Posted by: kenwbudd | May 4, 2009

H1N1: Egypt pig slaughter prompts religious discourse

Egypt pig cull prompts clashes

Egyptian police have clashed with pig farmers after announcing a cull to allegedly combat swine flu. Egypt has ordered the slaughter of 300,000 to 400,000 pigs as a so called, “precaution” against the effect of H1N1 virus, a move the United Nations said was “a real mistake”

These drastic and extreme measures have been taken by the north African country, although it has yet to report any H1N1 cases. This over-reaction could be due to the fact that Egypt was hit hard by bird flu in 2005/6 or there could be different, more fundamental reasons.

In Cairo, police fired tear gas at farmers and protesters who pelted them with rocks and bottles over fears they had come to seize their pigs. At least ten people were injured in the clashes in Manshiet Nasr, a shantytown on the outskirts of the capital city. Residents burned tyres and rubbish in the street to keep police at bay. Three officers were also injured in clashes with pig farmers in other areas of the capital.

The sad truth is that the H1N1 virus is being spread by people, not pigs. Destroying innocent and valuable livestock and the devastating effect this will have on the owners and their families, is beyond measure. In this poverty stricken area, these people are fighting for their lives.

Some political commentators say that culling swine, which are mainly raised by the Christian minority and viewed as unclean by Muslims, could have different and more sinister undertones, rather than simply being an extremely puzzling and foolish measure to quell rising public panic.

If this is the case, then a more severe backlash will develop over the coming days and weeks. Loosely targeted at the pigs, their owners and their livelihood, it may well plunge Egypt into increased levels of civil disobedience, fueled by bigotry, extremism and political unrest.


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