Numerous friends of mine who happen to know that I have a weak spot for Taco Bell continue to forward me the sad news that the icky reach of the horse meat scandal has now embroiled the Taco Bell franchises in the United Kingdom.
My response: I’m discovering through some research that there are only three Taco Bells in the UK, so let’s not pile on here. (This Tex-Mex dearth can only explain why British food gets such a bad rap.)
One upshot of the scandal is that in recent weeks, kosher meat sellers in the United Kingdom have noticed a strong uptick of business from people who, you know, don’t want to eat horses. This story, we posted about it a few weeks ago, brought up a question from a reader I thought might be worth sharing: Why exactly aren’t horses kosher?
I’m sure this is a no brainer for some of our readers, but for others, it may not be. Chabad happens to explain this issue really clearly, not only in saying why horses aren’t kosher, but noting why, psychologically, we tend to flip out about pork more than other trayf.
There are two signs that identify a kosher species of animal. 1) It has split hooves, and 2) it chews its cud (i.e. it regurgitates its food and chews it over a second time.) The first sign is easy to spot – just look at the hooves. But the second is not so apparent. You have to study the animal’s digestive system to know if it chews its cud. A cow is an example of an animal that fulfils both requirements, and is thus kosher. A horse is not kosher because it fulfils neither. There is only one animal in existence that seems kosher because it has split hooves, but is really not kosher because it doesn’t chew its cud — the pig.
And that’s why we denigrate the pig. Every other non-kosher animal is up front about it. The horse says “I don’t have split hooves, so I’m just not kosher.” But the pig presents a kosher facade. “Look, I have split hooves, just like a kosher animal should!” But what lies hidden behind that kosher veneer is a non-kosher inside: it doesn’t chew its cud. For Judaism, nothing could be worse than making a holy facade when your inside is rotten.
Now, as a native Texan, I’ll add that I suppose I am supposed to find horses to be sacred animals, so the idea of eating them already counters what I know to be true. The other reason horses aren’t kosher is because Taco Bells are hallowed venues and they don’t serve profane meat.
Taco Bell, Icelandic Pies Drawn Into Meat Scandal [AP]
Is Pig More Un-Kosher Than Other Animals [Chabad]