CAIRO (AP) — 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 blocked streets and stoned vehicles of Health Ministry workers who came to carry out the government\’s order.
The measure was a stark expression of the panic the deadly outbreak is spreading around the world, especially in poor countries with weak public health systems. Egypt responded similarly a few years ago 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, scores of angry farmers blocked the street to prevent Health Ministry workers in trucks and bulldozers from coming in to slaughter the animals. Some pelted the vehicles with rocks and shattered their windshields and the workers left without killing any pigs.
“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?”
“It is unfortunate,” the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech said of Egypt’s decision. “The crisis today is in transmission from human to human. It has nothing to do with pigs,” he told The Associated Press.