Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Hitchens on the consequences of Egypt's irrational pig cull

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

I'm a little late on this story, but it still seems well worth noting. Earlier this year, I blogged about how the Egyptian government had initiated a mass cull of pigs in an entirely scientifically unjustified attempt to contain swine flu (some suggested the decision was less about swine flu, and more about Islamic views on pigs and a government desire to damage the livelihoods of Egypt's Coptic Christians, many of whom farm pigs).

The reason I bring this up is that I've just spotted this piece by Christopher Hitchens, in which he describes seeing the consequences of this cull:
"It is this crazy action that has shifted the Cairo trash scene from the awful to the near-calamitous. It was alleged by the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, on the basis of no evidence whatever, that the swine themselves were the carriers of the so-called 'swine flu.' (Several friends and relatives of mine have already caught and recovered from this mild infection; everybody knows that actual encounters with pigs have absolutely nothing to do with it.) As a consequence of the pig massacre, the streets of Cairo have become almost unlivable, and the Christian garbage collectors, locally called the zabaleen, have been robbed of their livelihood. 'They killed the pigs, let them clean the city,' as one former garbage collector and pig man, Moussa Rateb, was quoted as saying of the Egyptian authorities."
The pigs, you see, used to eat a great deal of Cairo's waste. Now the city is overrun with the stuff. Be sure to read the rest of the Hitch's piece - it's surely a great example of can happen when religious doctrine, combined with bad science, is allowed to determine public policy.


1minionsopinion said...

That's just crazy. I'm reading a book called Connected right now that deals with how societies function, and how our connections to other people can fuel any and all kinds of reactions, both good and ill. I'm thinking that the whole swine flu "panic"demic is proof that anxiety and fear are far more contagious than the virus probably will be.