In Honor of the Pig, It’s Many Uses and Misunderstandings

The domestic pig is one of the most widely used animals in the world, and largely misunderstood.

The pig’s biological contributions to humankind are numerous, resulting in remarkable life-saving pharmaceutical and medical discoveries and products, as well as innumerable contributions to food production, dentifrices, cosmetics, and industrial products.

Glycerin, and gelatin, a derivative of glycerin, when discovered in pig fat became widely used worldwide. In fact, The Daily Mail identified 180 uses of pig parts, including beer and tambourines.

Glycerin is found in both plant and animals in the form of triglycerides (glycerin combined with fatty acids), which constituents nearly all vegetable and animal fats and oils. Natural and synthetic glycerins, and gelatin, are mostly used in a refined or purified form.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the U.S. is the “world’s second-largest pork producer, and ranks second as both an importing and exporting country.” It also reports that the U.S. is the “world’s third-largest producer and consumer of pork and pork products, with exports averaging over 20 percent of commercial pork production in most years.”

The global food processing industries have all but ensured it nearly impossible to avoid eating food additives derived from pigs. The collagen converted into gelatin acts as a gelling agent used in most foods, from Jell-O to licorice, to cake batter, to croutons.

The pig has been vital to medical advancement. Insulin, critical for diabetics, was first derived from a pig, as was the blood-thinning drug heparin. Pig heart valves are critical to medical research and treatment for heart-related illnesses. Glycerin and gelatin variations are used in vitamins, medicine capsules, painkillers, antibiotics, and many other medications.

The pig also aids people’s teeth, skin, and hair. Toothpaste, body lotion, cosmetic liquid and powder foundation make-up, anti-wrinkle creams, shampoos and conditioners (most with shiny, pearl-like appearances) all use fatty acids extracted from pig bone fat, or a synthetic version of a pig derivative, if products are not plant-based.

To date, manufacturers are not legally obligated to specify whether the gelatin used in their products is from a pig (or other animal) is natural or synthetic. When it is specified, it is often referred to as “Suilline gelatin.”

Even smokers benefit from the pig.

Cigarette filters have been manufactured with hemoglobin from pig’s blood. A pig’s hemoglobin is nearly impenetrable, which is why cigarette manufacturers claim the filter functions as an “artificial lung” so that any “harmful reactions take place before the chemicals [added to the tobacco] reach the user.”

Military and industrial manufacturers rely on the pig for a range of uses.

Roughly 300 million pounds of glycerin is used industrially in America, in the form of urethane foams and alkyd resins, and compounds to make TNT, Nitro, bullets, high explosive bombs, rocket launchers, and other weapons. For example, pig bone gelatin is used to help transport gunpowder or cordite into the bullet.

Products requiring smaller quantities of glycerin include antifreeze solutions, soldering fluxes, cements, textiles, and waxes.

In light of the contribution of the pig to society, it’s important to clear up widespread misconceptions about pigs and Islam.

Contrary to popular opinion, Muslims are allowed to touch pig parts, including flesh, like bacon. The Qur’an only forbids them to eat it (haram): “only dead animals, and blood, and the swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for other than God.” (Surah 2:173).

The Qur’an states the flesh of swine is “surely impure” (Surah 6: 145); “lahm al-khinzeer” translated means “the flesh of the pig.” The flesh includes skin, fat, and entrails, but not bone and bone marrow.

Those who obey these prohibitions will “live forever in Paradise” (Surah 24:51) and those who disobey have “indeed strayed into a plain error” (Surah 33:36).

According to these texts, if an Islamist is aware or suspects that any pork or pork products may be in food, beverages or medication, then they must err on the side of caution and not consume them.

The Islamic Organization for Medical Sciences has advocated that changing the form of pig parts used in food additives and medicine lifts the Qur’an’s prohibition because these products are not actually pig’s flesh. The Islamic Dietary Laws and Practices also provide guidelines for Halal (permissible) and Haram (prohibited) foods and products.

(Jews also follow similar kosher guidelines related to consuming food and products originating from pigs.)

Therefore, non-Halal pig parts can be consumed and used, which is good news, especially for ISIS and suicide bombers.

Many argue that Islamic suicide bombers using various weapons and high explosives contaminate themselves with glycerin and gelatin derived from pig fat. This may be true, but it would depend on the origin of their weapons’ parts, if they are using synthetic glycerin materials, and whether or not they actually consumed them or just touched/used them.

Understanding what the Qur’an teaches and the usefulness of the pig should help clarify ongoing, widespread misunderstanding.

For example, bacon found on Mosque doors does not constitute a hate crime. Bacon is not hateful, it may be dirty, but Muslims are not prohibited from touching it, even when in a package at a supermarket.

The only act that might involve a hate crime would be forcefully requiring a Muslim, Jew, or vegetarian to eat any aspect of a pig’s flesh.

ISIS and suicide bombers use weapons that may or may not be comprised of acceptable pig parts, but whether or not they consume any pig part will have no bearing on their failure to reach “paradise.”

For the rest of humankind, pigs continue to prove useful, saving, feeding, and protecting them in ways they could not have imagined.

It turns out that Mr. Zuckerman was right in the beloved children’s story, Charlotte’s Web, when he told his wife that they had “some pig” who was also “radiant,” “terrific,” and “humble.”

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