When Pigs Grow Gills

Dead pigs pulled from a river near Shanghai

When will China pay attention to the horrendous state of its environment? Hmmm….maybe that’s where I got the title of this blog post.

In the last three weeks, some 13,000 carcasses of pigs have been pulled from the Huangpu River – one of the main tributaries supplying Shanghai with more than 20% of its drinking water. Tests show the pigs died of disease after an unusually cold winter. Farmers further upstream have been blamed, but authorities have yet to pinpoint the source of the porcine infestation.

Of course the images of hundreds and thousands of dead animals floating in drinking water have disturbed locals. Online conversations question the efficacy of authorities to monitor and control the environment. The same authorities that cannot confirm the source of the 13,000 dead pigs also says tap water is safe to drink and that none of the rotting carcasses or their disease entered the water supply.

And it’s not just the pigs you drink that upset locals. Last week authorities announced 46 people had been jailed for up to six-and-a-half years for processing and selling pork from more than 1,000 diseased pigs. Naturally this contributed to a nationwide drop in the sale of pork. Just weeks ago fast food giant KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) made headlines for selling chicken with higher than acceptable levels of antibiotics and hormones.

All this happened in the week the National People’s Congress elected new officials and set in place a government structure for the next decade. Some couldn’t help but draw parallels to bloated pig carcasses and an inefficient and over-extended government. The Economist agreed in this week’s Banyan column entitled “The old regime and the revolution“:

“The latest in an endless series of public-health, pollution and corruption scandals, it is hard to think of a more potent (and disgusting) symbol of the view, common among internet users, that, for all its astonishing economic advance, there is something rotten in the state of China, and that change will have to come.”

Until then it behooves pigs to learn to swim.

Is this the way to Shanghai?

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