Ezra Klein passes along the news that Israel’s ultra-orthodox deputy health minister has some taxonomic concerns about our flu epidemic:
Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and “we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu,” he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel.
Both Judaism and Islam consider pigs unclean and forbid the eating of pork products.
I don’t get it. Even taking this craziness on its own terms, what’s the problem? Pigs are unclean, flu is unclean, it makes perfect sense that a bad thing like a flu pandemic would come from a bad thing like herds of swine. What’s the deal here?
UPDATE: There’s also this from Dr. Sanne Magnan, Minnesota’s health commissioner: “We’re trying to get away from the term ‘swine flu,’” Magnan said at a press conference today….A possible reason for the name change: The “swine flu” label has the nation’s pork industry squealing, as hog prices plummet in apparent worry over public misperceptions that pork is unsafe to eat.
Yeesh. But at least the motivation is pretty obvious here.