correspondents in Cairo, Egypt
17 - May - 2009 /
EGYPTIAN riot police clashed today with Cairo pig farmers trying to prevent their animals being taken away for slaughter.
Between 300 and 400 residents of a district of Cairo threw stones and bottles at police as they arrived to take away their animals for a cull.
Anti-riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, most of them youths.
Egypt began a mass cull of the nation's 250,000 pigs yesterday, despite the World Health Organisation saying there was no evidence the animals were transmitting swine flu to humans.
Officials are calling the slaughter a general health measure.
No cases of swine flu, or influenza A(H1N1), have been reported in the Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab world.
Egypt's pigs mostly belong to and are eaten by members of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority and are reared by rubbish collectors in Cairo's shantytowns.
The rubbish collectors, who used the pigs to dispose of organic waste and sell off some animals from their herds once a year, say the cull will affect their business and wipe out a crucial source of income.
It is not the pigs which the Government of Egypt are aiming to but the poor Christians. The Government since the long time is aiming to destroy any business which the Christians are doing. What a stupid decision! None of the countries around the world is doing what this Islamic government of Egypt is doing. We became a laughable country around the world all because of Islam. What a shame!
Egyptian animal rights activist Amina Abaza deplored the slaughter of pigs and said "the decision to cull them was probably taken only because they belong to the Copts."
"Egyptian riot police clashed on Sunday with stone-throwing pig farmers who were trying to prevent their animals from being taken away for slaughter as part of a mass nationwide cull that has split the country and raised charges or religious persecution.
Between 300 and 400 residents of the hilly Moqattam slum district of Cairo, where mostly Coptic Christian scrap merchants raise pigs, hurled stones and bottles at police even as other pig farmers called on Pope Shenouda III to intervene against the "injustice."Anti-riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, most of them youth. Witnesses said the protesters ransacked a police post and an officer fired warning shots in the air.Seven policemen were slightly injured, a security official said, while at least eight demonstrators were hurt, according to an AFP correspondent and a medic.
"They want to steal our livelihood," protested Adel Izhak, a resident of the Moqattam neighborhood of Manshiyet Nasr, home to about 35,000 scrap and recycling merchants known as the "zabaleen" who raise some 60,000 pigs.Pig farmers and rubbish collectors assembled at the neighborhood's church, where a priest tried to convince them to surrender the pigs.