-C. Paula de los Angeles
For the zabaleen of Egypt, garbage collecting is a way of life. Women sort it, children collect it and play in it, trash is a commodity. Even pigs, who co-inhabit the same neighborhoods as the zabaleen, eat the separated rotten food from it. A grandson of the original zabaleen expresses, "It's not a job, it is a life". But this may soon have to change.
In an extreme reaction to the fears of swine flu epidemic spreading around the world, Egypt decided to kill all its pigs (~300,00), even though there have not been any cases within the country yet. Despite international outcry to halt the procedures because of its inhumanity and lack of justification (the pigs are not spreading the disease), the Egyptian government has refused to stop. The pigs do not even receive a quiet death, but a violent one consisting of stabbing and metals rods.
Shockingly, the government has admitted that the mass massacre of the pigs is not just to prevent the spread of swine flu, but to clean up the lives of the zabaleen.
Many important cultural questions need to be asked, especially with respect to forcing one culture's ideas on another. The country's majority Muslim population appears to be a motivating force to get rid of the pigs, against the will of the zabaleen, who tend to be Chrstian. Furthermore, the government insists on "cleaning up" the zabaleen, placing judgment on their way of living. Finally, what is the danger of using incorrect scientific data to justify government policy?
Very interesting and sad dilemma.
NY times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/25/world/middleeast/25oink.html?scp=1&sq=infectious%20disease&st=cse