Hi, I’m standing here in the zoo and want to know if giraffes are kosher. Thank you very much!
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
The giraffe is a kosher species, since it has the two kosher characteristics of cloven hooves and chewing its cud.
So why don’t we eat giraffes?
Let's first dispense with the myth that we don't know exactly what spot on the long neck to shecht it. Actually, since Shechita is permitted anywhere on the neck, this cannot be the problem. (source: Tosefta Chullin 1:11; Code of Jewish Law YD 20:1-2; "Tzohar" p. 262, by R' A. Ben-David).
The real reason we don’t eat giraffes is because we no longer have a continuous tradition of eating this species, and we may not introduce any animals that we do not have a distinct tradition, even if they possess all the kosher signs. (source: Shach Y.D. 80:1 and Chochmat Adam; Chazon Ish Y.D. 11:4)
Although Rav Sa'adya Gaon (in "Tafsir HaTorah"), Rabbenu Yona, Radak, and others translate "Zamer" (listed among the ten types of kosher animals in Deut. 14:5) as the giraffe, we follow the opinion of Rashi (Chullin 80a) and Ibn Ezra (Deut. 14:5) that we do not have an accurate tradition for what is the "Zamer."
There is an additional, practical reason for not eating giraffes. It would probably cost the exorbitant price of $100 per pound, even if they would be produced en mass.
But don't worry. When Moshiach comes and re-establishes the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, this issue will be resolved. Then we could all go out for 15-foot giraffe deli sandwiches. I can hear it now: "Pass the mustard and the ladder, please!"