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Taboo Food and Drink

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Taboo food and drinks are those that people avoid for religious, cultural or health reasons.

Certain religions forbid the consumption of certain types of meat. For example, Judaism prescribes a strict set of rules, called Kashrut, regarding what can and cannot be eaten. Certain sects of Christianity also hold to these or similar rules. In Islamic practice, the laws of Haram and Halaal dictate, among other things, certain foods which may not be eaten. Hindus, Jains and Buddhists often follow religious proscriptions for vegetarianism.

Cultural taboos against certain forms of meat may be due to the species' standing as a common pet. In addition, some meats are considered taboo simply because they fall outside of the range of the generally accepted definition of a foodstuff within a given society. This is not necessarily because the meat is considered repulsive in flavor, aroma, texture or appearance.

Some authorities impose cultural food taboos in the form of law. This is alleged to be dietary persecution and possibly human rights abuse. For example, even after resumption to Chinese rule, Hong Kong has not lifted its ban on supplying meat from dogs and cats, imposed in colonial times.

Health reasons may also contribute to a taboo. For example, eating undercooked pork has a risk of trichinosis, while many forms of seafood can cause extreme cases of food poisoning.

Medical food taboos come from professionals' advice that some food is known to exacerbate an illness, make a person more vulnerable to one or impede treatment.



Cats are eaten in parts of China. In Guangdong, China, cat is reportedly served along with snake in a dish called "The Dragon and the Tiger". In desperate times, people have been known to resort to cooking and eating cats, in places where it is otherwise not usual to do so, as it occurred in a poverty-stricken shanty town in Rosario, Argentina, in 1996 (though the much-advertised cat meal was later revealed to have been set up by media from Buenos Aires).

Cats are also used to produce medicinal potions such as Korean "liquid cat", a remedy for joint pain made by boiling cats with spices, and for their fur which is used to make fur coats and other fur clothing.

Cats are sometimes confused with civet cats. This has led Americans to accuse some Chinese manufacturers of using cat fur in their products. Others worry that some traditional medicines imported into the United States are of unknown animal origin. In 2001, a shipment of cat toys imported into the United States from China were recalled and destroyed because they were trimmed with cat fur, which had just been banned in the U.S.

Some Australian Aboriginal tribes have been known to hunt the feral cats as a secondary source of meat. One tribe well known for this activity believe this cat to be either indigenous or of ancient, non-European origin. However, one recent DNA analysis has shown its genetic similarity to British shorthair cats. Feral cats in Australia are regularly hunted, but not eaten, by non-Aboriginals due to their being voracious pests. They are considered a danger to native species. There is a small minority of scientists who contend the cats are more likely to eat from rubbish dumps and other food sources provided by humans.

The term roof-hare (roof-rabbit) applies to cat meat presented as that of a hare, another pet used as a source of meat. Subtracting the skin, feet, head and tail, hares and cats are practically identical. The only way to distinguish them is by looking at the processus hamatus of the feline scapula, which should have a processus suprahamatus. Pasar gato por liebre ("to pass off a cat as a hare") is an expression common to many Spanish-speaking countries, equivalent to "to pull the wool over someone's eyes" derived from this basic scam. There is an equivalent Portuguese expression Comprar gato por lebre, meaning "to buy a cat as a hare".


  • Unmentionable Cuisine; Calvin W. Schwabe ISBN 0-8139-1162-1

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