First it was 7,500 dead pigs floating down the Huangpu River, two weeks ago, as it was winding its way through Shanghai. A few days later, it had risen to 13,000. And right now it’s over 16,000.
And no one seems to know where they came from.
Nor how 1,000 dead ducks were floating in the Nanhe river in China’s southwestern Sichuan Province.
Chinese authorities say that “many” of the pigs seemed to have come from the city of Jiaxing, where there are some major (and in China that means massive) pig factory farms.
So why would a factory farm suddenly dump thousands of pigs in a river and send them floating down through one of China’s biggest cities and the nation’s commercial capital? What’s going on at these factories? How bad do things have to be there when the owners are suddenly throwing all the pigs in the river?
To add to the alarm that’s spreading across China, the country’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has issued a report that says the water supply is now so bad that it’s causing cancer in many villages that are near factories and other industrial areas. According to Al Jazeera:
So-called “cancer villages” is a term increasingly used to describe areas where the number of cancer cases has increased. It is a phenomenon that has been investigated by journalists, scientists and campaigners, but which had not been officially recognized before.
The paper says that a river flowing through Rui’an city is so bad that not even a $30,000 reward could persuade a local environmental official to swim in it for 20 minutes.
Factory farms may have been afraid of being caught selling diseased dead pigs to brokers who then sell them as food.
And China Daily wrote this week that if the environment is not cleaned up very quickly, “Chinese people will have no clean water to drink in the near future.”
Too late for the pigs and the ducks.
The Xinhua news agency reports that the ducks have been “disinfected” and buried 10 feet underground in 50 plastic bags in a “designated area”. A local official said they pose no threat to local residents and that the river is not a source of drinking water.
Except if you’re a duck.
One likely reason why factory farms might be dumping dead pigs is that police have been cracking down on the sale of diseased dead pigs to brokers who then sell them as food. According to the Associated Press:
The state-controlled Southern Weekly newspaper, citing court documents, said three men were sentenced to life prison in Jiaxing last November for procuring dead pigs to sell their meat. It says the men and their group purchased and slaughtered 77,000 dead pigs in a period of more than two years.
To which, China Daily adds:
Local government leaders must be made to realize that the pursuit of unsustainable economic growth without enough thought being given to environmental protection will only further contaminate the water we drink and pollute the air we breathe.
Such development will lead to nowhere but a dead end.