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One notch up from killing all the chickens to stop chicken pox.
There were calls for this earlier today but I didn't have time to post it. Now the threat is being carried out. As Adam Radwanski of the Canadian Globe and Mail says, In the race to the dumbest overreaction to the swine flu, Egypt jumps out to an early lead. Or if not the dumbest, then perhaps the most offensive. One notch up from killing all the chickens to stop chicken pox.
Egyptian leaders ordered the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of pigs today to help protect against swine flu, prompting angry protests from the poor Christan farmers who feed their animals with a country's food scraps. The decision was also criticised as a "real mistake" by a senior UN food expert.
The Arab world's most populous nation has been been badly hit by the H5N1 bird flu virus in recent years and the move to cull up to 400,000 pigs - seen by Muslims as unclean animals - was designed to calm fears of an impending pandemic.
But it left Egypt's large Coptic Christian minority up in arms, especially the slum-dwelling "Zebaleen" rubbish collectors who rely on the hogs for their livelihood.
“Our pigs are healthy. They are our capital and they have no diseases,” said Adel Ishak, who feeds his pigs from the rubbish he collects in Manshiet Nasser, northeast of Cairo.
"We remind Hosni Mubarak that we are all Egyptians. Where does he want us to go?” added 46-year-old Gergis Faris, another pig farmer. “We are uneducated people, just living day by day and trying to make a living, and now if our pigs are taken from us without compensation, how are we supposed to live?”
The decison to cull the pigs was announced by Hatem al-Gabali, the Health Minister, after a meeting with President Mubarak. “It has been ordered to immediately begin the slaughter of all herds of pigs in Egypt,” he told reporters.
Egypt has not had any confirmed cases of swine flu yet but government experts fear a pandemic flu strain could spread quickly through the country because most of its roughly 80 million people live in the densely packed Nile Valley, many in crowded slums in and around Cairo.
The World Health Organisation has repeatedly said, however, that the newly mutated H1N1 virus is not found in pigs - although the animals can be the vessels for the "genetic reassortment" that produces new strains - and that pork meat is safe to eat.
Joseph Domenech, chief veterinary office with the UN Food and Agriculture Officer in Rome, said the Egyptian order was "a real mistake".
If it causes the Coptic Christians distress and poverty then it I doubt the Egyptian authorities will see it that way.
Perhaps it is just as well the strain wasn't named Mexican flu, although I doubt there are many Mexicans in the Nile delta.
But seriously this is one more example of the precariousness of my fellow Christians in Egypt after 1400 years under Islam.