Thursday, April 30, 2009

Egyptian Christians suffer from swine flu response

Who would have thought that swine flu and persecuted Christians could be linked in some way?  But yesterday’s announcement by the Egyptian government that all of the country’s pigs were to be slaughtered due to unfounded fears that they might spread the disease will have a devastating impact on Egypt’s Christians.  Being an Islamic country, the only ones who eat or raise pigs are Christians. These farmers, many of them desperately poor, are insisting that their pigs were healthy and that this cull will probably mean the destruction of their livelihoods. 

The Egyptian government is sending mixed messages about whether they will be compensated. Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza told reporters yesterday that would be no need for compensation because farmers would be allowed to sell the pork meat.  There are reports today that they may be compensated but this is to be negotiated.  Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.  But this is only a small part of the problem.  Hundreds of thousands of pigs cannot be properly slaughtered, prepared, and their meat stored in such a short period of time.  Such an oversupply also results in deflationary prices for the product.  Also, as the report below from BBC indicates, the government wants to move the entire industry away from the urban areas to the rural areas.  But this, like in many developing countries, is where many farmers live and have always carried out their livelihood and there is no indication that these pigs have ever caused a health issue or will on this occasion either. It has been suggested that this move is to prevent mass hysteria or is simply an opportunity for authorities to do something (relocation of urban pig farms) that they have wanted to do for a while but lacked sufficient reasons for doing so.  I certainly wouldn’t hold my breath over it if I were an Egyptian Christian farmer.  Had Muslim farmers been so impacted, I wonder what the response would have been?

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