07
Jul

Kosher and the Land that G-d forgot

Per the laws of kashrut, the Jewish religion prohibits the consumption of meat from many animals and birds. Islam's laws of halal enact very similar prohibitions.

Australia and New Zealand are two countries located very far from the Middle East, the home of Judaism and Islam. Their native wildlife is completely different to that found anywhere else in the world. Of course, since European settlement began, they've been thoroughly introduced to the fauna of the wider world. Indeed, these two countries are today famous for being home to some of the world's largest sheep and cattle populations.

However, let's put aside the present-day situation for now, and take ourselves back in time a thousand or so years. Artificial transcontinental animal transportation has not yet begun. The world's animals still live in the regions that G-d ordained for them to live in. G-d has peppered almost every corner of the globe with at least some variety of kosher birds and mammals. Every major world region, bar one.

My fellow Aussies and Kiwis, I'm afraid the verdict is clear: we are living in the Land that G-d forgot.

Legal recap

Can it really be true? is there not a single native Aussie or Kiwi bird or mammal, that's fit for a chassid's shabbos lunch? Is our Great Southern Land really the world's Traif Buffet Grande?

Before we jump to such shocking conclusions, let's review some basic definitions. According to Jewish law, a mammal is kosher if it has split hooves and chews its cud (plus, it should be herbivorous). For birds, there is no clear and simple rule in determining kosher status, and so the most important rule is that there is a lond-standing tradition (a mesorah) of its being kosher (although there are some guidelines for birds, e.g. only non-predatory birds, peelable gizzard / stomach lining).

The kosher map

After doing some pretty thorough research, I've discovered that there are only eight groups of fauna in the world whose meat is kosher. These groups, and their kosher species, are:

  1. Cattle / cow: Banteng; Gayal; Muskox; Taurine cattle / Ox / Domestic cow; Yak; Zebu.
  2. Sheep: Argali; Bighorn; Dall; Domestic sheep; Mouflon; Snow sheep; Urial.
  3. Bison / buffalo: American buffalo; Cape buffalo; Water buffalo; Wisent.
  4. Goat / ibex: Alpine ibex; Caucasian tur; Domestic goat / Wild goat; Goral; Markhor; Nubian ibex; Siberian ibex; Spanish ibex; Takin; Walia ibex.
  5. Deer: Brocket deer*; Elk; Eurasian Elk; Huemul*; Moose; Mule deer; Muntjac / Barking deer; Pampas deer*; PudĂș*; Reindeer / Caribou; Roe deer; Taruca*; Wapiti; White-tailed deer.
  6. Birds: Chicken / Capon; Dove; Duck; Goose; Guineafowl; Muscovy duck; Partridge; Pheasant; Pigeon; Quail; Sparrow; Swallow; Turkey.
  7. Giraffidae: Giraffe; Okapi.
  8. Antelope: Blackbuck; Blesbok; Bongo; Bushbuk; Dik-dik; Eland; Gazelle; Gerenuk; Hartebeest; Impala; Klipspringer; Kudu; Lechwe; Nilgal; Nyala; Oribi; Oryx / Gemsbok; Pronghorn; Reedbuck; Sitatunga; Springbok; Steenbok; Topi; Tsessebe; Waterbuck; Wildebeest.

* For these South American deer species, I found no kosher list that could verify their kashrut status; however, many other sources explicitly state that all deer is kosher, and these species are definitely all deer.

All the species of cattle originate from Asia (particularly from the Indian Subcontinent), except for the Muskox which is from the Arctic regions of North America (and the inclusion of the Muskox is stretching the definition of cattle somewhat). Sheep and goats originate mainly from the Middle East and surrounds, except for the Bighorn and Dall sheep (which are North American). All three of cattle, sheep, and goats, are believed to trace their domesticated origins to the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East.

Bison are closely related to cattle, but are ultimately a different group. Bison are one of the least clustered of the animal groups discussed here, being scattered all over the world: the American buffalo is North American; the Cape buffalo hails from South Africa; the Water buffalo is native to South-East Asia; and the Wisent is of Eastern European origin. The deer are also a widely dispersed group, being spread over all the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

The large number of antelope species are almost all from Eastern and Southern Africa. Exceptions include the Blackbuck, which is of Indian origin; and the Pronghorn, which is the North American antelope ambassador. The Giraffe and its only (surviving) close relative, the Okapi, both hail from Central Africa.

There are also the birds, most of which originate from an extensive number of regions and continents (including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas), due to their being migratory. The Chicken is of Indian Subcontinent origin; the Muscovy duck hails from Central / South America; the Pheasant is of Eastern European origin; and the Turkey is North American.

And so, here we can see all of these animals, indicated quite roughly on a world map (image is of this kosher animals Google map):

Map showing the native locations of kosher animals around the world.

Map showing the native locations of kosher animals around the world.

No kosher tucker

The map speaks for itself, really. For most of human history, Oz and NZ went unnoticed to the rest of the human-inhabited world. Clearly, the Man Up High also didn't notice those funny bits Down Under, when he was plonking kosher land animals down upon the rest of the Earth. Or maybe — Day 6 being a Friday and all — he knocked off early and went to the pub, and he just never got around to koshering Australasia.

No kosher marsupials — forget about Roo, Wallaby, Koala, and Wombat — they're all traif. Same deal for the monotremes: Platypus and Echidna are off the menu. Not to mention croccies… oy vey! Oh, and I know you were thinking about Emu — but you can stop thinking, I already checked. As for NZ, it hasn't even got a single native land-dwelling mammal, let alone a kosher one. I guess even the goyim have to make do around there — although at least they could roast up a Kea or a Kiwi if they started feeling peckish.

Seriously, it's pretty slack. I know that the Aborigines and the Maoris never even had the opportunity to hear about kosher (which is bad enough). But assuming they somehow had caught wind of it, and had decided to join the bandwagon; surely, they would have felt pretty jaded and ripped off, upon learning that the All-Merciful One had given them the cold shoulder in the meat department.

Possible explanations

We all know that Australia is the oldest continent on Earth. So, I can think of one explanation easily enough. G-d created the world 6,000 years ago. The whole world, that is, except Oz and NZ. He created those places 40,000 years ago; he plonked the Roos and the Aborigines down in Oz; and he just let 'em sit there for 34,000 years, and hang around idly until he popped back and finished off the rest of the world. If this theory is true, then I guess being left out to dry in the bush for that long would make the Aborigines feel pretty jaded anyway (apart from their already feeling jaded re: lack of kosher meat on their continent).

Another theory: maybe Oz and NZ were a bit of a hippie commune experiment, and G-d decided that if (by some bizarre turn of events) the Blackfellas did happen to hear about kashrut and (even more bizarrely) liked the sound of it, then they should stick to a veggie diet anyway. Or, if they got really desperate, there are — after all — native kosher fish on Oz and NZ's coasts; so they could grill up a salmon or two. But, as any carnivorous man knows, fish just ain't no substitute for a good chunk of medium-rare goodness (yes, I know, I'm a crap hippie).

We should also consider that, as everyone knows, Australasia was a bit of an experimental zone in general for the Man Up High. Some have even gone further, and argued that Australasia was His dumping ground for failed experiments. If this was the case, then it logically follows that He would never place any kosher animals — which we can only assume were what He considered his greatest success story — in that very same manure hole.

I believe I already mentioned the theory about knocking off early on Friday afternoon and going to the pub. (In fact, if that theory is true, it would seem that that act has been G-d's greatest legacy to Australasia.)

Forgotten Land

We already knew about quite a few fairly essential things that G-d forgot to put in Australia. For example, water. And rivers that have water. And mountains (real ones). Also non-poisonous snakes and spiders. And something (anything) in the middle (apart from a big rock).

This is just further proof that Australia really isn't the Chosen Land. No non-traif meat available. Anyway, at least you can thank Him for the next time you're stuck in the Outback, when a feast of witchety grubs could save you from starvation.

Additional references

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