UPDATE: The number of dead pigs retrieved from China’s Shanghai river has now reached 12,566. Head veterinarian for China’s Agriculture Ministry, Yu Kangzhen, told state media Saturday that there has been no major swine epidemic, but some samples tested positive for the common porcine circovirus and the epidemic diarrhea virus. Yu also said cold weather and fluctuating temperatures have led to a recent spike in baby pig deaths. However, villagers maintain that pig dumping is on the rise following police campaigns against the illegal trade of pork products from diseased pigs. Authorities have repeatedly assured Shanghai residents that tap water is safe, but locals remain concerned. — Global Animal


Lauren Melella, Global Animal

BEIJING — “What’s been polluted is not only Shanghai’s river water, but also the spirit of our country people.” Beijing-based writer Li Mingsheng expressed shock when he learned of the latest number of dead pigs in Shanghai.

Since last Friday, authorities have recovered hundreds more dead pigs from a river that provides clean drinking water to Shanghai. As of today, the total number of dead pigs floating along China’s financial hub has risen to over 6,600.

Photo credit: BBC
The number of deceased pigs found in Shanghai’s main river doubled in a few days to nearly 6,600. Photo credit: BBC

Despite horrendous and graphic images which have understandably worried many residents, officials continue to believe the water supply remains safe. However, several of the pigs retrieved from the river were swollen, rotten, and even some with their internal organs visible.

As a result, the news of Shanghai’s drinkability has been met with great criticism by residents and China’s Twitter users, where the hashtag “Huangpu River dead pigs” has emerged.

“Cadres and officials, we are willing to provide for you, but please don’t let us die from poisoning. Otherwise who will serve you? Please think twice,” said cybercitizen Shi Liqin.

The unexpected surge in in the disposal of diseased pigs is believed to originate from pig farms in the upstream Jiaxing area in the neighboring Zhejiang province. Due to current police campaigns which act to curb the illicit trade of pork products harvested from diseased pigs, farmers have taken to the river. 

Last year, police arrested 12 suspects and confiscated nearly 12 tons of tainted pork from a gang which acquired and slaughtered diseased pigs. On Wednesday, a Zhejiang court sentenced 46 people to jail for producing unsafe pork from sick pigs that they had acquired and slaughtered between 2010 and 2012. Police in Wenling have seized 13,708 pounds of diseased pork from various gangs.

Although authorities have attempted to deter this type of overwhelming tragedy, clearly much more work needs to be done for the sake of residents, their health, and the treatment of thousands of pigs.

Furthermore, the state-run China News agency said Monday that Zhejiang had reported no swine epidemic, and that according to a provincial agriculture official, cold weather is to blame for the deaths of the pigs.