The price of principles

It's 40 quid.

In October we're going on holiday to Skala in Kefalonia. We're staying at the Villa Costa, a small family-run hotel with just 7 rooms. Neither of us has been to Greece before and we're really excited about it - it'll be our first holiday for 12 months and it's been a busy year.

Skala wasn't our original destination. Back in January we made a booking for the luxurious Hyatt Regency in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, for the same week in October. It was expensive, but it looked worth it. We've been to Egypt before, cruising from Luxor to Aswan, and were looking forward to exploring Sharm.

Then in April the Egyptian government responded to the outbreak of H1N1 (known by the media as swine flu) by ordering the slaughter of more than 300,000 pigs.  Putting aside the issues of potential religious persecution (the vast majority of pigs in Egypt are owned by Coptic Christians, the majority of the country being Muslim and non-pork-eaters), the bad science behind the cull (this is a human pandemic, the virus is not transmitted through pigs), and the potential public health implications (many of the pigs in Egypt are fed on organic waste which will now rot in situ), it was the nature of the cull that appalled us.

Few countries have the facilities to carry out a cull on this scale. The cull of cattle in the UK during the foot and mouth outbreak in spring 2001 showed how ill-prepared we were then. Although large numbers of cattle could be killed in a relatively humane fashion (although even here the use of captive bolt guns and intra-cardial injections was controversial), the logistics of disposing of the carcasses led to vast mass burial sites (up to 500,000 cattle in each) and the unforgettable pyres.

The solution in Egypt? Throw hundreds of live pigs on top of each other into dumper trucks, drive them some distance to mass graves, throw them into the pits and cover them, still alive, in chemicals including quicklime. This results in a lingering, painful death. It's a shocking way to treat any living thing, and as small-scale pig-keepers we know how sensitive pigs are.

Warning - you may find this video distressing.

So last month we cancelled our planned trip to Egypt, paid Sovereigh the 40 quid amendment fee, and saved about £1000 in the process. Some of this went to support Compassion in World Farming, who are campaigning for the Egyptian government to introduce animal welfare legislation outlawing this barbaric treatment of livestock.


Well, I hope you won't be disappointed with Greece - I love the Greek Islands. I've only been to Kefalonia once on a daytrip (via hydrofoil, which was another first for me), but it looked beautiful, although we couldn't didn't spot any mandolins.

If there is the potential for daytrips to other islands though, it's certainly something I'd consider, as a lot of the islands are very different in character with different things to see and do.

Posted by: JackP at July 10, 2009 2:19 PM

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