08/05/2009

An injudicious decision

As a preventive measure to address the spread of swine flu, the Egyptian government took the surprising decision to destroy all of its porks. Slightly more than 250,000 pigs are therefore destined to be slaughtered to the great displeasure of farmers who see their livelihood disappear. On the outskirts of Cairo, in the district of Coptic Moqatam, clashes took place on Sunday May 3 between them and the police which came to requisition the swine.

The controversy raged between Muslims and Copts on the issue of the pig. While Copts are denouncing a political maneuvering in favor of Muslims, Muslims are emphasizing the insalubrius conditions under which pigs are raised in the district of the Zabaleen – the garbage men in Cairo – and the impure nature of the animal according to Islam. However, avoiding political and religious arguments, we can say that the decision to cull the entire swine livestock is at the same time unjustified, impracticable and reckless.

First, the decision is unjustified in the context of the swine flu since on the one hand no case of the epidemic has been found in Egypt, on the other hand, it was recognized that the virus was not transmissible between man and animal. Egypt has argued that it had been hit hard by bird flu and that it feared a possible mutation of the virus A/H1N1. Though, the WHO and the FAO have both enjoin Egyptian authorities to reverse their decision.

The slaughter is then impracticable. The pigs slaughterhouses are only two in Egypt, one in Cairo and one in Alexandria. Therefore the destruction of the entire herd can last several years. Considering such a long period, the health argument is no longer valid. In addition, let’s consider the measures to compensate the breeders and the use of the killed animals that has been proved healthy. Will they effectively be implemented?

This decision is finally reckless. Indeed, many pig breeders have announced their decision to hide their cattle. In the case of the bird flu, the response to the preventive measures of culling was the same which had been increasing the danger of contagion. In these circumstances, the decision to cull is almost dangerous. In addition medical sources warned against the health risks that may result from the non-treatment of swine waste.

Ultimately, is it a ill-considered health decision or a disguised political maneuver? In both cases, the image of the Egyptian government released tarnished from this affair. And in addition to the thousands of sacrificed pigs, the consequences of this foolish decision will have a price that the Egyptian authorities have not finished to pay.

N.J.O.