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Taboo is either a “prohibition” or “sacralization” of certain practices that can be cultural, social, geographical, religious etc. They may appear strange to one society but they are absolutely normal to another. Food taboos are equally concerned with usage and prohibition of different items of food around the world. Regular food avoidance can turn into a tradition and ultimately a food taboo.
It can be related to killing of an animal, time of eating and other food habits. It becomes a cultural and religious identity. There are few food taboos related to health issues, emotional unrest, reproductive cycles or else they can be gender based. Few foods may elevate our moods and other may lead to health problems if a pattern is not followed.
Based on food taboos
Paraguayan Ache population who are hunters predominantly exploit only 50 species of mammals, reptiles etc and only 40 species of plants, insects etc. So do we and the animals which are carnivores, herbivores etc. We, all are part of various communities where food taboos exist that we unconsciously follow, let’s discover which one is yours.
1. In a Nigerian state, there’s a belief that if children will eat eggs and milk, they will become thieves. Even coconut milk and liver is prohibited for children because otherwise it will make them unwise or “unintelligent”In Afemai, Ishan and Isoko Divisions of Nigeria, there’s a taboo regarding food of a pregnant women as it is in other regions around the globe. If the woman eats egg or have milk , children are believed to develop bad habits. While on the opposite in sub-continent, they are believed to be a necessity for development of strength.
2. In India, an Asian state, there are many food taboos that are common and they stem from their faith or religion. Re-incarnation is one believe behind avoiding meat of animals as it is said that souls of relatives are re-born in all these various forms of life. Indians are usually vegetarians for they believe that animals feel greater pain when their life is taken away as compared to plants. Cow is held as a sacred symbol of fertility and motherhood. Celebration of “Meatless Days” is an event around the country declared by the government. Even harvestation of plants after dark is a taboo there .
3. In Jewish community, animals having a cloven hoof, winged birds and marine animals having scales and fins can only be taken as food. Oysters, shrimps, worms, plant-eating worms etc are food taboos. Blood of animal is strictly prohibited. A particular manner of slaughter is necessary to make an animal fit for consumption.
4. In Muslim community, pork and liquor are food taboos based on their faith system. Animals, there too, have to be slaughtered according to given instructions to make them “halal” for people. In Ramadan, food and drinks are prohibited from dusk to dawn as an observance of a religious right. It is to make people identify with the sufferings of poor and the hungry.
5. In western community of U.S. and others, dogs and other pet animals are not considered fit to be eaten because of probably the emotional link of people with them. They are considered “semi-human” based on their understandings of human emotions and expressions. They are even given human names and are given status as a member of family. Contrarily in China, Dog meat is highly valued and there are restaurants where basically dog meat cooked.
In Papua New Guinea communities, strangely enough, human corpses are consumed as a part of ritual in some of their tribes. When a person dies, his corpses are cooked to be eaten by the community so that the soul of the dead may continue to live inside them. So, endo-cannibalism which is a major food taboo is no more prohibition for these people.