The Filthy Pigs
A friend of Babe speaks out against genocide and other state crimes
Published August 13, 1999 in Whoa!

I'm a pig.

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... in the Whoa! section
... from August 13, 1999

No, not the two-legged, beer belching kind, although a trough of mash would go down well right now. But a pig, domesticated mammal, genus Sus, of the swine family. Tests have shown we're as intelligent as a three-year-old human -- which these days seems smarter than members of the Malaysian government. More than one million of my relatives have been killed in a government-sponsored campaign of porcine genocide since March. It's too late for them now; however there might still be time to save the bacon of the few who are left.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "He's just a sick, diseased swine with a grudge against the government." And I'll admit it: Malaysia's state religion is Islam, and we all know that the followers of Mohammed, well, frankly, never liked my kind. So when we pigs became sick, and people -- primarily adult male pig farmers -- began complaining of headaches before lapsing into comas and dying at an alarming rate, the coincidence was too great and the government decided to implement a Swine-al Solution to wipe us out. But was that really necessary? Or, as we pigs believe, did bureaucratic ineptitude, religious zeal, and election politics corrode the foundations of human decency and cause the needless destruction of a species of animals?

It all started in September 1998. That's when Malaysian authorities began hearing of a virus that was reportedly being transmitted from pig to pig. The culprit was declared to be Japanese Encephalitis. Malays still remember the Japanese occupation, and officials probably jumped at the chance to link them to the disease. They were wrong.

Jane Cardosa, a virologist at the University of Malaysia, points out that Japanese Encephalitis typically affects preteen children and is rarely seen in pig-farming areas. Adults were dying in Malaysia, and some of them had actually been vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis. Oh, and we porkers were also dying, yet Japanese Encephalitis isn't fatal to adult pigs.

The Malaysian government took two heroic measures in responding. First, Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng issued a directive barring health officials from talking to the press about the escalating epidemic. Second, the Health Ministry continued to pointlessly inoculate pigs against Japanese Encephalitis, which had the ironic effect of passing the real virus along the line through the reuse of dirty needles.

This is when the issue began to sizzle for the Malaysian government. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad faces an upcoming election and is being challenged by an increasingly popular party of hardline Muslims known as PAS. Its leader, Fadzil Mohamed Noor has called for Islamic law to be extended to non-Muslims, saying: "According to Islamic teaching, it is every Muslim's duty to try to form an Islamic state." Not only did this type of talk put the fear of God into us pigs, it scared the suet out of the current government.

The government faces a conundrum. To preserve its power, it needs the support of Malaysia's large ethnic Chinese community. Not only do they comprise 30 percent of the population, the Chinese also happen to be the exclusive raisers and eaters of pork in the country. The government's problem: Do you destroy all of us, and deprive the Chinese of their beloved sweet and sour pork -- to say nothing of their livelihood -- or do you allow the human deaths to continue? Plus, Chinese farmers have demanded compensation for all the pigs they've lost. The government has been forced to pay about $4 a snout -- nothing to grunt at in this economically depressed country where my porcine brethren number into the millions.

Just think of the irony: A Muslim country must not only pay for destroying animals it considers abhorrent and doesn't want in the first place; it must also continue to appease and keep healthy the infidel third of the electorate so they can continue to eat mushi pork and keep the present government in office.

Meanwhile, the politics of expediency prevail. The official human death count from the Nipah virus, as the disease is now being called, exceeds 120, and the slaughter of my brothers and sisters continues. The exact nature of the virus remains unknown, but researchers now believe that it is similar to the Hendra virus, which killed 15 racehorses and a human trainer in Australia a few years ago, and is believed to be carried by fruit bats. I guess fruit bats make too difficult a target for Malaysian soldiers, so they've begun to shoot dogs in fear, they say, of the virus spreading to other species.

Sherman Fridman is a freelance writer and novelist who, since returning from Malaysia, has become a vegetarian.