No regrets, Egypt's donkey butchers tell court

Pair say they did the poor a "huge service"


Two Egyptian butchers who were caught selling disguised donkey meat told a court on Monday that they no regrets, as they had managed to put a smile on the faces of the poor.

The two butchers admitted to selling frozen cuts of dead donkey meat to the public as well as to big restaurants and hotels.

"I was doing the poor a huge service," Mohamed Mahmoud Khalifa told the court. "I can't describe how happy they were when they got the meat. Whole families started to eat meat."

Khalifa was caught red-handed on March 3 as he was skinning a dead donkey by a canal in Cairo. He later led police to the place where he stored large quantities of dead animal meat, which he packed and sold to wholesale suppliers, street vendors and well-known hotels and restaurants.

"I started with a dog. I cut off its head, skinned it, and put it in a frozen meat pack after adding lots of spices," Khalifa testified, saying the idea came to him when he noticed animal cadavers in canals and swamps.

Khalifa then recruited the second defendant, Wasfi Sawiris, to start selling the packaged meat.

"I told him I found an excellent source of profit. The business boomed, and the turnout among the poor was very high, especially since at the beginning we sold one kilo for 3 Egyptian Pounds."

Khalifa talked Sawiris into buying a big mincer and the two men began a brisk business selling the cut-price meat. They even managed to recruit someone from a big hotel and starting to supply hotels and restaurants with the tainted meat, he said.

Sawiris, who was arrested after hundreds of customers were seen swarming his store, said he sometimes felt badly about selling dead meat to people, but his intentions were good.

"I didn't want to deprive them from this joy that made them feel they're human," he said.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).