Imagine yourself talking a stroll up to the river only to find the water is murky black, with rotting pig carcasses floating at your feet. According to eye witness accounts, mutilated pigs have been spotted with their organs exposed, and dead piglets were a common sight. This is daily life for some villagers in certain Chinese provinces.
If you've been following international news for the past year, you already know about the thousands upon thousands of rotting pigs that have been floating in Chinese rivers in early 2013. And this has happened numerous times, including one incident where over 16,000 pigs were floating in the city river of Huangpu province. For any pig lover, they are heart-wrenching pictures to see.
If you choose to see them, click here.
This raises all sorts of questions about not only water sanitation in China, but food quality and how pigs are raised. How all ofthis came abouthas beensomewhat of a mystery, but there are theories.
Most Likely Culprits
With the rise of pig factories, there is a higher rate of discarded pigs. In 2012, China consumed half of the world's pork at 50 million tons. Roughly 300,000 dead pigs are discarded in China per year, and it is only reasonable to surmise that these pigs could originate from factory farms. The Huangpu province is one such place that has a large pig factory,which has placed many small-time farmers and fishermen out of business. The manure and other forms of pig waste also find way into local rivers.
And small farmers are the culprits as well.
Under Chinese law, pig farmers are required to send any diseased or dead pigs to special processing pits, but a black market trade has formed where marketers get hold of unwanted swine. Two butchers were sentenced to life imprisonment for processing over 77,000 illegal pigs, but this sentence is usually not the norm. As regulators are cracking down on the trade, more farmers are simply throwing thee pigs in rivers rather than abiding by the law.
A Chinese factory farm did admit to dumping the pigs in the water, but so far there have been no major repercussions for this illegal act.
In all likelihood, it is a combination of farmers and factory workers that discard the unwanted pigs.
Villagers have been quite vocal about factory farming and the contamination of their water, but despite the horrid sights, Chinese officials maintain that drinking water is safe nonetheless.
Pulling Back the Curtain
China's pig problem represents the Middle Kingdom's growing dichotomy of prosperity and poverty. With the rise of the Middle Class, meat consumption has soared over the years, fueling the need for more pork products. However, it is often the countryside that has to deal with the effects of Chinese industrialization and urbanization. Heavy pollutants are found in village drinking supplies, and the pig problem is just another example of this.
But the Chinese government is trying to clean up its image by reducing pollution and enforcing meat safety standards.However, China will have to do more, since the nation has been contending with the problem of clean water shortages stemming from pollution and drying rivers. But it is not enough as more villagers are launching protests, and are coordinating online despite heavy censorship.
Government cleanup efforts have been underway, with workers using decontaminants to clean the water, along with fishing out any dead pigs. Tests were conducted for porcine circovirus, and even though some of the pigs tested positive, there have been no major outbreaks. And the pig circovirus poses no threat to humans. Despite government assurances, more residents are resorting to drinking bottled water. And even without a viral contamination of any kind, the cesspit of disease that festers from the bloating corpses, blood and internal organs, not to mention the chemicals used in cleaning the water, makes the water not only unfit for human consumption, but it is obvious by the discoloration of the tap that flows from kitchen sinks.
It's a horrendous ordeal, but we'll see if the government will begin enforcing tougher standards as industrialization continues.