Two weeks on and still no answers on source of dead pigs found in Shanghai river

Theories and guesswork abound about source of the carcasses floating down to Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 March, 2013, 5:26pm

Almost two weeks after dead pigs were first found in Shanghai's Huangpu River, questions about who dumped them, where, and how they died still remain unanswered.

So far, about 9,800 dead pigs have been retrieved from the river, which provides more than a fifth of Shanghai's drinking water. Another 3,600 have been retrieved from waterways in neighbouring Jiaxing, in Zhejiang province.

Shanghai's municipal government ramped up checks of water in the river and at water plants. They concluded that water quality in the river had not been affected and the city's tap water remained safe. The authorities also said that no pork from dead pigs was discovered in markets.

Jiaxing, which Shanghai's government has said is the source of the carcasses, insisted that no epidemic had occurred there. An official from the city's animal husbandry and veterinary bureau said Jiaxing was not the only source of the dead pigs found floating in the Huangpu River, but did not say which other places were to blame.

Neither Shanghai nor the Zhejiang authorities have announced an investigation, and the Ministry of Agriculture has sent a team, led by its chief veterinarian, to instruct officials on the disposal of dead pigs in Zhejiang last week.

The scandal has been a hot topic among Shanghai residents, with widespread criticism of the authorities' apparent lack of urgency in tracing the source of the carcasses.

Chen Wei, a 27-year-old white-collar worker in the city's Jingan district, said he was wondering why no explanation had been issued by the authorities in Shanghai or Jiaxing.

"What is our government doing every day? Are they too stupid to find out the reasons or do they want to cover up something from the public?" he said, adding that he was concerned similar incidents would happen again.

One microblogger asked if Jiaxing's government was dumping pigs into the river.

Jiaxing, one of the largest pig breeding bases in the Yangtze River Delta, produced 4.6 million pigs last year. Pig sales account for as much as 80 per cent of local farmers' incomes.

Pig breeders in Jiaxing said some villagers dumped carcasses in rivers but it was unlikely that the carcasses found in Shanghai came from their villages.

"Our village has assigned someone to collect and dispose of dead pigs," said a resident of Yongfeng village in Xinfeng town who called dead pig collector Gu Jinlin to pick up the bodies of two suckling pigs on Thursday.

"But I know that some villagers will just throw the dead pigs in the waste yard because they think calling Gu and waiting for him to arrive is time-consuming. Some other villagers, whose house are on the banks of rivers, will dump the carcasses into the water and they think that's convenient."

Wei Liang, director of the Youqiao village committee in Daqiao town, said it was impossible for thousands of dead pigs to float from Jiaxing to Shanghai, given that waterways in its villages are narrow, slow running and that barriers are erected in them to prevent dead pigs from floating downstream.

"Our barriers are made of bamboo bars and plastic grids. We have one or two people to patrol and clean up if there is any dead pig [found in the water]," he said, admitting that some villagers with "low ethics" tended to dump dead pigs into the water.

A pig breeder from Yangzhuang village in Xinfeng town said the mass dumping of dead pigs into the river was thanks to the recent disappearance of a black market in which illegal dealers bought dead pigs from farmers, processed them and sold the meat to restaurants.

"It's well known among us farmers that some traders were arrested at the end of last year and no one dares to sell the dead pigs," he said.

In November, three people were jailed for life by a court in Jiaxing for illegally purchasing, processing, transporting and selling pork from dead pigs, while 14 accomplices received jail terms ranging from 18 months to 15 years, the Legal Daily reported.

A migrant worker from Anhui who works as a cleaner in Yangzhuang village said she had seen people pick up dead pigs from the waste yard and put them on to trucks on four occasions last year.

"They are absolutely not the carcass collectors hired by the village committee," she said. "But I haven't seen these people this year."

Gu, the collector of dead pigs employed by Yongfeng's village, said the number of dead pigs had risen in the past two months because of illnesses including diarrhoea and coughing. He picked up about 40 dead pigs every day in his electric pedicab.

The 60-year-old, who is paid 2,000 yuan a month, said he threw the carcasses he collected into five "non-hazardous treatment pools" in the village and then covered them with lids.

Jiaxing has 600 such pools, which have cement walls, are five metres deep and range from 100 to 300 cubic metres in size. The pools holding the dead pigs treat the carcasses through a kind of "anaerobic fermentation". The lack of sufficient pools has been partly blamed for the large number of dead pigs.

More than 300,000 dead pigs received "non-hazardous treatment" last year, but 70,000 pigs have died so far this year, the people.com.cn news portal reported.

A farmer in Yongfeng village said the increase in pig deaths in the past few months could have been caused by environmental pollution from a chemical plant in the village that had recklessly released untreated fumes and waste water since it opened last year. Dramatic rises or falls in temperatures could also kill young pigs, she said.


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