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Egypt Orders All Pigs in the Country to be Slaughtered

  • Jessica Desvarieux

With growing concern over the H1N1 influenza A virus, or swine flu, the Egyptian government on Thursday ordered the slaughter of all of the nation's pigs. No cases of the virus have been confirmed in Egypt. And for the Coptic Christian families who make up the majority of Egypt's pig farmers, the slaughter threatens their livelihood.

Forty-two year old Iman Maleh followed in his father's footsteps and has been raising pigs for 25 years. He says that the government's decision to kill some 350,000 pigs due to concerns over swine flu will leave him with no way to support his family.

"What's our alternative," he asks, "What are we supposed to do? The authorities are not listening to us.".

Maleh lives on the outskirts of Cairo where the majority of "Zebaleen" or garbage collectors call home. He lements that without his pig farm, he will be forced to shift through the refuse to make a living.

Amongst the heaps of empty cans and swarms of flies, farmers like Maleh raise pigs.

Government officials say that swine owners will be offered about $180 per pig in compensation.

Pig farmer Ibrahim Gabr says he hopes to receive that money.

He said no one knows where they will all go or how they will feed their families.

Because it is forbidden in Islam to consume pork, the majority of these farmers are Coptic Christians. And there has been criticism that the government's decision heavily affects this minority population.

Gabr says the Egyptian government should not carry out the slaughter until cases of swine flu are confirmed in Egypt.

He says that if there are proven cases of the disease, then people would not object to the policy.

Justifications for the slaughter, which has already begun, center around the fear of a pandemic spreading across urban centers like Cairo - a region with about 11 million people.

The children in one pig farming area outside Cairo are not afraid of their curly-tailed friends, but rather scurry around with them in the gritty slop. One pig in particular has their attention. Its name is Heluwo and it is the only off-white pig in the sea of black.

But these could be Heluow's final days as the government plans to slaughter all of the country's pigs by this weekend.

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