Shanghai’s Dead Pigs Built Into the System

By Heng He, Epoch Times
March 19, 2013 12:40 pm Last Updated: June 18, 2013 7:56 am

The Chinese Communist Party’s two great annual propaganda fests—the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference—were given even more buildup this year, as the once-in-10-years leadership succession would be completed there. But at the moment the national attention was to be focused firmly on the two meetings in Beijing, it strayed instead to the Huangpu River in Shanghai, on which approximately 16,000 dead pigs have floated during the past few weeks.

No sooner had the dead pigs begun appearing in Shanghai’s main waterway than local officials in Jiaxing City in Zhejiang Province, the source of the dead pigs just north of Shanghai, had explanations ready.

No infectious disease was found. The normal death rate for pigs would account for the number of dead pigs seen floating on the river. The previous long cool spell had caused a higher than normal death rate from the porcine circovirus.

Such explanations, which in any case contradict one another, need to be taken with a grain of salt. 

The Chinese regime is famous for not telling the truth about epidemic disease. People still remember that when SARS was spreading, Zhang Wenkang, then the minister of Public Heath of China, assured the world that working and traveling in China were safe. 

If this was the normal death rate, then why did thousands of pigs suddenly appear in the river all at the same time, which had never been seen before?

As for the cold weather, there are always cold fronts during the spring. If cold weather were the cause, there would be pig die-offs every spring. 

Moreover, people believe the Party may have reasons for hiding something from the public.

The dead pigs appeared during the two meetings in Beijing. Ten years ago, SARS was spreading fast in March, but was covered up—that was also the time of the two meetings and of the political power transition. 

In 2008, the state covered up the melamine-tainted milk scandal to make sure the Olympics went smoothly. Millions of infants and toddlers drank melamine-tainted milk for six more months to protect the regime’s image.

Netizens’ Theories

Netizens have discussed possibilities other than the official ones, as have some local media.

Some reporters went to the villages to talk to the pig farmers. The villagers told the reporters that many pigs had died of plague. Since plague is a general term for contagious diseases, not a real diagnosis, it’s hard to tell what really happened without the lab test results, which the authorities tightly control. The plague hypothesis fits a large number of pigs dying in a short period of time.

Some netizens who seem to know the pig business suggested another possibility, in which the regime’s efforts to clean things up resulted in the dead pigs in the river. 

The first part of the story has been know for years and has also been recently reported by the financial magazine Caixin. To make pigs grow faster, antibiotics are heavily used, at higher dosages and with greater frequency than regulations allow. According to Caixin, one investigation revealed that 13 different types of antibiotics were used in two of three pig farms investigated. 

The antibiotics covered all major antibiotics families except Vancomycin. The direct result is that the antibiotics-resistant bacteria strains increased. Paradoxically, the overdose of antibiotics had made the pigs are more vulnerable to bacterial infection. 

How did the pigs pass inspection? Well, the bribe of several Chinese Yuan per pig would easily get the needed certificate, according to the Caixin report. 

Another known problem is heavy-metal poisoning. Copper and zinc are common additives to pig feed. Besides the usual issue of overdosing the pigs, there is another problem. To reduce costs, industrial wastes are used as the metal additives. These are not pure copper and zinc, but are mixed with different heavy metals that are toxic, such as cadmium. 

The poison arsenic is added to feed to make the pigs look better when put on the market. The lightly arsenic-poisoned pig has smoother skin and redder meat, and thus can be sold at a good price. 

According to the netizens, pigs that are overdosed with antibiotics and suffer from heavy-metal and arsenic poisoning are in bad health and can’t be expected to live very long. In the past, this has not mattered since the pigs were sold before they had begun to show symptoms. Or if pigs died, then the dead pig would still be sold and would end up on someone’s dinner table.

However, early this year, the new leadership launched an anti-corruption campaign. As a result, the Party- and state-related consumption of pork suddenly declined, and pigs were hard to sell. Pigs passed their sell-by date, got sick, and then died. According to the netizens’ theory, that’s why there were suddenly so many dead pigs. 

Also according to the netizens, another attempt to clean things up had assured the dead pigs would get dumped in the river. 

Last year, the Zhejiang authorities initiated a strike-hard campaign on trading sick and dead pigs, with sentences as high as life in prison. On March 14, 46 people were tried for processing and selling sick and dead pigs, and there were other such trials last year. Dumping the dead animals into the river seemed to farmers the most convenient and low-cost way to get rid of the pigs.

Nothing Is Right

There is no proof for the netizens’ theory, but neither is there any proof for the official explanations. Without transparency, any rumor is possible.

There is no freedom of press in China. Any “muckraker” would be in trouble and either lose his or her job or even be put in jail if he or she were to dig deep enough to make some officials or interest groups uncomfortable. 

Tan Zuoren is still in jail for trying to find out who was responsible for the schools collapsing during the Sichuan earthquake. Zhao Lianhai was sentenced to two and one-half years in prison for advocating for the victims of melamine-tainted milk. Without enough exposure and pressure from the media and the public, the regime will never take action to protect the public.

Actually, China has just as many environmental protection and food safety laws as any other country. However, since the law in China is used only to strengthen the Party’s leadership, these environmental and food-safety laws have never been enforced and will not be enforced in the future. 

We still don’t know what went wrong this time, but we know that in the pig business, as well as most businesses in China, nothing is right.

Bad money driving out good money is absolutely the truth in today’s China. The regime and the laws don’t protect those who do business honestly. The result is that in China, no food is safe.

I once met a Falun Gong practitioner who told me a true story. When she was held in the notorious Masanjia forced labor camp, she was in a special team, together with 50 other Falun Gong practitioners, all of whom had refused to give up their beliefs. 

One day, they were assigned to make the casings for sausages. The work area in the labor camp was very dirty, however, and should not have been used for food preparation. 

All of the Falun Gong practitioners in that team refused to work, for the sake of the consumers’ health. Every day, the guard would drag out several practitioners, torture them, and force them to do the work. After several days, even after being tortured in turn, they still refused to work on the sausages. Finally, the guards gave up and assigned them other work to do.

In China, those who want to follow their conscience and not harm others face not only unfair competition from business competitors, but also persecution from the regime for not doing wrong. Society’s deteriorating moral standard is not only due to greed. More importantly, it is built into the design of the regime. This situation has never happened before in history.

Since the authorities denied the possibility of pig plague or other infectious disease, the only measures they have taken are to dispose of the dead pigs properly and try to prevent the dumping of pigs into the river in the future. 

Since Shanghai authorities announced the drinking water drawn from the Huangpu River met all standards, stopping the dumping of the pigs into the river doesn’t solve any real problem. Actually, by blaming the farmers who allegedly dumped the pigs into the river and by blaming the cold weather, the authorities have made clear there is no problem at all.

Shanghai has special meaning for the Chinese Communist Party. The First National Meeting, which marked the establishment of CCP, was convened in Shanghai in 1921 and then moved to Jiaxing and concluded there. 

Ninety-two years later, during this year’s transition of power, one of the most important events for the CCP, 16,000 dead pigs from Jiaxing invaded Shanghai. It just couldn’t be a coincidence.

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"Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times."