By Jeremy Gillick
Just one week after Egypt began slaughtering its 300,000-strong pig population, Reuters reported that Afghanistan has imprisoned its only known pig.
Afghanistan’s only known pig has been locked in a room, away from visitors to Kabul zoo where it normally grazes beside deer and goats, because people are worried it could infect them with the virus popularly known as swine flu [H1N1].
The pig is a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan, where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious, and has been in quarantine since Sunday after visitors expressed alarm it could spread the new flu strain.
“For now the pig is under quarantine, we built it a room because of swine influenza,” Aziz Gul Saqib, director of Kabul Zoo, told Reuters. “We’ve done this because people are worried about getting the flu.”
Nicole Matthews, a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), was critical of the move–“One pig isn’t to blame,” she said–but suggested that factory farms rather than pigs are responsible for the outbreak.
“Factory farming systems cram 1000s of pigs into their own filth to feed our addiction to meat,” she said. “For anyone who’s concerned about swine flue, the best thing to do is to go vegetarian.”
“The conditions these pigs have to live in are terrible from the time they are piglets. They have their teeth cut out, they’re castrated without pain killers and they’re fed a steady diet of antibiotics. They live nose to tail with other pigs in feces and urine, making it the perfect breeding ground for disease,” she said, adding that “An influenza virus has ample opportunity to move from animal to animal and to grow stronger and mutate in these conditions, so it’s no wonder its evolved to the point it has.”
Matthews said that backlash from the flu should be directed not at pigs but at people. “These factory farms should be shut down for good,” she said.
As for the Egyptian pigs–walking like lambs to the slaughter–Matthews says: “Those pigs were destined for slaughter anyway and my understanding is that they’re just going to the same fate.”