Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What if they genetically engineered a pig?

Over Yom Tov my family and I were kinda just sitting around laughing at the Yated writers and I said out loud "What happens if they genetically engineer a pig to chew its own cud, will it be considered kosher?"

My family's initial reaction to the question was obviously laughter. After all, why the would scientist's waste time creating a pig that would chew its own cud? This pig wouldn't help fight cancer, or save lives by creating a new and improved version of antibiotic, so what would be the purpose of this new pig- so that Jews could eat it?

After all the laughing stopped, I was like "no really, I wonder how the frum people would react, technically the pig would be kosher. It would be awkward and all, but it would have the split hooves (which it already has) and it would chew its cud, so therefore there wouldn't be any issue to it. So I wonder how the frummies would react. I wonder if any frum groups would eat the pig.

The funny thing is, is that the entire pig situation would undoubtedly lead to another divide within in the frummy world. Two sources I found on the issue prove this, the first is Jewish Perspectives on Genetic Engineering and the second is called Kosher Bacon?.

The divide in the frum community would also lead to further scrutinizing of singles by shadchanim. The shidduch questionnaire would look something like this:

Parents Name:
Circle one: MO, Litivish, Chassidish,

Parents names: School:
Rav: Stance on eating pig:

While singles are being scrutinized, many yeshivish newspapers and yeshivish speakers will undoubtedly ban the pig. The chassidim (Lubavich not included) will claim they're happy with gefilte fish and chulent, and anything else is goyish. One of the representative Rebbeim will make a speech and will be quoted as saying:

Hashem doesn't believe in science. Just like the world is only 5769 years old, the pig is trief. You are what you eat. Eating a pig that is genetically engineered will make one a scientist. Scientists are the spawn of Satan. Science is an abomination and allowing them [the scientists] to control our diets is strictly prohibitted... If we allow our children to eat this blasphemous animal, what is to stop them from going to college, and reading novels, and learning English? First the pig, then the acceptance of the Internet! We have to have boundaries.

The Jewish Press would report such a speech by asking a top, frum U.S. scientist, who graduated YU to write the article. He would reply:

...the genetically engineered pig is a sign of human progress. Hashem undoubtedly wants us to find a link between Torah and science. Gd would not grant mankind such intellect to allow it to go to waste. The pig is now kosher. It is with this wonderful new creature that we can say a bracha and be reminded of how much Hashem really runs the world, but Hishtadlus by the human, is what allows him to really show his wonder.

While singles are being further annoyed, and the yeshivish newspapers are yet again attacking the Jewish Press and adding the pig issue to the list of why its a "crisis" (yes, there's a Jewish Press crisis), a third group, of unsure/undecided frummies will come out. These frummies will be the type that use alot of quotes that are actually related to the issue. They will be a "mixed" group. They would either be the type who go to kosher restaurants with "questionable" hechshers and eat the genetically engineered pig there, but not in their own homes or the type to completely ban the pig because of these quotes, but never succumb to the "follow in the ways of the goyim" crap used by the yeshivishe types (though they will slightly touch upon it). They wouldn't judge those that do/don't eat pig, but they would start the argument on pig eating, to show how frum they are for not eating it. The main quote they would use would be as follows:

However, these in particular you may not eat of those that chew their cud and that they have cloven hooves: the camel, for he chews his cud but does not have a split hoof it is unclean to you. The Rabbit, for it chews its cud but does not have a cloven hoof it is unclean to you. The hare, for it chews its cud but it does not have a cloven hoof it is unclean to you. The pig, for though it has cloven hooves, and its hooves are [completely] split- it does not chew its cud- it is unclean to you. (Vayikra 11:4-7)

The group that would eat the pig restaurants would chant:

While the pig is completely permissible due to the fact that it is genetically engineered, and now chews its own cud, the pig was specifically mentioned in Vayikro as a treif animal. Any eating of this pig would completely take away the validity of Vayikro as law. The practice of pig-eating should not be an acceptable norm. However, if it were any other animal that was genetically engineered that wasn't exclusively mentioned in the chumash, there would be no problems in eating it. Until that day comes, we shall reject the pig in our everyday lives, and only use it for reasons of peace with distant family members and when we have no other choices on what is available.

Those that would not go to restaurants would be the holier-than-thou type. They would use the same quote and say:

Hashem mentioned the pig as an exclusive animal that has split hooves and does not chew its cud. The pig is a trickster. It is an animal that is out to fool us. We are not here to be fooled. A bunch of scientists will not make us change our ways. We will deny the pigs existence as kosher. The scientists can go back to their apikores ways and leave our community alone. What is this world coming to? How can we eat the pig if Hashem exclusively mentioned the pig? It says in the Gemara (insert reference here) that when moshiach will come, the pig will become kosher! Who are we to act as messiah? If Hashem wanted us out of golus he wouldn't send us mad-scientists who do not learn Torah to engineer pigs for us, he would send us MOSHIACH ben DOVID! For now, we must daven and do chesed for Him to save us! What next? Will we try to create the rabbit, hare and camel with split hooves so that we can eat those, too? Or is it that we want to be like the goyim? The goyim eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, does that mean we should too? The goyim eat rabbit on their Holidays, will we? Will we implement eating a rabbit head on Rosh Hoshanah instead of the fish head? Is this our future? We should read the words in the sefarim, and then we can come to peace with all the glorious foods we already have!

All these people will end up in huge arguments. They will be annoying. All the Goyim in the universe will not care one bit about the fact that Jews may start eating pig. They have better things to do than worry about a guy in a kippa eating bacon, at a restaurant that says "Glatt Kosher" on it. Organizations such as the OU will have to come up with new kosher symbols; ie OUg to represent products that use genetically engineered pig gelatin, and OUf for products that will continue on using the traditional fish gelatin.

Oh...and Moshiach will not come 10 minutes later, and not because the Jews have Israel, or because the Jews are becoming pompous and self-sufficient in creating kosher pigs, but because the Jews don't leave simple stupid things like "genetically engineered pigs" alone and will still argue over them.


Dave said...

The R Strain, by Harry Turtledove, is a short story on this very subject.

Anonymous said...

"After all, why the would scientist's waste time creating a pig that would chew its own cud?"

Which is why you're much more likely to see pig flesh grown "in a vat" than a living pig that chews its cud. You still have all the kashrut questions (and what about lab-grown beef?), but it's a much more realistic scenario.

DYS said...

Normative halacha is pretty clear that not only do we have to look for the signs mentioned, but we have to have a mesorah (tradition) that the specific animal has historically been kosher. Therefore, the genetically engineered pig wouldn't be kosher even by liberal Orthodox standards.

Moshe said...

dys, there's no mesorah for turkey.

fs, you forgot one group, the yechi Lubavich, who will point to this as another proof that Rebbe is Moshiach.

Dave said...


Tell that to the Giraffe.

Mikeinmidwood said...


actually there is one for turkey. There is a simialar type bird in Europe. The Gra [Vilna Gaon] argues and said we dont have Mesorah for it.
We wont be able to eat the pig since no Mesorah and we dont have one on Giraffe so cant eat it. (Mesorah has nothing to do with Kosher).

Moshe said...

Similar, but not same.

I think that implanting a gen engineered pig embryo in a cow may get rid of the mesorah problem.

Jessica said...

You must have had a lot of free time to think up all the different opinions on this. Not taking summer classes I see. :-P

Turtle Dove Machine said...

Ripping on traditionalism is so last year.

frumskeptic said...

moshe: LOL! I did forget about that lubavich group. :)

Jessica: I'm a graduate, so no classes ever again :)!!!!!!! WOOHOO!!

BUt seriosuly, I thought about the entire concept on yom tov, and only googled to make sure other bloggers didnt already do this. So the whole thing took me maybe 30 minutes to write (an hour if you include distractions and editing). lol. Plus I don't sleep much. I live on coffee and shabbos naps :)

Jessica said...

you are?! I had no idea! Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

frumskeptic said...

Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

a different perspective...

If Rabbis made a fence for meat and milk to include poultry and milk lest people get confused; I think they will make a fence to include pig type look a likes.

p.s...fs - i've been working a lot the past two weeks, sorry for taking so long :)

fav. anony.

frumskeptic said...

anony: Good point, I didnt think about the getting confused thing as anything more than maras ayin!

A good arguemnt to rebuttle the crazy Rabbi's taht would not allow the completely kosher pig, would be that they allow margerine (which can VERY easily be confused with butter).

and better late then never :)