When the Egyptian government decided to kill all of Cairo’s pigs last spring in a pre-emptive measure to combat swine flu, they apparently forgot that the pigs performed a vital function in a city with poor public services: eating trash, the New York Times reports. The zabaleen, Cairo’s Christian minority, used to collect trash door-to-door, selling recyclables and feeding the organic waste to their pigs. With all their pigs dead, the zabaleen leave the trash, which now overflows in the streets.
“They killed the pigs, let them clean the city,” said one zabaleen and former garbage collector. “Everything used to go to the pigs, now there are no pigs, so it goes to the administration.” The government has brought in Western-style waste collection companies, who have installed public trash bins, but the city’s population, used to the zabaleen's service, hasn't adapted to the new system.