Monday, January 5, 2009


Kosher Animals
Kosher animals are creatures that meet the Torah's criteria for what's permissible for Jews to consume. Kosher means 'fit', and kosher animals are animals that are fit for Jews to eat. Kashruth prohibits all predators, whether land, air or sea as well as all insects except for certain sub-species of locust.

Kosher mammals and birds must be slaughtered according to shechita (שחיטה), or 'the slaughter'.[1] 

Land Animals
Kosher land animals must have completely split hooves and they must chew their cud, like the goat, sheep, deer and cow. They cannot be predators or otherwise eat meat. Pawed animals like the dog, cat and rodents and all round hooved animal like the horse and the donkey are not kosher.[2, 3]

Kosher laws applying to birds are the same as those for land animals—if a bird kills other animals regularly for its own food, eats meat, or is known to be dangerous, it's not kosher. Raptors, eagles, hawks, owls and other hunting birds, vultures and other carrion-eating birds, and storks, kingfishers, penguins and other fish-eating birds are not kosher. Ostriches and other giant fowl, which are capable of killing you or otherwise ruining your day, are also forbidden. Ducks, geese, turkeys, and chicken are kosher.[2, 4]

For aquatic creatures, the Torah lays down two simple laws: the creature must have fins, and the creature must have scales. Crustaceans, shellfish, squid and octopi have neither. Sharks, whales, and dolphins have fins but not scales.[5]

Meat & Dairy
The mixing of meat and dairy in the same meal period is forbidden under kosher law. This means that cheeseburgers and chicken pizza are not kosher.

Kosher Slaughter[6] (שחיטה) 
Jewish method of slaughter, shechita, has similar requirements to Islamic zabiha; kosher meat is acceptable for Muslims to eat. This section describes several aspects of the shechita process against requirements for zabiha.

As in Islam, Jewish law states that kosher mammals and birds must be slaughtered according to a strict set of guidelines, known as 'the slaughter' or shechita (שחיטה). This necessarily eliminates the practice of hunting wild game for food, unless it can be captured alive and then ritually slaughtered; this is not the case in Islamic law.

The Slaughter
As with zabiha, a professional slaughterer, or shochet (שוחט), using a large razor-sharp knife with absolutely no irregularities, nicks or dents, and checked carefully between killing each animal, makes a single cut across the throat to a precise depth, severing both carotid arteries, both jugular veins, the vagus nerve, the trachea and the esophagus, no higher than the epiglottis and no lower than where cilia begin inside the trachea, causing the animal to bleed to death. Islamic law dictates that the slaughterer not allow the animal to see the knife.

Any variation from this exact procedure invalidates the process, rendering the carcass not kosher (nevela). It is sold as regular meat to the general public.

The Slaughterer
Similar to Islamic requirements, the shochet must not only be rigorously trained in this procedure, but also a pious Jew of good character who observes the Sabbath, and who remains cognizant that these are God's creatures who are sacrificing their lives for the good of himself and his community and should not be allowed to suffer in any way shape or form. In smaller communities, the shochet was often the town rabbi or the rabbi of one of the local synagogues; large factories which produce Kosher meat have professional full time shochtim on staff. 

Physical Inspection (bedika)
As with zabiha, before slaughter, the shochet inspects the animal for illness, lesions, evidence of bruising or broken bones. Ill or maimed animals are not fit to be kosher. 

After the animal has been properly slaughtered, a trained inspector (bodek) inspects the internal organs for any abnormalities that may render the animal non-kosher (treif). There are seventy different irregularities or growths on an animal's internal organs, which would render the animal non-kosher. The lungs, in particular, must be examined in order to determine that they are smooth (glatt). If scarring is found, the bodek must further examine it carefully to determine its kashrus status.

As with zabiha, the animal must be in good health and fully conscious at the time of shechita, however, compromises in countries (such as the U.K.) with animal cruelty laws that prohibit such practices involve stunning the animal to lessen the suffering that occurs while the animal bleeds to death. However, the use of electric shocks to daze the animal is often not accepted by some markets as producing meat which is Kosher.

Removing Blood
As does the Quran, the Torah forbids the consumption of the blood of an animal. The two Torah accepted methods of extracting blood from meat, a process referred to as “koshering”, are either salting or broiling.[7]

Unlike in Islam, kosher law requires that meat be koshered (soaked in salt) within 72 hours after slaughter so as not to allow the blood to congeal. If meat has been thoroughly soaked prior to the 72 hours limit, an additional seventy-two hours time stay is granted to complete the first step of the salting process.

Unlike in Islam, the hindquarters of a mammal are not kosher unless the sciatic nerve and the fat surrounding it are removed.[8] This is a very time-consuming process demanding a great deal of special training, and is rarely done outside Israel where there is a greater demand for kosher meat. When it is not done the hindquarters of the animal are sold for non-kosher meat.

Related Topics:
Kosher v. Halal: What are the differences and similarities of kosher and halal?
A comparison of kosher and halal animals
What are the halal animals?
What are the haram animals?
What is zabiha?

How does AMNA judge foods containing meat?
BLOOD: In Islam, it's Haram

[1] Hecht, Rabbi Mendy. "What is kosher meat?" Ask,2193106/What-is-kosher-meat.html
[2] Hecht, Rabbi Mendy. "What are kosher animals?" Ask,180/What-are-kosher-animals.html
[3] Positive Mitzvah #149: Searching for the prescribed signs in cattle and animals. Leviticus 11.2
[4] Positive Mitzvah #150: Searching for the prescribed signs in birds. Deuteronomy 14.11
[5] Positive Mitzvah #152: Searching for the prescribed signs in fish. Leviticus 11.9
[6] Luban, Rabbi Yaakov "The Kosher Primer," The OU website:
[7] Kumer, Dinka. "Why is it so important to drain all the blood from kosher meat?" Ask,88523/Why-is-it-so-important-to-drain-all-the-blood-from-kosher-meat.html
[8] Genesis 32, last verse

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