Great Moments in Public Health

Killing Egypt's pigs

When swine flu first hit, Egypt killed its pigs. All of them. Now this senseless decision has left Cairo with a major public health problem on its hands.

The pigs used to eat tons of organic waste. Now the pigs are gone and the rotting food piles up on the streets of middle-class neighborhoods like Heliopolis and in the poor streets of communities like Imbaba.

Ramadan Hediya, 35, who makes deliveries for a supermarket, lives in Madinat el Salam, a low-income community on the outskirts of Cairo.

“The whole area is trash,” Mr. Hediya said. “All the pathways are full of trash. When you open up your window to breathe, you find garbage heaps on the ground.”

The pigs belonged to the city’s traditional waste collectors, Christians who lost their animals and their livelihoods. “They killed the pigs, let them clean the city,” says one. “Everything used to go to the pigs, now there are no pigs, so it goes to the administration.”

Update: It doesn’t make me feel any better about this story to see that the pigs seem to have been buried alive.

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I’m also reminded of the 4 million or so cows the UK ended up slaughtering and burning during the BSE crisis, because we couldn’t be bothered to maintain basic standards of animal husbandry.