Israeli Rabbi Says Eating Cloned Pork is Kosher, Genetic Engineering Would Prevent Animal Suffering

Rabbi Yuval Cherlow is advocating for rabbinic approval for Jews to consume meat from cloned pigs, arguing that cells from such animals aren't subject to Kosher dietary laws. Getty Images

Prominent Israeli Rabbi Yuval Cherlow says meat from a cloned pig would be considered kosher under Jewish dietary laws. Cherlow, who is a leading scholar on modern interpretations of Kashrut, is advocating for rabbinic approval of cloned meats in order to reduce animal suffering, decrease meat industry pollution and stamp out starvation.

In an interview published Wednesday by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Rabbi Cherlow makes the case that transgenic or cloned meat would not be subject to the same Kashrut dietary laws that guide what is kosher, or "fit," for consumption by Jews. Cherlow argues that under the halachic system, "when a pig's cell is used and food is produced from the genetic material, the cell actually loses its original identity, and therefore it can not be defined as a prohibited food, nor can it be eaten as milk."

Cherlow says that because meat grown from cells in a lab would have lost its "identity," observant Jews would also be able to eat it alongside dairy products. Non-cloned, traditional pigs are forbidden under Jewish dietary laws because they fail to meet the requirements for an animal to be kosher, or "fit to eat" for Jews. According to certain verses in Deuteronomy, animals must chew their cud and have split hooves. While pigs do have split hooves, they do not chew their cud, so pigs and their derivative meats are forbidden.

Cherlow walks through how the meat industry became more cruel throughout the 20th century and how the religious public has dealt with animals not being properly slaughtered or designated as "prey." Cherlow argues that allowing genetically engineered meat from a pig would serve a two-fold purpose of reducing starvation and reducing reliance on a worldwide meat industry he sees as unclean and causing pollution.

"This new invention is of strategic significance to the world because of the fact that food resources are diminishing, while the population is growing rapidly," Cherlow told Yedioth Ahronoth Wednesday. "[T]he Halachic line of reasoning must examine the need of all humanity - not only my own need. [People] will die of starvation, this [can be done] in order to prevent pollution and to prevent the suffering of animals."

Cherlow heads the ethics department of the Tzohar Rabbinic Council and is a member of the Israeli Ministry of Health's ethics committee, which decides the government's budget for new pharmaceuticals in the country. Cherlow acknowledged that advocating the consumption of meat from a cloned pig will create controversy. But Cherlow compares the rabbinic decision to allow for genetically engineered meat to the caveat decision allowing for consumption of gelatin mixed with the bones of "forbidden" or "unclean" animals.

"The leading halakhic authorities permitted eating gelatin from animal origin, claiming that in the process of production it loses its flavor, is not edible, and therefore is no longer considered edible, and there is no halachic prohibition against eating it," he said.

According to The Times of Israel, Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union's kosher division, allowed for meat from a lab-grown hamburger to be eaten and used in tandem with dairy products in 2013.