Diet-ethics: Eating according to the precepts of Islam, Judaism and Christianity

Halal, Kosher, fasting, Lent and festivities... the laws governing the diets of non-believers are at the heart of the debate.

While cricket flour has just been legalized in the European Union, Qatar has reiterated its ban on marketing insects within its borders. The reason? Like Judaism, Islam forbids the consumption of insects. At a time when the search for alternative, less polluting and inexpensive animal proteins shows that global food practices are at a real turning point, a small village of different religious communities is still resisting the invader. In 2022, the global market for kosher food increased by 3.7% (average growth rate), while France became the 4th largest exporter of halal meat in international trade. The predominant place occupied by food for the three monotheistic religions cannot be ignored. To understand the obstinacy that drives these faiths to maintain the dietary rules they have always observed, we need to understand their meaning. 

Credits : 20minutes.fr

Let's eat ! The role of the meal for the three monotheistic religions  

Before inspecting the bottom of our plates, it's worth recalling the symbolism of the meal in the eyes of the three monotheisms. Communion, celebration, love... Leviticus, the Koran and the New Testament make a point of emphasizing the communal dimension of the meal. Every Friday evening, Jewish families gather around the Shabbat table.

The ceremony of Kiddush (drinking the wine) and motsi (breaking the bread) unites the members of the gathering with each other and with their Creator. The blessing of Kiddush is recited as follows — “You are the source of blessing, Eternal our God... His holy Shabbat, He has bequeathed to us with love: commemoration of the Creator…" (Genesis, 2,1-3). This indelible bond is also present at the Eucharist, when the Christian community makes its Creator present through transubstantiation (the conversion of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ). “The many of us are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor, 10:17).

Rules of consumption and their meaning  

They say ‘you are what you eat’. The vital importance of food justifies the special attention paid to it by religion. Through food, biblical and Koranic texts indicate a line of conduct, an ethic to be respected. In fact, the term "Halal" goes far beyond strictly culinary rules and encompasses all our actions and behaviours. The same is true of Judaism, to which the Koran explicitly refers in recognition of the continuity of dietary revelations. Kosherut is essentially based on metaphors that order the world. For example, the prohibition on mixing milk and meat, taken from Leviticus, reflects the desire not to confuse life (associated with milk, with what comes from the udder) and death (the inert flesh of the beast).

A holy spirit in a healthy body — the importance of health in religion

Although food is scrupulously studied in every community, it would be wrong to reduce this regulation to a succession of prohibitions or asceticism. As it is written in the Koran (XXIII) — “Eat excellent food! Do good!" In the Torah, eating is not synonymous with suffering. According to Maimonides, preservation of the body is at the heart of kosher principles. In his Guide to the Lost, the 12th-century Sephardic physician sets out the rational and medical reasons for applying dietary laws. Blood, the consumption of which is prohibited in Islam and Judaism, is said to be a carrier of germs and conducive to infectious diseases. The Adventist community also takes the health variable into account, recommending against the consumption of ingredients containing theine, caffeine or alcohol. This branch of Christianity advocates a model of healthy living that many are beginning to adopt.

Biblical veganism, Halal organic... Is modernity the order of the day?

Archaic? Far from it. In our secularized societies, new prohibitions are being disseminated in the name of laudable arguments that border on belief. In particular, global warming has given rise to the theme of eating less meat, which is correlated with CO2 emissions. According to an Opinion Way survey, meat consumption has fallen by 12% in 10 years. Today's vegans are unknowingly returning to their biblical origins. "I give you every herb that bears seed on all the face of the earth" (Genesis). All the evidence suggests that the Lord first directed man to a purely vegetarian diet. In the Bible, meat consumption does not appear until after the Flood, but in the meantime, believers continue to combine religious adition with modernity. In 2013, the first organic halal butcher shop opened on the outskirts of Paris. With a turnover of 6 million euros, it offers a wide range of choice meats, AOP and AOC certified. Despite having to give up its BIO label in 2019, due to new European standards for ritual slaughter, this butcher's shop continues to welcome an increasingly diverse clientele. Gastronomy never ceases to surprise!

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Les Nourritures divines, Olivier Assouly, éditions babel

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