Sunday, May 3, 2009

Egypt's ham-fisted, pigheaded ploy leads to riots

In Egypt today, Coptic Christian shantytown residents rioted over government attempts to slaughter all pigs in the country.  The government's action was ostensibly undertaken as an attempt to prevent the introduction of the H1N1 swine flu virus into the country.  However, as the story linked above (from the Telegraph) says: 

"The Egyptian authorities have admitted since ordering the slaughter last week that it was mainly a pretext for carrying out a reorganisation of the country's pig farms, which are used to supply the country's Coptic Christians, ten per cent of the population.

The goal, apparently, is to ensure that pigs in the country are no longer raised in small, "unhygienic" holdings, for instance by trash collectors who feed their hogs with the trash they collect.

A story by Reuters opines that:
"...culling swine, largely viewed as unclean in Muslim Egypt, could help quell any public panic in the most populous Arab country."

So far, the only known case of this H1N1 Swine Flu strain actually being found in pigs occurred in Alberta Canada when a farmworker who had recently visited Mexico passed the virus on to his porcine charges.  That's right, human-to-swine spread, not swine-to-human.  (The pigs are all expected to recover, by the way.)  

There have been no cases of the disease identified in Egyptian swine (or any other beyond that one farm in Alberta).  There is certainly no epidemiological justification for slaughtering an entire nation of uninfected pigs.  

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have issued statements condemning the action, but Egypt is clearly not as interested in the science of the situation as they are in the propaganda value of being seen to do something (especially if that something only hurts a powerless minority group).

So far, the only Swine Flu-associated casualties in Egypt aren't cases of the disease, but 13 to 15+ civilians and police who have been injured in the rioting.  Let's hope it gets no worse. 

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