For many Muslims and Hindus, the first question was whether their faith allowed them to try it
When the world's first test-tube beef burger was cooked and eaten this week, food critics all asked about its taste. For many Muslims and Hindus, the first question was whether their faith allowed them to try it.
Religious websites were abuzz with questions and opinions this week after biologist Mark Post of Maastricht University presented his innovation to the media in London on Monday.
Dietary laws exist in many religions, but came about so long ago that no one could have imagined a ready-to-fry beef patty grown in-vitro from the stem cells of a cow.
If religious authorities interpret their ancient texts in a way that allows them to give this new food their blessing, now-banned kosher cheeseburgers and Hindu hamburgers, as well as an undisputed method of producing halal meat, could be possible.
Islam's halal laws require ritual slaughter.
"There does not appear to be any objection to eating this type of cultured meat," the Islamic Institute of Orange County in California responded to a questioner on its website.
Gulf News in Dubai quoted Abdul Qahir Qamar of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as saying in-vitro meat "will not be considered meat from live animals, but will be cultured meat."
As long as the cells used are not from pigs, dogs or other animals banned under the halal laws, he said, the meat would be vegetative and "similar to yogurt and fermented pickles."
The prospect of meatless beef has also prompted debate in India, where the Hindu majority shuns steaks and burgers because it considers the cow sacred.
"We will not accept it being traded in a marketplace in any form or being used for a commercial purpose," Chandra Kaushik, president of the Hindu nationalist group Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, told the India Real Time blog.
Religious websites have been debating the test-tube meat issue for some time now, especially since news about biologist Post's project began circulating about four years ago.
Many Hindus and Sikhs are vegetarians, so several of them posted comments saying they probably wouldn't like the taste of artificial meat even if it was declared permissible.
"Who wants to eat a carcass anyways, lab grown or not?" one reader asked on the Hindu Dharma Forums website.