A Plague of Diseased Pigs Is Poisoning China’s Rivers, and Maybe Your Dinner
Last month, more than 16,000 dead pigs were found in tributaries of the Huangpu River, not far from Shanghai, in eastern China.
At the same time, scores of diseased pig carcasses were also found miles away in Liuyang River, in the south-central Hunan Province. The massive number of dead pigs discovered nationwide caused great public concern.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China supplied the market with 700 million pigs in 2012. That’s about half the pig production of the world. Even with a conservative estimate of a natural mortality rate of 3 to 5%, that means 18 to 35 million pigs die of disease every year. Disposing of these carcasses is not a simple affair.
In theory the Chinese government has come up with a sanitary way for farmers to decontaminate and dispose of these carcasses. Diseased animals have to be buried at least 1,5 meters deep or cremated. Farmers can apply to receive a subsidy of 80 Yuan ($12) for each diseased pig they dispose of in this way.
But in practice, dead pig carcasses are most often thrown into rivers or dumped somewhere. A large number of them are sold on the black market, and end up on people’s plates.