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Note from Cairo: Pig Slaughter and Garbage

Egypt is about to get a whole lot more garbage piling up in the streets.

NPR's Peter Kenyon will report later today on the Egyptian government's order to slaughter the country's entire pig population, despite the fact that the country has no known swine flu (H1N1) cases.

This means 300,000 - 400,000 pigs will be killed — pigs that provide a valuable public service by recycling the public's food scrap waste.

Kenyon, who is stationed in Cairo, spoke with some Coptic Christians who manage the country's pig farms. They are concerned about their livelihoods and the state of hygiene in the city that is already famously grimy.

"Can you imagine how dirty it would be without us?" one zableen, or garbage collector, tells Kenyon.

Still, Kenyon says, "Mostly, people are happy to get rid of the pigs." Ninety percent of the country is comprised of Muslims who don't eat pork and consider pigs unclean.

There is a lot of concern in countries that aren't too keen on pork about the swine flu outbreaks, even though officials say eating pork is safe.

CDC's Keiji Fukuda said today: "We do not believe people are getting infected from pigs... With safe food handling practices, the eating of pork meat does not pose a danger to people."

Nonetheless, there are several indications that this sensitivity over pork products is the reason U.S. officials are pressing to change the swine flu name to the scientific one: H1N1.

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