Last week, a "trickle" of 3,000 dead pigs started floating down the Hungpau River from China's Zhejiang province to Shanghai. That trickle is now a torrent of over 14,000 dead carcasses found in several rivers. There is no end in sight and the Chinese government is staying mum about the crisis. In fact, the government has even stifled an internet blog that called for subtle protest over the pig crisis. According to a March 20 AP article in Yahoo News, authorities pulled at least 13,996 dead pigs from rivers as of Wednesday, yet they claim that the water at Shanghai is safe.
The pig carcasses appear to originate in the Zhejiang province, particularly the major pig farming town of Jiaxing. The Hungpau River is the main artery, but the pig carcass crisis has expanded to other rivers. Some of the dead pigs still had their ear tags attached, which allowed the government to track down eight farmers and fine them 3,000 yuan ($480). The government remains silent about the causes of death or what will be done to stop the flow of dead animals.
An explanation for the mass of dead animals remains elusive. Some witnesses have said that the government shut down the black markets for meat from dead and diseased pigs. Shutting down the black markets may have caused the farmers to dump the dead and diseased animals into the river.
Other witnesses accuse the farmers of feeding their pigs small amounts of arsenic to make their skins look shinier, which may have led to the rising death rate. Despite the possibilities, authorities have not determined a single cause of death and crews continue to pull carcasses out of the rivers.
Some accused the Chinese government of censoring news of the pig disaster after Shanghai-based poet Pan Ting found her posts and blog account deleted. She wrote a blog suggesting a subtle walking around protest to complain about the dead pig tide. This is where protesters simply show up in public places and walk around, pretending to be going about normal business, but actually carrying out a protest. If any more obvious action is carried out, the Chinese government is known for brutal crackdowns.
This is not the first time when China's government dropped the ball during a health crisis. The government was blamed for allowing SARS pneumonia to spread in 2003. The outbreak killed 774 people, infected thousands of others and spread to about 24 other countries.
Many blame China's centralized government and a small number of very powerful men who do not know how to answer to the people. Whatever the reason China suffers from the worst smog crisis and desertification in history and now the people of Shanghai have pork-infested water to sip.