Did you know that the vast majority of the world’s meat consumption (excluding fish) comes from just five animals? Yet the one that tops the list is also the only one the Bible expressly forbids: pork. Many are familiar with this fact, but few understand the reason—and the wisdom behind it.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), meat from pigs, chickens, cows, sheep, and goats accounts for approximately 98 percent of all the meat eaten in the world. Recent FAO reports show that pork makes up the largest share at 36 percent, followed by chicken (33 percent), beef (24 percent), and goat and mutton (5 percent). Many think the Bible’s prohibition against people eating pork is quaint, a tradition, maybe even a superstition, but the real truth is quite practical—and serves to highlight God’s understanding of His own creation and His concern for the wellbeing and health of mankind.
So, let’s take a look at some medical research that provides evidence of the potential health risks related to pork consumption and how this supports the Bible’s dietary instruction regarding pigs.
A 2012 Psychology Today article (“Is Pork Still Dangerous?”) and a 2017 Healthline.com article (“4 Hidden Dangers of Pork”) both point to potential health risks related to pork consumption. Both articles reference scientific studies in which evidence shows a correlation between pork consumption and the following serious illnesses, just to name a few:
These sources, as is often the case, show how modern research and science often support the Bible, even in areas related to health and medicine. God gave many dietary instructions in the Old Testament, especially in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.
Leviticus 11 describes God’s instruction that relates to pigs: “These you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you… and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you” (vv. 4, 7–8).
Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 show that most animals were not created to be eaten, but to serve other purposes (for more detail, see our article “Do You Really Want to Eat That?”). These dietary laws, though not codified until Moses’ time, documented clean and unclean animals—principles that existed long before Moses, as seen in God’s instructions to Noah to take more clean animals onto the ark than unclean animals (Genesis 7:2).
It is often incorrectly believed that some New Testament passages do away with the laws of clean and unclean meats. This is usually the result of taking these verses out of context and not considering the rest of scripture. (See our articles on Mark 7:18–19, about whether Jesus “purified all foods”; Acts 10:9–16, regarding Peter’s vision; and 1 Timothy 4:4, about Paul’s statement that “every creature of God is good.”) It is also noteworthy that there are zero examples in the Bible of any of God’s people eating or sacrificing an unclean animal. This is in contrast to multiple examples of God’s people eating meat from clean animals such as beef (Genesis 18:7–8), lamb (Exodus 12:1–11; Mark 14:12), and quail (Numbers 11:31–32).
Significant evidence shows potential health risks related to the consumption of pork—and it is likely that not all the health risks related to pork consumption are known. Christians don’t absolutely require medical research to believe God’s word, but it is worth noting when medical studies support God’s laws—especially laws that are largely ignored even by most professing Christians and prove the practical wisdom of His instructions.
God gave many guidelines and laws related to health, including dietary laws, and all of them were for the health and wellbeing of mankind (Deuteronomy 10:13). This certainly includes God’s instruction against eating pork. Put simply, God did not create pigs to be food for human beings, and He made it clear—thousands of years before any scientific study—that we should not consider pork to be food.
For more information about the simple health guidelines God gave to mankind, please order our free booklet Biblical Principles of Health or watch our short video “Four Ways to Know: Which Animals Are Food and Which Aren’t… According to the Bible.”