Farmers Battle Egyptian Cops Over Swine Cull

UN calls pig slaughter unnecessary; critics see religious targeting
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2009 5:32 PM CDT
Egyptian riot police firs tear gas during clashes with Protesting pig farmers at the neighborhood of Manishyet Nasr at the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt Sunday May 3, 2009.   (AP Photo/Nasser Nouri)
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(Newser) – Egyptian farmers are flinging stones and dodging rubber police bullets over a government order to slaughter the nation's pigs, the BBC reports. Originally touted as a way to protect the population against swine flu, the cull has reignited religious tensions between the country's majority Muslims and Coptic Christians, who farm and consume most of Egypt's pigs.

Farmers say killing an estimated 300,000 pigs will harm their livelihood and disrupt pigs' useful service: the disposal of organic waste. The government now says animals shouldn't be raised on garbage in slums, but on proper farms, and touts the slaughter as a fresh start. There are no recorded swine flu cases in Egypt, and the World Health Organization says animals are yet to infect people with the illness.