Egypt uses H1N1 flu as pretext to massacre pigs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2009:
CAIRO, PARIS–After condemning the pointless massacre of
pigs in Egypt in response to a “swine flu” that swine rarely get and
have yet to verifiably pass to any other species, the 2009 meeting
of the Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on May 24 elected Nihat
Pakdil of Turkey to become OIE European region secretary general.
Pakdil, as Turkish deputy undersecretary for agriculture,
in 2005 ordered a pointless massacre of dogs in response to the avian
flu H5N1, even though dogs have never been infected by H5N1.
Despite Pakdil’s ascent, Africa Network for Animal Welfare
founder Josphat Ngonyo was hopeful, he told ANIMAL PEOPLE, that the
OIE conference discussion would prevent anything like the Egyptian
pig killing “from ever occurring again, through the concerted effort
of OIE, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and the
international animal welfare community.”
Attending the OIE meeting in Paris as an international
representative for Compassion in World Farming. Ngonyo was also
recently appointed to the editorial board of Gateway to Farm Animal
Welfare, an online service of the United Nations Food & Agricultural
Organization. The OIE, originally part of the League of Nations and
20 years older than the FAO, operates under FAO auspices.
“There was much pressure on the OIE to intervene [in Egypt],
since the pig killing violated the OIE standards for humane killing
in connection with disease control,” Ngonyo said. “The OIE
position remained that OIE cannot force member states to implement
the OIE standards, but will assist them in building the capacity to
WSPA and International Coalition for Farm Animal Welfare
delegate David Wilkins said that Egypt had accepted in principle an
“offer of assistance in training personnel in humane handling,
slaughter and transport.” Details are to be arranged “in Cairo in
the next few weeks,” said Wilkins.
Egyptian chief agricultural veterinary officer Abdil Samaha
and government veterinary services chief Hassan Aidaros told animal
welfare group representatives at the OIE meeting that the culling had
stopped, after 160,000 pigs were killed, leaving about 10,000 pigs
for breeding stock at a new pig-rearing location yet to be designated.
Recounted Wilkins, “The chief veterinary officer [Samaha] explained that the Egyptian minister of health had received
information from the World Health Organization that control of swine
flu might entail slaughtering pigs if they were being reared in close
proximity to humans.”
WHO has repeatedly denied ever recommending that pigs be
killed, in absence of any evidence that they either had the new
variant H5N1 flu, identified in April, or could transmit it to
humans even if infected.
However, Wilkins continued, the Egyptian parliament “also
agreed that pigs should be slaughtered. The minister of health and
the minister of the environment used this as an excuse to instruct
various local authorities to carry out the slaughter. These
authorities did not use trained personnel. The result was inhumane
and cruel slaughter. The minister of agriculture, the chief
veterinary officer, and the government veterinary services were not
consulted,” or so Samaha claimed.
The start of the pig cull on May 2, 2009 met violent resistance.
“Police were deployed in force around the Cairo slum district
of Manshiyet Nasr where hundreds of residents, mostly Coptic
Christian rubbish recyclers, fought running battles with police
firing tear gas and rubber bullets,” reported Mona Salem of Agence
“I wonder if this measure has been taken because the pigs
belong to Copts,” Society for the Protection of Animal Rights in
Egypt founder Amina Abaza suggested to Samer el-Atrush of Agence
“Adel Hammouda, the chief editor of the weekly al-Fagr and a
Muslim, picked up on the religious undertones,” reported Maggie
Michael of Associated Press.
“They found in this black epidemic their golden opportunity
to wage their religious war against Christianity, hiding behind the
pigs,” wrote Hammouda.
Impounded pigs were trucked away to be killed at the Bassatin
slaughterhouse complex, the largest in Egypt. Furor over the
pig-killing spread from the Coptic minority to the mainstream after
Heba Nasreddin of the government-controlled weekly Al-Ahram reported
that “Only the males are killed in accordance with the rules.
Piglets and sows are hit with an iron bar and left to bleed to death.”
The independent newspaper Al-Masri Al-Yom on May 17 posted
video described by Alain Navarro of Agence France-Presse as “pigs
being beaten with iron bars, piglets being stabbed, and animals
being kicked alive into bulldozer buckets.”
Added Associated Press writer Maamoun Youseff, “It showed
men standing in the backs of trucks skewering squealing piglets with
large kitchen knives and hitting others with crowbars, tossing them
in front of a bulldozer. Piles of bleeding bodies, some still
moving, were transferred to larger trucks, which took them to the
desert to be buried.”
Contrary to the claims of Samaha and Aidaros to the OIE
delegates, government agricultural vets appeared to be involved.
“In the video,” continued Navarro, “Mohamed el-Mugharbil, deputy
mayor of Kashkus near Cairo, describes how chemicals are poured on
animals caged in lorries, leading to a slow death. Ali Shaaban,
head of the site where the corpses are buried, confirmed the method.”
“The pigs are covered with chemical products and left for 30
or 40 minutes until they are dead. Then we throw them in the ditch,”
“These are disinfectants. The throats of the animals are
slit before they are buried,” department of infectious diseases head
Saber Abdel Aziz Galal told Navarro.
Wrote Navarro, “The Ministry of Agriculture issued
instructions,” at the outset of the massacre, “that owners should
kill their pigs by piercing their hearts with a needle and then
slitting their throats before burying them in pits lined with
“Forbidden by Islam”
Sheikh Salim Mohammed Salim, head of the fatwas committee at
the University of Al-Azhar, responded to Navarro that this killing
method is “strictly forbidden by Islam…whatever it is, including a
Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Fathi Sorour said the killing
should be done in a “civilized and humane way, because animals have
rights like human beings.”
Participants in online discussion of the killing at Islamic
web sites often cited two Qu’ran passages that forbid eating pigs.
Verse 2:173 states, “He hath forbidden you only carrion,
and blood, and swine flesh, and that which hath been immolated to
(the name of) any other than Allah.”
Verse 5:3 elaborates, “Forbidden unto you (for food) are
carrion and blood and swine-flesh, and that which hath been
dedicated unto any other than Allah, and the strangled, and the
dead through beating, and the dead through falling from a height,
and that which hath been killed by (the goring of) horns, and the
devoured of wild beasts, saving that which ye make lawful (by the
death-stroke),” according to the rules of hallal slaughter, ” and
that which hath been immolated unto idols.”
Also cited, from the Hadiths of Bukhari, in a passage
narrated by Abu Thalaba: Allah’s Messenger forbade the eating of the
meat of beasts having fangs.”
Some asserted that the passages make pigs themselves haram,
to be exterminated. Others pointed out that especially when read
together, these three passages clarify that eating a pig is haram
because pigs are fanged scavengers, who consume carrion. Eating
dogs or cats would be haram, for the same reason–but the animals
themselves are not condemned for being as Allah made them.
Attorney Ahmed El Sherbiny appealed on behalf of the Egyptian
Federation for Animal Welfare for the Egyptian parliament to “speed
up passing the suggested animal welfare legislation which was
submitted to the Minister of Agriculture two years ago. Had the
legislation been adopted,” El Sherbiny said, “the present cruelty
could not have taken place.”
Pig purges occurred in other nations.
In Chennai, India, reported The Hindu on May 4, officials
impounded 153 of the estimated 400-500 pigs in the city. Another 208
pigs were impounded from five suburbs “and let off in distant places.”
In Indonesia, said the Jakarta Post, “The Batam regional
administration culled around 500 wild boars raised on farms in Batam
city.” Batam mayor Ahmad Dahlan told the state news agency Antara
that as many as 15,000 boars would be killed later, and that since
they were raised illegally, the farmers would not be compensated for
The Baghdad Zoo killed a trio of 10-year-old boars, reported
Jomana Karadsheh of CNN, “to break a barrier of fear” among
visitors, zoo director Adel Musa told her.
Kabul Zoo director Aziz Gul Saqib took Afghanistan’s only
known pig off display, reported Agence France-Presse.
Panic over the new variant H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak caused
U.S. pork producers to lose $2.5 million a day in late April 2009,
reported the National Pork Producers Council. But even as the new
variant H1N1 virus spread to more than 11,000 people in 42 nations
worldwide, there was still no evidence that pigs had any recent role
in transmitting it, and there was mounting evidence that it could
turn deadly only in people with pre-existing health issues that
opened them to severe infection. Otherwise, new variant H1N1
appeared to be less dangerous than ordinary winter flus.
A team headed by Rebecca Garten of the Centers for Disease
Control & Prevention reported in the May 22, 2009 edition of Science
that the genetic elements of the new variant H1N1 strain might have
circulated in pigs undetected for 10,000 virus generations before
somehow crossing to people.
“The new strain’s ancestry has ties to a pig farm in North
Carolina where in 1998, scientists discovered that pig, bird and
human viruses had combined in pigs to form a new strain of swine flu
that also infected a handful of humans,” summarized Associated Press
writers Margie Mason and Alexandra Olson. “Most of the current
strain can be traced to that combination. At some point along the
way, it combined with other flu strains and jumped back into
humans–just when and where exactly may never be known.”
As the June 2009 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press,
15,510 confirmed new variant H1N1 flu had been detected, in 53
nations. A third of the cases had occurred in Mexico, including 85
of the 99 known human fatalities. As the disease spread worldwide,
epidemiologists were increasingly puzzled about the clustering of
deaths in Mexico. Most of the fatalities appeared to originate from
exposure in the region between Mexico City to Vera Cruz, or from
exposure to other people who became infected there.
University of Maryland virologist Maria Salvato, Ph.D.,
cautioned fellow members of the International Society for Infectious
Diseases that the investigation might be “heavily biased towards
blaming everything on influenza,” paying too little attention to
possible bacterial co-infections.
The first identified cases of new variant H1N1 in humans
occurred close to a pig farm owned by Granjas Carroll, a subsidiary
of the Smithfield international conglomerate. No trace of new
variant H1N1–or any flu–has turned up among the Granjas Carroll
pigs. This suggests that even though new variant H1N1 was in the
community, the Granjas Carroll biosecurity precautions were adequate
to keep the pigs from being exposed.
However, pigs raised in intensive confinement are routinely
given prophylactic doses of antibiotics. This has the dual effect of
increasing the pigs’ resistance to bacterial infection, and
increasing the antibiotic resistance of the bacteria. Thus, in
theory, the pigs might be able to fend off some sort of as yet
unrecognized bacterial infection that occurs in the Mexico City/Vera
Cruz corridor, but has not spread with the flu virus, and is deadly
to people who don’t get antibiotic treatment promptly–or at all.
The only known case of pigs getting new variant H1N1 “swine
flu” came in Alberta in April 2009. The Alberta outbreak was
apparently transmitted to the pigs by a farm carpenter who had
recently visited the infected region in Mexico. All of the pigs
promptly recovered, but the farm was indefinitely quarantined. As
ongoing pig births combined with inability to send pigs to slaughter
created overcrowded conditions, the formerly infected herd were
culled in early May 2009, Alberta chief veterinarian Gerald Hauer
Concern that new variant H1N1 flu might combine with the
deadly H5N1 avian flu to produce a global flu epidemic heightened at
the end of April 2009 when researchers at the Kobe University Center
for Infectious Diseases in Japan found strains of the H5N1 virus in
52 pigs, among 402 pigs examined, in four Indonesian provinces.
“Since the appearance of the novel H1N1 swine-related virus
in the international arena, the highly pathogenic avian influenza
H5N1 virus has been somewhat outside the public spotlight,”
cautioned ProMED animal disease moderator Arnon Shimshony.
“Simultaneous circulation of both viruses may lead to serious
consequences, particularly in countries with considerable pig
populations, in case co-infection of pigs with both viruses occurs,
potentially followed by virus reassortments. China has the potential
to be the site of such development,” Shimshony predicted.