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Why No Avian Flu-Related Poultry Slaughter In Egypt?

egyptianpigs

hide captionEgyptian pigs with their backs against the wall.

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Why hasn't Egypt slaughtered its entire poultry population?

That question arises because of reports that avian flu has been a bigger problem in Egypt than swine flu. Avian flu is linked to the deaths of at least three people in the last month according to at least one report while not a single case of swine flu has been reported in Egypt.

Yet the Egyptian government ordered the slaughter of the nation's entire 300,000 pig population. And while the keeping of birds in populated areas has been officially banned, according to a piece on the Radio Netherlands Worldwide website:

... People are still keeping chickens, ducks, geese and pigeons in populated areas, in both rural and urban areas. It is mostly young women who feed the fowl, that contract the disease.

One possible reason for why pigs and not birds were culled could be called the "when pigs fly" rationale.

The problem with culling domestic poultry is that it does nothing to stop the virus from being spread by migratory birds. If pigs could fly, then, presumably it would make even less sense to kill domestic swine herds in Egypt than it does now.

But Egypt's Christian pork lovers see a different reason for why Egypt ordered the slaughter of the porcine innocents.

Another excerpt from the Radio Netherlands Worldwide article:

The government's decision to destroy Egypt's estimated 300,000 pigs has led to fierce protest from pig farmers. They see it as yet another form of discrimination against the Coptic Orthodox Christian community, which accounts for approximately 10% of Egypt's population.

Egypt's Muslim majority is strongly in favour of the cull as pigs are viewed by Muslims as unclean animals. Imams on television are appealing to the government to completely ban the keeping of pigs once and for all.

All pigs in Egypt must be destroyed within three weeks. The government has set aside 4 million euros in compensation money.

It is unclear, however, how the money will be paid out, making pig farmers wonder if it they will receive compensation at all.

So there's suspicion that what we are seeing is a religiously induced anti-pig fatwa.

That's not an unreasonable suspicion, given the lack of any scientific basis for the pig slaughter.

The World Health Organization couldn't be clearer about the lack of any proven scientific relationship between pork, whether living or dead, and the spread of swine flu to humans.

An excerpt from a Reuters story:

ROME, May 5 (Reuters) - The risk that pork meat could carry the new H1N1 influenza virus is "totally negligible", the United Nations food agency said on Tuesday, reiterating that pork and pork products were safe to eat.

Up to 20 countries worldwide have banned imports of pork and other meat in response to the outbreak of the new flu virus, according to documents from the World Health Organisation.

"No influenza virus in pigs has ever been detected in meat or meat products," the Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) chief veterinary officer, Joseph Domenech, told Reuters...

Unlike in the case of the H5N1 avian flu, when people were advised to avoid touching dead chickens, WHO experts said on Sunday dead pigs did not pose a threat. "This new strain of influenza virus does not contaminate humans easily and has a very low pathogenicity for both humans and pigs, unlike the avian flu which killed millions of poultry," Domenech said.

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