Egypt started seizing and slaughtering herds of pigs April 30 as a precaution against Influenza A H1N1, officials and farmers said, despite resistance by farmers and criticism from the United Nations.
Egypt, already hit hard by bird flu, fears another flu virus could spread quickly in a country where most of the roughly 80 million population live in the densely packed Nile Valley, many in crowded slums around Cairo.
But the United Nations said the mass cull of up to 400,000 pigs was unnecessary.
Farmers in the most populous Arab country said the state had begun confiscating animals. State news agency MENA said Egypt had also culled thousands of birds as a precaution.
“They have destroyed us. The pigs were our livelihood,” said 21-year-old Hanan Ahmed, whose family runs a small farm with around 25 pigs in Cairo.
“They took them. They kidnapped them. And they beat them and us. They said they will take them to the slaughterhouse and kill them there,” she added.
The H1N1 swine flu virus is spread by people, not pigs. But culling swine, largely viewed as unclean in Muslim Egypt, could help quell any public panic.
Pigs are mainly raised by the country’s Christian minority.
Dozens of pigs were killed in the early phase of the cull. In the southern village of Deir Abu Hennes, workers suffocated 25 piglets in plastic sacks and killed dozens of adult pigs and gave the meat to their owners, a local official said.
Some farmers there took their pigs to a graveyard to try to hide them from authorities, but the animals were found and killed on the spot, the official and residents said.