I found this chapter to be very interesting. I had never thought about why pork is forbidden in the Old Testament. Or why, all of the sudden it was okay in the New Testament, for that matter. I think Hitchens does a great job of analyzing the taboo and I think his conclusion is right on. He writes…
“I claim my own solution as original, though without the help of Sir James Frazier and the great Jim Warraq I might not have hit upon it. According to many ancient authorities, the attitude of early Semites to swine was one of reverence as much as disgust. The eating of pig flesh was considered as something special, even privileged and ritualistic. (This mad confusion between the sacred and the profane is found in all faiths at all times.) The simultaneous attraction and repulsion derived from an anthropomorphic root: the look of the pig, and the taste of the pig, and the dying yells of the pig, and the evident intelligence of the pig, were too uncomfortably reminiscent of the human. Porcophobia — and porcophilia — thus probably originate in a nightmare of human sacrifice and even cannibalism at which the ‘holy’ texts often do more than hint.”
Simply put, killing a pig is a little too close for comfort, and it goes without saying that at that time seeing animals slaughtered was most likely a commonplace occurrence. I just read an article that covers this same topic, in a very different context. It seems that there is a reality show in the UK in which the star of the show spent four days in a pig pen on a farm while being constantly taped. The write up about it is sometimes funny, but also revealing of Hitchens’ conclusion.
The actor, Richard da Costa writes
“On my last day I visited an abattoir to see how pigs are exterminated on a massive scale. I was put through the whole process with the pigs and it was absolutely clear to me that they had a very good idea that life was taking a significant turn for the worse. You only had to listen to the screaming.”
The entire article is found here.