The COVID-19 crisis exposes the "role of the bowl" in our global illnesses, showing that sometimes what's eating you is a matter of what you're eating.
Health officials have traced the emergence of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China—Hubei province’s largest vendor of what the Chinese call yě wèi, or “wild flavors.” These include scaly anteaters, badgers, salamanders, scorpions, hedgehogs, snakes, bats, and even wolf puppies. While it is technically illegal for markets to sell these exotic animals for food, the prohibition of their sale has not been strictly enforced, and these items often end up in the bowls of millions.
Health authorities suspect that the virus jumped from bats to pangolins, then to human beings. You may remember that “Swine Flu” was traced to pigs in China. Other cultures promote similar diets, leading to “zoonotic” diseases moving from animals to human beings. In parts of Africa, many consume “wild meat”—including monkeys and bats—and the Ebola epidemic stubbornly lingers in those countries, causing suffering and death.
What’s more, spread across almost all cultures is the consumption of shellfish such as oysters, shrimp, lobster, crab, mussels, and clams. Health officials often warn against eating these crustaceans in certain seasons.
Should the animals described here be considered food for human beings? Anciently, the Creator God gave instructions for distinguishing between “clean” and “unclean” animals, explaining in detail which kinds of mammals, fish, birds, and insects He created for people to eat. It is worth reviewing in detail what most of the world continues to ignore:
You shall not eat any detestable thing. These are the animals which you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the mountain goat, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. And you may eat every animal with cloven hooves, having the hoof split into two parts, and that chews the cud, among the animals. Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you. Also, the swine is unclean for you, because it has cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud; you shall not eat their flesh or touch their dead carcasses.
These you may eat of all that are in the waters: you may eat all that have fins and scales. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.
All clean birds you may eat. But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the red kite, the falcon, and the kite after their kinds; every raven after its kind; the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after their kinds; the little owl, the screech owl, the white owl, the jackdaw, the carrion vulture, the fisher owl, the stork, the heron after its kind, and the hoopoe and the bat. Also, every creeping thing that flies is unclean for you; they shall not be eaten. You may eat all clean birds. You shall not eat anything that dies of itself (Deuteronomy 14:3–21).
Notice that, along with pigs and shellfish, bats are among the prohibited meats! Our loving God allows His people a wide variety of foods, such as the flesh of animals that chew the cud and have split hooves. Why not the others?
The “unclean” creatures essentially form the “clean-up crew” in our planet’s ecosystem. Animals that eat carrion contain in their bodies much of the harmful matter they consume. Their existence is necessary to balance nature and to clean the environment, but they were not created for human consumption. Feasting on these “wild flavors” can cause serious health problems and illnesses, including the deadly diseases mentioned above.
Countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are now working hard to minimize its spread and seriousness. It is sobering to realize that all of this could have been prevented, like many other infectious diseases, by simple obedience to the Bible’s food laws.
So, what is in your bowl?