Many have asked for more specific information on this question after reading Mr. Armstrong's article "Is all Animal Flesh good food?" in THE PLAIN TRUTH.
The Bible itself defines what sea life is good food. "Whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat" (Leviticus 11:39). In verse 10 it is further clarified: "and all that have not fins AND scales in the seas... they shall be an abomination unto you."
"But which fish have both fins and scales?" is the question asked by many readers. Two points to remember is that many fish have very small or minute scales and some have merely patches of scales near the head and the tail fin. In either case, such fish are clean and fit for food.
First, let us name the commonly known unclean fish--these are scaleless fish--which are not fit for food: catfish, eels, paddlefish, sculpins, stickle backs, sturgeons and swordfish. These fish do not have true scales. Together with these creatures are other forms of sea life unfit for human consumption: abalone, clams, crabs, lobsters, oysters, scallops, shrimp, and whale.
The complete list of fish fit for human consumption would be too lengthy to enumerate in this column. Only the most important clean fish--having BOTH scales and fins--can be named. They are; albacore, anchovy, barracuda, bass, black fish, bowfin, buffalo, carp, characin, cod, croaker, darter, flounder, gaby, grayling, haddock, halibut, herring, jack, mackerel, minnow, mooneye, mullet, needlefish, perch, pike, salmon, sardine, shad, silver side, smelt, snapper, sole, sucker, sunfish, tarpons, trout, tuna, weakfish, whitefish. If any question arises about other fish consult such books as Field Book of Fresh-Water Fishes by Ray Schrenkeisen which may be found in public libraries.
Some people, who are not competent to judge fish, have thought certain of these clean fish were without scales, but this is not true.
The second part of the question concerns fowl. Which birds are fit for human consumption? The answer is found in Lev. 11:13-19 and Deut. 14:11-20.
Each of these sections lists specific varieties of birds unfit for human consumption. No clean birds are listed. Only about two dozen unclean birds are listed out of thousands found the world over. These unclean birds illustrate the characteristics of all unclean birds. They fall into types each of which is unclean "after its kind." The question is, how do these unclean birds differ from those to be clean or fit for human consumption? The characteristics of clean fowl are, of course, determined by the dove and the pigeon (Luke 2:24 and Lev. 1:14-17) which were anciently used for sacrifice.
By comparing the differences between these clean birds and those listed as unclean, we can arrive at the following six characteristics of clean birds: 1) they must not be birds of prey; 2) they catch food thrown to them in the air, but they bring it to the ground, where they divide it with their bills, if possible, before eating it; whereas unclean birds devour it in the air, or press it with one foot to the ground and tear it with their bills; 3) they must have an elongated middle front toe and a hind toe; 4) they must spread their toes so that three front toes are on one side of a perch and the hind toe on the other side; 5) they must have craws or crops; 6) they must have a gizzard with a double lining which can easily be separated. (Consult articles in Jewish Encyclopaedia under "Poultry," and "Clean and Unclean Animals.")
Clean birds have all these characteristics; unclean birds lack one or more of these characteristics. If a bird lacks any one of these characteristics, it is unclean.
Beside the pigeon and dove, the following birds are clean: chicken, pheasant, quail, partridge, grouse, turkey, all song birds, ducks, geese, swan (the word swan is a mistranslation in the King James Version).
Unclean birds not listed specifically in the Bible are roadrunners, woodpeckers and the parrot family (which divide their toes so that two are on either side of a perch); aquatic and wading birds and gulls which have no crops or craws, no double lining of gizzards, and often no hind toe or no elongated middle front toe.