By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent
The virus formerly known as the â€˜Swine Fluâ€™, H1N1, was recently renamed to alleviate consumer fears about eating pork products and to appease the pork industry, continues to strike fear in the hearts of the global population. With more than 10,000 people around the world having already been infected with the H1N1 virus and at least 80 deaths, no one can predict how long the virusâ€™s deadly streak will continue.
Nations all over the world have taken measures to protect the public health and contain the disease should it hit within their borders. However, one country in particular embarked on a campaign of extreme measures to prevent the H1N1 virus from striking its populous. Within only a matter of weeks after the first deaths from the H1N1 virus in Mexico were reported, the Egyptian veterinary authorities announced the mass culling of the entire pig population, which has been estimated at one-quarter of a million. Initially, the decision played on the name of the disease itself, â€˜swineâ€™ flu, which was misleading given that the pig is an unwilling collaborator in the disease that is primarily a mutation of the avian flu. And there is no evidence that pigs transmit the H1N1 virus to humans.
However, once the World Health Organization (WHO) made the clarification regarding the name of the disease, so too did Egyptian authorities have to clarify their reasons for the â€˜hog genocideâ€™, especially since there has not been a single case of the H1N1 virus in Egypt. According to the Egyptian government, the pig culling was done simply to clean up a Christian Coptic area, Manshiyet Nasr, in the Cairo slums for the common health of the region. The owners of the pigs are garbage scavengers who rely on the pigs to put food on the table. However, the diet that the pigs relied upon was typically garbage and rodents, which raised the alarm with Egyptian authorities regarding the practice of eating animals raised in squalor.
At the beginning of May, trucks driven by government officials arrived at the slums and began carting the pigs off to slaughter. The action was met with brute force as the slum pig farmers clashed with authorities and threw stones at them. And at least one farmer was arrested for trying to smuggle his 300 pigs to another location. It was initially reported that the farmers would receive a monetary sum to compensate for the loss of their pigs and then it was reported that their pigs would be tested for H1N1, slaughtered and the meat delivered to their doors. However, as of press time, neither deal has been honored.
The pig saga continues as this past week a deplorable video diary of the inhumane slaughter of the pigs has emerged on the popular social networking site YouTube. In the gruesome video, workers are captured stabbing baby piglets with knives, beating other pigs with iron bars and kicking live pigs into waiting bulldozer baskets. However, the most horrific method of slaughter to be shown on the video is of a lorry full of pigs soaked with bucketfuls of acid and left to die a slow death that took almost an hour. The YouTube video has resulted in an immediate condemnation from Sheikh Salim Mohammed Salim, who chairs the fatwa department at the University of Al-Azhar, who released a statement saying that the maltreatment of any animal is strictly forbidden in Islam.
Animal rights activists have started an online petition against the horrific slaughter of the Egyptian pigs at www.care2.com and organizers are hoping to put an end to the inhumane euthanasia.