Pig farmers bow to Muslim calls to cut stocks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 September, 2007, 12:00am

Pig farmers in Malacca have agreed to reduce the state's stocks by two-thirds in deference to their Muslim neighbours, for whom the animal is offensive and banned on religious grounds.

The agreement reached on Wednesday avoided a potentially ugly confrontation between the farmers, nearly all of whom are ethnic Chinese, and officials, mostly Muslim Malays, who had gathered outside the farms to cull the pigs.

Hundreds of police had been deployed to enforce the culling after a year of negotiations between the state government and the farmers collapsed last week.

The number of pigs will be reduced to 48,000 from 148,000. The deadline for the cull is September 21, but industry officials said it would be impossible to meet.

'Slaughtering the pigs in huge numbers would flood the market and push down prices,' said Lee Ah Fatt, president of the Federation of Livestock Farmers' Associations of Malaysia. 'If prices collapse, the whole pig industry will suffer. This is not a realistic solution.'

Pig-rearing is a lucrative Chinese-dominated industry. It is centred in Malacca with a ready market in Singapore. But Malays object to the industry's presence and have frequently pressured the government to ban it.

'Pig effluent is discharged into rivers from where we draw our water supply,' Muslim lawmaker Said Yusof told parliament on Thursday. 'It is not about race. It is about cleanliness and good living.'

But opposition lawmaker Fong Poh Kuan charged that the demand to reduce the pig population is discriminatory. 'Everything here is discriminatory, from education to employment and ownership of business. Now even pig-rearing is targeted,' she said.