CAIRO – Egypt began slaughtering the roughly 300,000 pigs in the country Wednesday as a precaution against swine flu even though no cases have been reported here, infuriating farmers who resisted the move and demanded compensation.
The measure was a stark expression of the panic the outbreak is spreading around the world, especially in poor countries with weak public health systems. Egypt responded similarly in recent years to an outbreak of bird flu, which is endemic to the country and has killed two dozen people.
At one large pig farming center just north of Cairo, farmers refused to cooperate with Health Ministry workers who came to slaughter the animals and the workers left without carrying out the government order.
"We remind Hosni Mubarak that we are all Egyptians. Where does he want us to go?" said Gergis Faris, a 46-year-old pig farmer in another part of Cairo who collects garbage to feed his animals. "We are uneducated people, just living day by day and trying to make a living, and now if our pigs are taken from us without compensation, how are we supposed to live?"
Most in the Muslim world consider pigs unclean animals and do not eat pork because of religious restrictions. They are banned entirely in some Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Libya.