French animal rights activist and former actress Brigitte Bardot has written to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, slamming the decision to slaughter the country’s pig population in the wake of swine flu.
“Taking advantage of the global hysteria over the propagation of ‘Mexican’ flu, which has nothing to do with animals, in order to launch a campaign to exterminate pigs raised by a destitute section of the population is extremely cowardly,” Bardot wrote in the letter, a copy of which was also sent to AFP.
On Wednesday, the authorities announced that Egypt’s estimated 250,000 pigs would be culled as the world grappled with the spread of swine flu.
But on Thursday, Cairo said the cull was a general health measure rather than a precaution against swine flu after the United Nations said there was no evidence the animals were spreading the disease.
Egypt’s pig population belongs to and is eaten by members of the Coptic Christian minority. The animals are reared in Cairo slums inhabited mostly by Christian rubbish collectors.
In her letter, Bardot urged the authorities not to proceed with their stated intention to set up what the agriculture ministry’s head of infectious diseases Saber Abdel Aziz Galal called “new farms in special areas, like in Europe.”
She called such facilities “horrific and shameful.”
“To want to kill all these animals and then later establish intensive piggeries where they will be packed tightly together and badly treated is unacceptable,” she wrote, urging Mubarak to prevent the planned slaughter.
Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza said on Thursday the mass slaughter would begin in earnest on Saturday.
“It will take three weeks to a month, they’ll kill them in specialised slaughterhouses after they’ve been checked for swine flu,” state news agency MENA quoted him as saying.