Can genetic engineering produce a kosher pig?

As far as I have been able to determine, according to the laws of kashrut, a quadruped is considered clean (fit for human consumption) only if it both parts the hoof and chews the cud. Thus, the pig is considered as unfit for human consumption because it does not both part the hoof and chew the cud (it only chews the cud). At the same time, the camel is considered ritually unclean because, while it does chew the cud, it does not part the hoof.

Enter the genetic engineers. Suppose these latter-day Dr. Moreaus were to apply their genius to the inequity that keeps Porky Pig and Joe Camel off the kosher table at [del]Christmas[/del] [del]Easter[/del] Purim. Suppose further that they succeeded in developing a camel with cloven hooves. And let’s go one better and suppose that they managed to alter a pig’s DNA to produce an alimentary tract that includes an extra stomach or two, and the esophageal equipment necessary to render it a cud-chewer.

Let’s make these chimerae fertile, and capable of passing along their new characteristics to their equally fertile offspring, when mated to others of their kind with those characteristics. Let’s even make them fertile with the unmodified members of their species, with fertile offspring (so you can’t call the offspring a mule, and the chimera a wholly new species). Let’s suppose that the new characteristics are associated with dominant genes, and are passed on to the next generation irrespective of whether one or both parents had the characteristics.*

Are the cud-pig and the cloven-hoofed camel really a pig and a camel? And (provided the slaughtering takes place in the prescribed manner for clean animals), is it possible for the meat from them to be considered kosher?

*I have the sense that rendering the pig a cud-chewer at all, much less a true-breeding cud-chewer is a daunting challenge; for the sake of the question, please assume that the challenge has been successfully met.

P.S. If I’m using the term “chimera” incorrectly, please overlook it, mentally bleep it out and replace it with a term that, in your opinion, more accurately describes these critters.

Whether or not something is declared “kosher” is the business of rabbis, and they may not feel that simply eliminating the external features that are said to be the cause of something’s “unclean-ness” might not be sufficient to render it ritually “clean”. Have a look at some of our own Perfect Master’s statements about things like kosher sandwich bags and the like. I, myself, suspect that engineering a kosher pig is a pointless endeavor. It costs you a lot of effort, and it annoys the pig.

On a more practical level, anthropologists like Marvin Harris have suggested that the idea of “unclean” animals arose first, then the reasons for declaring them unclean (unsplit hooves and non-cud-chewing) is a later rationalization coming from trying to find the common rule connecting ritually unclean animals that were already thought to be unclean. In other words, pigs and camels were unclean first, then they looked for soime common features. If that’s true, even if you don’t buy Harris’ reasons for why those beasts were declared “unclean”, changing those physical features won’t change the original reason they were declared unclean. I don’t know if that will impress the rabbis, but it might help explain their gut feeling that pigs are unclean.Moses Maimonides gave a “scientific” explanation for why pigs weren’t kosher in the 12th century that had nothing to do with hooves and cud, but he didn’t advocate eating pig, either.
By the way, the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians thought the pig unclean, too, as do modern-day Muslims. The declaration is right in the Qur’an, and has nothing to do with Jewish reasons and explanations. So genetically engineering a pig probably won’t make it halal, either.

Minor quibble - just because genes are dominant doesn’t mean they’ll spread to fixation so that everyone has them. As long as the recessive alleles are still around, they’ll pop up from time to time. Thus, at least some members of your new species in each generation will display the original, undesirable characteristics. This could be an important factor for some believers.

I’d think you’d be better off splitting your new UltraPig into a distinct species, free of the old bad genes, but that may subtly impact the point you’re trying to explore.

I apologize for the hijack, but sooner or later someone is going to post that he or she read a story in which a rabbi is asked to evaluate whether a genetically engineered cud-chewing pig is kosher. That story is “The R-Strain” and the author was Harry Turtledove

Depends on the Rabbi. Is corn or rice a grain? Some think so, some don’t. Some Jews will eat artificial bacon bits if they contain no pork products at all, others stick to the spirit of the law instead of the letter. Since many religions don’t have infallible sources like the Pope, matters like this rarely reach a complete resolution.

Okay, then, new permutation. An actual Dr. Moreau has been fiddling around on his Island of Lost Souls, and produced the critters described in the OP. Then he dies, his laboratory is overgrown by the natural flora of the island, and his creations thrive on their own for a few generations before the island is rediscovered by some seagoing explorers.

They bring a few specimens back to civilization, and submit them to the world’s taxonomists for categorization (as well as a couple for the National Explorer’s Club annual banquet). Do the rabbis count them as clean, based on their morphological characteristics? Or do they wait for the genome to be analyzed, and call them unclean based on their having pig and camel DNA?

Hahahaha! Really?

So, how did the rabbi decide? And did the story end with another group bringing him a cloven-hoofed camel? :smiley:

If it’s the story I recall, he ruled that it was in fact kosher, and ate a piece to back up his ruling. His wife supported him by eating a piece as well.

In what possible sense is a camel not cloven-hoofed?

The science-fiction example that bugs me was from Babylon 5. A rabbi is visiting the station, and is offered a dish of some alien fish. He equivocates about it for a few moments, then decides that the Torah doesn’t say anything about it, and starts eating. Except that the Torah does provide a complete set of criteria for water-dwelling creatures: If it lives in the water and has fins and scales, it’s kosher, and if it lives in the water and doesn’t have fins and scales, it’s not kosher, with no water-dwellers having ambiguous status. So instead of equivocating, he should have just asked whether it had fins and scales.


In the sense that half of its foot is padded with skin on the bottom, making it effectively more of a claw than a hoof. What toes it has are split, that’s true, but it’s not (halachically) a true hoof.

As to the OP, I suppose if the species is genuinely new, and produces young of its own kind, then if it has the characteristics of Kosher mammals, it would likely be accepted as Kosher. However, if it is interfertile with the non-kosher “parent” species, then it would probably be considered to still be a member of the forbidden species despite those characteristics. A freakish member, perhaps, but not distinct enough to be considered a new (and Kosher) animal.

I would rather they genetically engineer human beings away from having silly beliefs about not eating pork, rather than tampering with my barbecue.


Might not the rule of “haYotzei min haTamei, Tamei*…” come into play? So that even if you could genetically engineer a pig fetus to be a ruminant, having come from standard pig parents, it would still be non-kosher.

Or am I totally wrong on this?
Zev Steinhardt

(*Translation: That which comes from something nonkosher is nonkosher).

The OP is laboring under the assumption that the laws of what is/isn’t kosher follow some kind of rigorously consistent logic . . . and all you have to do is alter reality, and the laws are altered as well. I haven’t found that to be the case in any religion.

I asked a genetic engineer that question in high school. I think the answer was something like, “Uh, it would be pretty hard to change a pig’s entire digestive system, uh… maybe you’ll do it when you grow up.”

Later someone told me that a deformed animal is automatically not kosher, and a an extremely modified creature like a cud-chewing pig would be considered deformed.

Doesn’t G-d specifically state, “The pig is not for you.”?


I don’t know, I was just assuming we were referring to an entirely artificial lifeform, with part of the original DNA having been from a pig, but other parts substantially altered. I suppose if it’s actually born from a sow that principal would apply.

unless the muscle cells with their dying gasp all release a few molecules of smoke flavoring. :smiley:

Hooray for Science!

Who needs genetic engineering? What about mulefoot pigs?

By that reasoning, no animals are kosher, since every animal which is otherwise kosher today was ultimately descended (if one goes far enough back) from ancestors which were not kosher.