The Tablet18 May 2009
Dr Helmy Guirguis, president of the UK Copts Association, said the Government had agreed to compensate farmers, but the price they had been offered was only 10-15 per cent of the normal value of the animals. He said he was not convinced that Cairo would follow through on its pledge to build designated pig farms. Young pigs suckle from their mother, at a private farm located in one large pig farming center
MANY MEMBERS of Egypt’s ancient Christian minority have had their livelihoods destroyed at the hands of the Government, in the wake of the swine-flu scare, writes Abigail Frymann. The Government of President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak ordered a cull of the country’s entire pig population on Wednesday 30 April. The authorities are calling the slaughter a general health measure, having initially described it as a precaution against swine flu. No cases of the virus have been reported in Egypt, and the World Health Organisation insists there is no evidence of it being transmitted from animals to humans, but Egypt began the cull in earnest on Saturday. Egypt’s 300,000 pigs mostly belong to and are eaten by members of Egypt’s Coptic minority, which accounts for 9 per cent of the population. Many of Egypt’s Copts are poor and complain of worsening discrimination by their Muslim compatriots. Coptic rubbish-recyclers rear the pigs in backyards in Cairo’s shanty towns to dispose of organic waste, and sell off some animals from their herds once a year. Eating pork is forbidden under Islam and 90 per cent of Egyptians are Muslim.
On Sunday pig farmers took to the streets around the Cairo slum district of Manshiyet Nasr, where hundreds of residents, mostly rubbish recyclers, on Sunday fought running battles with police who fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.
The rights group Voice of the Copts called the cull, which may take up to six months, a drastic decision that could be seen as part of the “forced Islamisation” pushing Copts to abandon their faith or leave the country. In a statement the group said the Government had long been wanting to rid Egypt of pigs.
The authorities have said pig farming will return within two years and that they will restructure pig farming so that animals are not reared on rubbish tips but on proper farms.
Dr Helmy Guirguis, president of the UK Copts Association, said the Government had agreed to compensate farmers, but the price they had been offered was only 10-15 per cent of the normal value of the animals. He said he was not convinced that Cairo would follow through on its pledge to build designated pig farms. Pig owners are also concerned that if their pigs are killed there will be no way to dispose of the waste previously eaten by them.