The residents of Maogang looked on in despair as first dozens, then hundreds, and ultimately 10,164 dead pigs were pulled out of the Huangpu River.
“We don’t dare drink the river water,” said one villager. The township government has had to bring in a week’s worth of drinking water.
It’s a new problem, but the causes – waterway pollution and failures to manage rivers across administrative boundaries and government departments – are old complaints.
“Dead pigs have always ended up in Shanghai. This time they just went there by river, instead of by truck,” said one Shaoxing pig farmer, pointing at a porcine corpse.
Illegal selling of dead meat
It was only two years ago that pigs started to be dumped in the river. “In the past you could sell them, so they didn’t end up in the river.” The pig farmers all referred back to a court case two years ago, which shocked the city.
Everyone in Shaoxing knows about the case, which saw 17 people tried. In November 2012, the three ringleaders were given life sentences.
It was a typical tale for a pig-farming village. Dong Guoquan and two others ran an illegal butcherhouse, buying in dead pigs. “They got them cheap, one yuan or so per jin.” One farmer explained that a young pig which died of illness would weigh less than 50 jin, an older one no more than 100 [one jin is half a kilogram].
But that didn’t do business any harm. The city’s intermediate court found that in only two years Dong and the others had bought and butchered 77,000 pigs and sold the meat on for 8.65 million yuan. Most of them came from the townships of Fengqiao, where the village is, and Xinfeng.
“Once they’d been arrested nobody wanted to risk buying up dead pigs openly,” 57-year old villager Guo Yue (not his real name) told Southern Weekend. His village of Zhulin, in Xinfeng, is famous for supplying pigs to Hong Kong.
But that meant more pigs were getting thrown in the river. Environmental protection staff in the Songjiang district of Shanghai said they’d taken a trip up river all the way to a concrete plant in Pinghu, Shanghai. Traces of dead pigs were visible all along the route.
A worker on a dredger boat in Caoqiao, Pinghu, said that on March 17, when they had already been working for a week, his boat was still pulling out over 20 pig carcasses a day.
“We do it every year at this time,” said a Zhulin villager responsible for the work. The fishermen all change jobs for a while and start catching pigs.
A Zhejiang environmental protection report in 2011 found that 7.7 million pigs were being farmed in Shaoxing. On average 2% to 4% will die, which means between 150,000 and 300,000 corpses need to be disposed of.
“If dumped, they cause bacterial and viral pollution, as well as 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes of chemical oxygen demand,” the report said.
But, still, there are no provisions for proper disposal in place. Many officials – including Chen Yunhua, village secretary in Zhulin; Yuan Liqiang, deputy neighbourhood head in Caoqiao; and Dong Yue, deputy neighbourhood head in Yuantong – said that it was only in 2011, that Shaoxing saw any large scale construction of disposal pits.
But it’s been nowhere near enough. Zhulin is a major pig farming village, but Chen Yunhua explained that there are only seven pits, with an eighth being built.
Others pointed out that one pit can handle three to five thousand corpses. But according to the Shaoxing Daily, 18,400 pigs died in the village in just the first two months of the year. Capacity is overstretched. “The rest just get dumped in the fields or the river,” the villagers say.
Officials try to limit pig farming
A Shaoxing government report admitted that: “the dumping of pigs which have died of illness happens to varying degrees in all districts of Shaoxing.”
“The dead pigs weren’t a big problem in the past, it was pollution from the farming,” said Wang Yubing, deputy at the Pinghu Environmental Protection Bureau. Pinghu borders the Shanghai district of Jinshan and is upriver of the city, and pollution from pig farms further upriver in Nanhu and Haiyan damage water quality.
“The biggest pollution problem for Shaoxing is poultry and livestock farming,” said Xu Luzhong, an inspector with the Zhejiang environmental authorities, when he visited the city. Pig excrement, slurry and the corpses dumped all over mean that the beautiful water town is giving off a bit of a stink.
“There are 130,000 farmers raising over 7 million pigs. Each pig excretes as much as 6 or 7 adult humans,” said Yu Hongwei, deputy of the city’s environmental bureau.
“The government are trying to limit numbers, persuading us to change jobs,” said Chen Yunhua. To cut pig numbers, in 2011 the city set up zones where pig farming was banned or limited, including in Zhulin: “By 2015, pig numbers will be reduced from 7.5 million to about 2 million.” And no pigs may be farmed within 200 metres of minor waterways, and within 100 metres of more important ones, Chen said.
This was intended to improve worsening water quality. A source with the Shaoxing environmental authorities said that despite the measures the city accounted for two of the locations named and shamed when the provincial bureau checked water quality province-wide. Both the urban centre and the wider city had water of sub-Class 5, the worst level of water quality.
And this pollution ends up in the Huangpu River. National People’s Congress representative and professor at East China Normal University Chen Zhenlou said that agricultural chemicals from upstream threaten water quality.
Shanghai relies on water from outside its boundaries, a major headache for its government. It has never managed to do anything effective about upstream pollution.
“The waterways in Shaoxing are just so complex it’s a struggle to monitor them,” complained Ren Weiliang, deputy of the Pinghu water authorities. There are 3,458 waterways in Pinghu alone, stretching for 2,256 kilometres.
And pig farmers are usually very small operations, which makes them harder to regulate. Yuan Liqiang says that most of the farmers in his jurisdiction are households keeping pigs in their yards. There’s so many of them that “sometimes it really is hard to keep control.”
The way waterways are managed is also being re-thought. Ren Weiliang explained that in the past the port, urban, water and environmental authorities were all involved.
“Sometimes they see waste floating downstream but can’t do anything,” said Ren. Pinghu is considering changing the way that works. And to solve problems with cross-boundary coordination the Shaoxing water authorities have set up mechanisms in Xinfeng, Fengqiao and Caoqiao, with boundary rivers being divided up into stretches assigned to different towns.
But those efforts don’t connect up with Shanghai. Zheng Zheng, director of Fudan University Basin Pollution Control Research Center, said that it is currently easy for blind spots to arise between upper and lower stretches of rivers. Shanghai is powerless to regulate its rivers upstream. “We can’t enforce the law, or issue punishments,” Zheng said.
“When pollution crosses boundaries, people try and pass the buck,” Zheng continued. In the end nobody knows who should pay. “A tracing mechanism would solve it.” He went on to explain this would mean 24-hour monitoring, so “as soon as you notice something coming from upstream, it’s the upstream government’s problem – as for which specific body or authority, they can figure that out themselves.”
But water quality on the upper Huangpu – a long-standing source of drinking water – has long been badly damaged. “Water quality on other tributaries was Class 5 or worse as far back as 2004,” recalled one official who participated in a meeting on preventing pollution in important watersheds that year.
Maogang is located by an important source of water, but is still powerless. On January 10 this year, two months before the pig scandal, a leak from a boat carrying chemical containers forced the nearby pumping station to halt work.
To avoid these risks, Shanghai has been forced to look for alternative ways to quench its thirst. “From the sources of the Huangpu to building the Qingcaosha Reservoir at the mouth of the Yangtze, Shanghai is looking for safer water,” said Chen Zhenlou. But the Yangtze isn’t any safer, and its water quality it also under threat.
So Shanghai is even looking at desalinisation. The latest idea is to take water from Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang – “more than 2 billion cubic metres a year.”
• Originally published in Southern Weekend. With contributions from Southern Weekend intern Wang Yue.
- China loves pork too much… (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Life in Zhejiang’s ‘cancer villages’ (wantchinatimes.com)
- GRAPHIC PHOTOS: Over 12,500 Dead Pigs Retrieved From China’s Waters (huffingtonpost.com)
- CHINA: With 6,000 Dead Pigs in River, Troubling Questions on Food Safety (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- China’s ‘Hogwash’ Getting Worse As Floating Dead Pigs In Shanghai River Rise To 3300, Pig Virus Found (infiniteunknown.net)
- Shanghai Authorities Insist Water Is Safe, Despite Floating Pig Carcasses (theepochtimes.com)
The thousands of pig carcasses dumped in a river are a symptom of the rush to satisfy the demand for meat. The Guardian reports
Over the last fortnight, more than 16,000 dead pigs have been recovered from tributaries of the Huangpu, the river that arcs through Shanghai. Mottled and swollen, adult hogs and piglets were first spotted upstream in Henglaojing creek, their bellies forming pearlescent domes among the river debris. Finding a dead hog in this creek isn’t an anomaly. Farmers have been using the waterways as a dumping ground for deceased stock for decades, residents say. It is the numbers that the locals find shocking.
What worries Shanghai residents is that the waterway supplies more than 20% of the city’s tap water. Early tests revealed the pigs carry porcine circovirus, which isn’t infectious to humans, and the water was ruled safe. Though there has been no official explanation for their appearance, tags in the pigs’ ears trace them to Jiaxing in the neighbouring Zhejiang province. Jiaxing is an area where the pork industry flourishes and where 70,000 pigs died this year because of extreme weather conditions and “crude raising techniques”, according to state media.
Citizens have responded with outrage to the Henglaojing incident. “That thousands of dead pigs were dumped in the Huangpu secretly isn’t news”, said Li Mingsheng, a well-known writer, on his weibo (microblog) account. “It’s also not news that 20 million Shanghai residents have drunk dead pig broth for half a month. What’s news is that the Shanghai water bureau claims the Huangpu’s water meets health standards.” Others responded more humorously. In one joke spread through weibo, a Beijing resident boasts that he just has to open the window to have free cigarettes. A Shanghai resident retorts: “That’s nothing, we turn on our taps and have pork chop soup.”
My reaction is more despondent. I visited Zhejiang late last year to report on the booming factory-farm industry, interviewing a young man whose local eco system has been decimated by the arrival of a factory farm. A dead pig in a river is gripping, sensationalist, macabre. But it hints at a deeper crisis: the impact the burgeoning meat industry in the developing world is having on the planet.
As the world’s population expands, incomes rise – and we eat more meat. In 1999, annual meat production worldwide was around 218m tonnes. By 2030 it is projected to be 376m, according to the World Health Organisation. To accommodate the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, we need to eat a quarter of the meat we do now.
Tell that to the Chinese, who are particularly fond of pork. Mao’s favourite dish was hongshao rou, a fatty braised pork belly. The country produces and consumes half the world’s pork, around 50m tonnes in 2011. The average person eats four times what they ate in 1980, but a third less than the average Briton.
To satiate rising meaty appetites, animal husbandry is in a state of rapid change. Backyard pigpens, the method by which Chinese people raised hogs for centuries, are being replaced with Cafos (concentrated feeding animal operations), copycats of the American versions, which the Chinese government is subsidising heavily. A Cafo is likely to be where the hogs in the Henglaojing waters came from. Jiaxing accounts for a quarter of the pigs raised in Zhejiang province, around 4.5m each year.
A downside of the Cafo system is that it’s inefficient. The amount of grain – usually soy – that it takes to feed so many animals renders the energy ratio from crop to pork at 4:1 (beef is 7:1). They are also breeding grounds for viruses – such as porcine circovirus as seen in the Henglaojing pigs, but also foot-and-mouth disease and hog cholera. More worrying for humans is that the use of antibiotics in Cafos is linked to the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The proper disposal of diseased animals should be a global concern.
From the “hogwash” incident, the Chinese government should take stock. It must move swiftly to regulate Cafos, particularly the smaller holdings that have grown haphazardly and without sufficient checks. The farmers involved in this incident made the unwise decision to dump the carcasses rather than burn them (which is more expensive), but why hadn’t the local government stopped similar behaviour before? At least the hogs weren’t sold. In October, a court in Jiaxing heard a case in which 77,000 tonnes of dead pigs had been illegally processed and sold as meat to locals. The defendants made 8.6m yuan (£900,000) from the deals.
Chinese friends and acquaintances are initially bemused by my vegetarianism. Despite the country’s rich Buddhist tradition, they think it’s a quaint, foreign quirk. Something hardwired into the nation’s psyche is the association of meat with progress. I find it difficult to explain to people who had one of the world’s deadliest famines in living memory that I think people today eat too much meat for the good of the planet and themselves. When I was a child, I ate it every day.
- CHINA Pollution? 6,000 Dead Pigs in River Not Affecting Shanghai’s Water, Officials Insist (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- China loves pork too much | Nicola Davison (oddonion.com)
- CHINA: With 6,000 Dead Pigs in River, Troubling Questions on Food Safety (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Number of dead pigs in Shanghai river approaches 15,000 (rawstory.com)
- GRAPHIC PHOTOS: Over 12,500 Dead Pigs Retrieved From China’s Waters (huffingtonpost.com)
- Shanghai Retrieves 6600 Dead Pigs as Farm Confesses to Dumping – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Shanghai sees swine flow easing (rappler.com)
With Beijing and Shanghai people (where I am), this comes from The Guardian…
When Justin Bieber collapsed last week at the O2 arena in London and was taken to a private clinic feeling “short of breath” and needing oxygen, the rumours started flying that he had had an asthma attack. They were denied by his management, but it would have been understandable if he had. Most of last week, London’s air was heavily polluted, with many of the capital’s pollution monitors recording “high” nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels as an acute photochemical smog of fumes and microscopic particles (PM) of acids, chemicals, metals and dust drifted in from the continent, mixed with London diesel exhaust and then became trapped in the still, dry air.
Only a mile or so from the O2, Rosalind Dalton had also been feeling short of breath and needed her Symbicort 200 steroid inhaler. She, too, is a singer, who has been in operatic societies since she was 15, but she says she can’t hold the long phrases these days. She lives near the Woolwich flyover, where a grey, 3ft-high air pollution monitoring box on a slip road to a busy road regularly shows pollution regularly well over the legal limit. Recently she was diagnosed with a long-term lung condition, even though neither she nor her family have ever smoked. “The air pollution has been bad in the last few weeks. On one occasion I set off to walk to Sainsbury’s and turned back because I was having symptoms,” she says.
Meanwhile, Malachi Chadwick found himself wheezing just months after he moved in 2009 from York to London to work with climate change group 10:10. He bikes around 40 miles a week in the city and his doctor has diagnosed asthma – almost certainly aggravated by air pollution. “The air quality of the two cities is noticeably different. When you bike you get [air pollution] full in the face,” she said.
The last few weeks have been stressful for many of the 5.4 million people, including 1.1 million children, who are receiving treatment for asthma and for the tens of thousands of others with respiratory diseases. Since Christmas, there have been four major air pollution episodes, stretching from London to Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds, Dundee and Glasgow. A pollution monitor in Downpatrick in Northern Ireland registered 10, the highest possible level of NO2. On 3 March, the department of the environment advised people to reduce or avoid strenuous activity and Matthew Pencharz, the mayor of London’s environment adviser, said it would be “sensible” for children to be kept away from playgrounds during smog episodes.
Dr Ian Mudway, a lecturer in respiratory toxicology with the environmental research group at King’s College London university, has spent several years walking the routes that children take to school in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, measuring the pollutants in the air they breathe and determining their impacts on their respiratory health. He is shocked at the levels of pollutants these children are exposed to on a daily basis and fears for the permanent damage being done by to their lungs by the ultra-fine particles and gases emitted by diesel engines.
East London has long been heavily polluted by industry but Tower Hamlets has some of the busiest roads in Britain passing close to large high-density housing estates. Nowhere in the borough is further than 500 metres from a busy road and new housing developments targeted at young families are popping up right by main roads.
Air pollution, especially from diesel engines, is a “neglected, hidden killer” and children and old people are especially at risk, says Mudway. “There’s strong evidence that if you live near main roads you will have smaller lungs,” he says. “They will not reach capacity and will be stunted. When, or if, people move to a cleaner environment they still do not recover the function they lost. We have good evidence that every child born in Tower Hamlets will have a reduction in the volume of their lungs by the age of eight. The point is, people die of lung disease later on. You store up a problem that will affect you later,” he says.
He lists some of the effects of polluted air. In the short term, it leads to irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, nausea, bronchitis and pneumonia. Over a longer period it can result in heart attacks and lung diseases, cancers, even damage to the brain, nerves, liver, and kidneys.
“The [people who die] are only the very end of a spectrum of health effects,” he told a group of Tower Hamlet residents at a public meeting organised last month by Friends of the Earth on the extra air pollution which would be caused by a proposed new four-lane road tunnel below the Thames.
“For everyone who dies there are many more who are hospitalised or who have impaired health. Prolonged exposure to elevated [particulate pollution levels] is associated with significant life-shortening and poor respiratory health. Acute episodes can precipitate death in sensitive subjects.”
The more researchers like Mudway look at the health effects of air pollution, the worse it seems to get. The latest figures suggest 29,000 people die prematurely from it every year in Britain, twice as many as from road traffic, obesity and alcohol combined, and that air pollution is now second only to smoking as a cause of death.
Its seriousness is confirmed by Asthma UK polls: “Two thirds of people with asthma have told us that traffic fumes make it worse and one third say a reduction in air pollution would make the most difference to their lives,” says a spokeswoman.
After years of focusing on climate change, government and environment groups are only now slowly waking up to the public health crisis. In 2011, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee calculated that living in an air pollution hot spot could shave nine years off the lives of the most vulnerable people. It concluded that it cost Britain £6-19bn a year, or up to 17% of the total NHS budget, and that 15-20% more people died prematurely from it in cities with high levels of pollution than those in relatively cleaner ones.
London, with 4,300 deaths a year, is one of the worst in Europe and the pollution monitor on Marylebone Road shows the fourth highest levels of NO2 of over 2,000 monitoring stations in Europe. The city has 2,500 schools and 180,000 children within 150m of roads carrying 10,000 or more vehicles a day.
“Fighting change are a few people in government who have either failed to understand that long-term exposure to air pollution is the biggest public health risk after smoking or they simply don’t care and want to cover-up the issue for as long as possible. It is much worse than most of us have realised. It is one of the biggest public health failings for decades,” says Simon Birkett, a former banker who set up the campaigning group Clean Air in London (CAL) in 2009. Joan Walley MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, despairs: “It’s a scandal that the same number of people are dying of air pollution in London now as back in the 1950s. The Government needs to step in.”
Faced with massive health costs, threatened with large fines for not complying with EU laws passed 13 years ago, and warned last week by the UN World Health Organisation that exposure to NO2 is harmful at far lower levels than the limits currently set by Europe, you might think the government would act. But Britain has spent nearly 15 years ignoring the problem, lobbying to extend timetables, working with other countries to weaken the rules and giving financial incentives for people to switch to the most polluting technologies.
Ministers admit they are breaking the laws but claim it is not possible to meet the EU limits. Mayor Boris Johnson has tried small-scale techno-fixes like living walls of plants and dust suppressants but these measures have been shown to be not nearly enough. Last week he proposed an “ultra low emission zone”, which would ban all but the very lowest emission vehicles from central London during working hours. But the measure would not come into force until 2020 and was widely dismissed as PR.
The result of official inaction is that air pollution has barely improved in 20 years and legal limits for NO2 are being regularly breached in most urban areas. Government does not expect EU targets to be met until 2025 in London and 2020 in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Glasgow, West Yorkshire, Teesside, the Potteries, Kingston Upon Hull, Southampton and seven other conurbations. “It’s a disgrace the UK is failing so badly on air pollution – tens of thousands of people die every year. Action by the government to clean up our dirty air is too little too late – and road-building plans will simply make the situation worse,” said Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates.
One reason that it has been able to dodge the law is that modern air pollution is mostly invisible, colourless, odourless, and tasteless, or comes in particles so small they can pas through masks. Sixty years ago you could practically cut the coal smoke belching from chimneys. It turned buildings and clothes black, damaged crops and gave people lasting diseases. But when coal declined, the problem was assumed to have gone.
“We see the health impact today but it’s difficult to take seriously because you cannot see it. The solutions involve closing roads and reducing traffic, so it’s very hard for most political parties to even imagine acting,” said Jenny Jones, London Green party assembly member.
These days air pollution comes largely from diesel engines. It can be best seen when fumes get trapped and a dull orange-grey smog develops. Technically, it is produced by sunlight reacting with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the atmosphere. When sunlight hits these chemicals, they form airborne particles and the result is ground-level ozone or smog. Overall, diesel cars emit less hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and lead pollution than petrol cars, but produce more noxious gases and significantly more minute particles. A 2011 test by government to measure emissions from vehicles in everyday use concluded that, while petrol emissions had improved by 96%, “emissions of NOx [nitrogen oxide] from diesel cars and light goods vehicles have not decreased for the past 15-20 years.
“The pollution mix has changed over time as traffic has emerged as the predominate source. It’s not only the small, nanosize of the particles, but also their changed composition and their interaction with gaseous co-pollutants that give us cause for concern. The lower levels of these particles in today’s air in no way suggests they are any less harmful than the historic pollutant episodes.” says Ian Mudway.
Meanwhile, there are many more diesels than before. They have increased across Europe by 35% since 1990 and, says the Society of Motor Manufacturers, over 50% of all cars registered in Britain are now diesel, up from 23% in 2002. One reason is that cities and government have offered tax incentives for diesels.
“Air pollution remains one of the most under-addressed public health problems, comparable to obesity and alcohol, but some government policies such as encouraging diesel vehicles in cities, are making the problem even worse. It is crucial that perverse incentives that encourage polluting vehicles and technologies are removed,” says Conservative thinktank Policy Exchange.
Last week, ClientEarth, an organisation of activist environmental lawyerstook the government to the highest court in the land over its failure to meet European laws on nitrogen pollution. The five supreme courtjudges, who only hear cases “of the greatest public or constitutional importance affecting the whole population”, must decide whose responsibility it is to enforce European laws.
“The case raises a fundamental question about the rule of law. If the supreme court is unable to give an effective remedy to a clear and admitted breach of EU environmental law, there are grave constitutional consequences. There is now the distinct possibility that this will be referred to the European court of justice,” says ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews.
If it is ruled that Europe should have no say in whether its laws are implemented, then the government need do nothing more and pollution will go on unchecked. If ClientEarth win, it may take Europe years to act. Either way, Malachi Chadwick, Rosalind Dalton and 5.4 million people with asthma will have to wait for respite.
BEIJING — Pork buns and tap water may be off the menu in Shanghai, China’s biggest city with more than 23 million people, after thousands of dead pigs were found floating in the Huangpu River, which flows through the city, and in upstream tributaries. About 6,000 animals have been fished out so far in an operation that began last Friday, according to the Shanghai authorities, with more still surfacing, though at a slower pace. From International Herald Tribune
The questions around the pig die-off — what caused it, why the animals were thrown into the river and by whom — are deeply disturbing Shanghai residents as well as others in China, and the Ministry of Agriculture has announced an investigation. City water authorities say the drinking water sourced in the Huangpu is safe, though one water sample showed traces of porcine circovirus, Xinhua, the state news agency reported, adding it can spread among pigs but not humans.
China is regularly plagued by food safety and environmental scandals, but even so, the appearance of thousands of large, decomposing pigs in the river that feeds the country’s most sophisticated metropolis stands out.
There’s the question of why the pigs have ended up in the river. A report by the Oriental Morning Post, from Jiaxing city upstream in Zhejiang province, suggested there are apparently high death rates in the pig industry there; between 60 and 100 pigs die daily in Zhulin village alone, the dfdaily.com reported, in an article carried by the People’s Daily Web site. It wasn’t clear why.
The village, in Xinfeng county, has pens for dead pigs but they’re full, the report said, quoting pig farmers and disposers in the village. Suspicions are growing that a recent crackdown by the police on the sale of pigs that have died from disease but are being illegally sold into the human food chain may be contributing to the problem, as people dump the animals in the river instead.
“In the second half of last year, the Jiaxing police investigated 12 cases across provinces of illegal buying, selling and slaughtering of ‘disease dead pigs,’ worth over a million renminbi,” the report said.
Pork, known here as “big meat,” is a favorite food in China, but pig farmers say they struggle to make enough money from the business. Farmers have in the past sold dead, diseased pigs “to make a little money,” the report quoted a farmer identified as Hong Wei as saying.
A 100-kilogram, or about 220-pound, pig sells for only about 600 renminbi, according to the article, while feed costs alone total at least 150 renminbi, farmers said. Local pig dealers have proposed that local authorities pay a small fee to farmers to recover dead pigs and help curb the illegal trade, suggesting 10 renminbi, the report said.
Shanghai authorities are trying to assure people of China’s largest city that their drinking water is safe despite finding nearly 6,000 dead pigs in the river that provides water to the city’s taps. ABC News reports
Shanghai residents were further unnerved when health officials determined that the pigs were infected with a disease known as porcine circovirus, but health officials insisted that it does not affect humans.
The pig bodies were found in the Huangpu River about 40 miles north of Shanghai’s 23 million residents, raising fears that they are drinking a “pork broth,” as some referred to it in a moment of black humor.
The government has been playing down the incident and reassured citizens that Shanghai tap water samples passed government test and it is safe to drink.
Shanghai authorities used tags on the pigs’ ears to trace them to the city of Jiaxing in Zhejiang province, upstream from Shanghai. Jiaxing is the main supplier of pork to China’s east coast, with 4.5 million pigs delivered every year.
Jiaxing city government officials denied responsibility for the dead pigs.
“The tags on the pigs’ ears only indicate the pigs were born here,” argued Jiang Hao, the vice director of Jiaxing’s Animal Husbandry Bureau. “It doesn’t mean they were raised here. No signs have been found of any epidemic among animals in Jiaxing, and local hogs’ mortality rate remains normal.”
The government is blaming some farmers in Jiaxing for a lack of environmental awareness, and for carelessly disposing of their dead pigs. The government says it will make every effort to investigate the case and punish anyone who dumped pig carcasses in the river.
Last year, the Jiaxing government started a major crackdown on black market sales of pork from pigs that had died of disease. One farmer told Shanghai’s Xinmin News Net that some farmers now just toss the tainted meat into the river since they have nowhere to sell it.
“Some dead pigs weighing more than 25 kilos were still being sold and making it onto people’s dinner tables,” the farmer said. “But since the government arrested some tainted meat dealers, nobody comes to buy the stuff anymore. So it’s normal that there are so many dead pigs in the river,” he said.
- Nearly 6,000 Dead Pigs Removed From Huangpu River, China (medicalnewstoday.com)
- In China, Dead Pigs With Morning Tea Is Nothing New – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Number of dead pigs in Shanghai river jumps to almost 6,000 (rawstory.com)
- China: Almost 6,000 pigs taken from Huangpu River (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Shanghai Ups Checks on River After Dead Pigs Double to 6000 – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)