We Four in Egypt

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Pig panic!

Photo by flickr user be_khe

Photo by flickr user be_khe

Swine flu fever is sweeping the world, and Egypt has its own version of this insanity. You may have seen the news reports of the mass slaughter of pigs now happening here in Egypt. (The New York Times has a good story which gives some context for this slaughter.) The latest news is that some farmers are fighting back; there have been several injuries and arrests.

The World Health Organization has criticized this slaughter, and they and the CDC assure us that people can’t get swine flu from pigs. In fact, they renamed swine flu to Influenza A to avoid the impression that people are catching this thing from pigs. So why the slaughter?

It has to do with religion, class, and politics here in Egypt. The pig farmers are also the Christian minority, the underclass. And many of these pigs are owned and raised by the Zebaleen, the Christian garbage collectors. Muslims don’t (usually) eat pork (well, some do, with gusto, but you know what I mean). Some of the Gulf Countries actually ban pigs completely, but not Egypt. But, many Muslims regard pigs as unclean–and not just unclean but nasty and filthy.

Some folks are chattering that this is just an excuse to ban pigs. And many Egyptians seem truly to believe that you can catch this thing from pigs–I heard this from a well-educated person just today. The government has responded to some of the criticism by suggesting this is just a health precaution rather than a swine flu preventative, but the damage is done.

Pigs are dying, and not necessarily in humane ways, and Christian pig farmers are losing their livelihood.

I don’t even eat pork. But it’s impossible to see how slaughtering 400,000 pigs is making Egypt a better place.


4 May 2009 - Posted by | in the news, sicknesses


  1. Thanks for the cultural background!

    Even in the US/Western culture, it’s interesting to see how pigs are given highly charged roles. We either have Wilbur or we have Animal Farm. (The picture and hearing about the pigs in Egypt definitely made me feel more Wilbur-ish today! 🙂

    Comment by Libby | 5 May 2009

  2. This makes me sick. How inhumane and ignorant.

    Comment by Yoli | 5 May 2009

  3. Pigs are icky. I eat some pork, but nothing about pigs is ‘cute’ to me. Thank god I live nowhere near any of these pig farms.. even neat and clean pig farms, where the animals eat better foods, REEK. Pigs living in and eating garbage… oh my! I agree the system should be repaired… but destroying what works, BEFORE installing an alternative is a bad idea.

    Pigs are part of the eco-system here. Don’t mess with the circle of life. The Zabbaleen collect the city’s organic waste to feed their pigs. No pigs.. what happens to the waste? Will they collect it? Why? What would they do with it?? Losing part of their profits… could they even afford to go around and get the garbage??? I’m expecting the garbage to start piling up any day now… the birds, dogs, cats, RATS and bugs, etc will love it, I’m sure.. but I’m thinking this is a very bad thing.

    Comment by Connie | 5 May 2009

  4. So, little T came up to me the other day at school and said, “My mother said we’re all going to die, and in Egypt we’re going to kill all the pigs.”

    Well, okey dokey now. How to have a conversation with a little child about this? It hadn’t even occurred to us to discuss swine flu with our child until we realized kids would hearing such things from classmates.

    What have you told G and B?

    Comment by J | 5 May 2009

  5. The pig slaughter here is simply ridiculous! I must say that i’m very worried about what will happen to the Zabaleen.

    Comment by Typ0 | 12 May 2009

  6. […] H1N1 panic has another terrible consequence. In May I blogged about the government’s early reaction to swine flu fear: the slaughter of all of Egypt’s pigs, who were an integral part of the […]

    Pingback by Pig flu fever, part 2 « We Four in Egypt | 20 September 2009

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