpecker

 Reptiles

Alligator, Caiman, Crocodile, Lizard, Snake, Turtle

 Amphibians

Blindworm, Frog, Newt, Salamander, Toad

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