Friday, May 01, 2009


You've likely heard by now that the Egyptian government had this bright idea--to cull the swine herds to stop the spread of swine flu.  Nevermind that there's no evidence that pigs are actually carrying the disease, or that it's spreading between livestock, or that it's spreading from pigs to humans at this point--everything seems to suggest a human-to-human interaction right now.  The pork industry is right about one thing: pigs aren't dangerous, and if using the phrase "swine flu" rather than H1N1 makes people think pigs are dangerous, then we need to stop using it.

So back to Egypt, where the government is slaughtering pigs, ostensibly because of swine flu.

You may know that in Islam, pigs are unclean.  Which means that the majority of Egyptians don't eat pork and would never imagine keeping pigs.  But the 12% or so of Egypt's population that is Christian are perfectly fine with both pork and pigs.  And in the Cairo region, most of those people who keep pigs are also people who collect garbage.  They live in an area commonly called "garbage city" where the ground floors of houses are the place to sort garbage and keep pigs (who eat the edible leftovers).  Some of the garbage goes to be "recycled"--at scrap yards, into various crafts, etc.  The rest is eaten by pigs or burned.  The families live in the upper floors, just above the piles of garbage and wandering livestock.

These people are poor, they're different, and they live in what the majority of the country would call filth (in more ways than one).  Culling the pigs is a way for the government to punish these people for being different, to push them further into poverty, and to highlight a religious issue that has been simmering under the surface in Egypt for many years.  

In other words, it's an excuse... punish the poor... widen the divisions between people... persecute Christians.


H1N1 it is, clunky a term though it may be. The side-effects of a more convenient-to-say term are too great.

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