The Egyptian government has issued a decision to get rid of all pigs in Egypt as a precautionary procedure against the H1N1 virus of the Swine flu.
People reacted to the decision in different ways. However, the two main controversial issues are centered on the killing of pigs in quicklime because of the alleged capacity shortage of the slaughtering houses and the sectarian nature that has taken hold of the debate. [See AWR articles on H1N1 (swine) flu in AWR 2009, week 18, articles 20 and AWR 2009 week 19, articles 17-20].
Coptic expatriates severely condemned the killing of the pigs, considering it another hostile act against Copts. As a result, 25 European Coptic organizations gave donations to sty owners in Egypt who were harmed by the decision in order to help them start new projects and build better sties.
However, Huwaydā al-‘Umdah, a lawyer, stated that building new sties will not help the people since breeding pigs has been prohibited by the government. She added that she had filed a claim at the Administrative Court to annul the decision to cull all pigs.
Observers differ in their reactions to the subject. Mahmūd ‘Āmir of Rose al-Yūsuf of May 15, 2009 questioned the controversy resulting from the decision, stating that pigs should not be breed in a Muslim country in the first place, referring to the obvious prohibition of pigs in Islam.
‘Āmir expressed his support of citizenship principles and argued that citizenship principles imply considering the majority’s principles and rules.
On the same page, Kamāl Zākhir Mūsá criticized the way the subject was tackled. He stated that the decision had deprived many people of their source of living and got rid of 15 percent of Egypt’s national wealth of animals.
He stated that such a problem can be dealt with in a more rational way and that there are new ways and solutions to deal with the subject and investigate better alternative solutions. He referred to suggestions given by specialized people to deal with the problem.
Suggestions such as a new system to ensure the proper handling of organic garbage and the possibility of establishing healthy sties far from cities with hygienic conditions for animals and humans who work with them, were made.
Zākhir criticized the sectarian mentality that casts its shadow over social troubles in Egypt. He argued that when this shadow is gone “our eyes will open to the potential we have and will enable us to solve one of the most persisting problems, namely garbage.”
It is noteworthy that the vast majority of pig breeders are garbage collectors who use the garbage to feed the pigs.
Khālid Muhammad ‘Alī of al-Usbū‘ of May 15, 2009 blamed expatriate Copts for their stances and stated: “they live in the luxury of Europe and America and will not be harmed if all the Copts of Egypt and half of its Muslims were eliminated; for they have separated themselves humanitarianly and culturally from the family and the homeland.” He added that Coptic activists in the West “do not consider a country they do not live in.”
Muhammad ‘Alī stated that many pig breeders are Muslims and the decision to slaughter them was merely made to avoid the virus. He stressed the importance of Egyptian national unity and highlighted the danger of sectarian assumptions that will lead to more complications. “The best way the Europeans brain seeks to dismantle Egypt is a bloody clash between the policemen and Coptic youth,” he argued.
On the same page, Muntasir al-Shatbī reported on complaints of Dr. Muná Sharīf, head of the Crisis Research Unit at ‘Ayn Shams University. Dr. Sharīf stated that the center that was supposed to be established to deal with calamities did not receive any official assignment to participate in the efforts made to face the Swine flu.
Dr. Sharīf also mentioned that the government also did not ask to cooperate with the center following the bird flu; which is inconsistent with the aim behind establishing the center.
She stated that the center has not carried out any research into H1N1, but has complete research on political and social conditions in Egypt. “No one makes use of them,” she was reported as saying.
Back to pigs, an alleged lack of space at slaughter houses has led to the collective killing of pigs by throwing them while still alive into huge holes filled with quicklime.
Dr. Ahmad Fathī Surūr, speaker of the People’s Assembly rejected killing in quicklime, arguing that it was against Egypt’s civilizations.
MP. Siyādah Jrays described that way of killing pigs as random and savage, adding that the decision had sectarian motives.
Al-Dustūr of May 18, 2009 reported MP Jrays’ argument that when making the decision the government did not think of the consequences of the decision and the destiny of more than half a million people who make their living out of it. She also criticized the hysterical state of the media and bemoaned the government’s way of dealing with “one of the poorest social classes.”
On his part, Ahmad al-Shirbīnī, head of the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends [no link found] considered the current methods adopted to kill pigs as “crimes in all measures.” He also stated that it was against the measures established by international animal health organizations.
Al-Shirbīnī stated that the “ugly execution” takes place mainly in the Shubrā Amant area that is related to 6th of October city. Al-Shirbīnī revealed his intention to file a claim against Amīn Abāzah, minister of agriculture, Dr. ‘Abd al-‘Azīm Wazīr, governor of Cairo and Dr. Hāmid Samāh, head of the General Organization for Veterinary Services.
On his part, Councilor ‘Adlī Husayn, governor of al-Qalyūbīyah denied in a press release to al-Sharq al-Awsat News Agency having used any chemicals to kill pigs in al-Qalyūbīyah.