May 4, 2009

Egypt Continues Pig Slaughters

Authorities in Egypt are following through with the nationwide slaughter of thousands of pigs in order to protect citizens against the swine flu virus despite criticism from the UN, which claims there is no need for the massive slaughter since the virus cannot be spread by pork consumption.

On Saturday, Dr Souad Al-Khouli said there had been no reported cases of the H1N1 virus in humans or pigs in Egypt.

The call to slaughter Egypt's entire pig population has been met with disruption among pig farmers in the region. On Sunday, farmers took to the street with rocks and bottles in opposition to the mandatory slaughter.

Fourteen demonstrators were arrested and at least a dozen have been injured in Cairo while resisting the government's efforts.

Cairo security chief Major General Ismail Shaer told The Press Association that seven police were among the injured in a dispute with Coptic Christian garbage collectors, known as the zebaleen, who raise pigs in Egypt's Manishyet Nasr region.

Farmers attempted to block the roads to keep authorities from getting near their livestock. Meanwhile some 200 policemen surrounded the neighborhood during the standoff.

"The culling has continued today in Manshiyet Nasr, three trucks have already taken pigs to be culled," Ishak Mikhail, who heads the Muqattam Rubbish Collectors Association, told AFP.

"The zebaleen will comply with the state's decision, the proof is that pigs have been taken today," he said.

The World Health Organization said Egypt's efforts to slaughter all 300,000 pigs in the country are not conducive to fighting the spread of the H1N1 virus. The virus, which is a hybrid of swine, bird and human influenzas, is spread only through humans, not through pigs, it says.

"People are scared because this is an essential thing for them. Some were born into this profession (pig rearing)," said Father Bola Shawky, a Coptic priest.

"The government promised for years to solve the people's problems, but the people still have them," he said, adding that there was mistrust for the Egyptian government among its people.

"My pigs never made anyone sick, I don't understand this decision," pig rearer Salah Atteya Khalil told AFP.

"What am I going to do if I don't get compensation, how will I raise my children... will they have to go stealing in the street?"

He said the Cairo governor has promised to pay 500 pounds ($50) for each adult pig and 50 pounds for each piglet that is slaughtered.

Egypt has a deadly history with the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which has claimed the lives of 26 people since it was first identified in 2006.


On the Net: