Earlier this month some 600 dead pigs were discovered in a river near Shanghai. The images were horrifying, but implications were worse. More pigs were discovered every day — the latest count seems to be around 16,000 found near Shanghai — and dead pigs, apparently unrelated to the first outbreak, were found floating hundreds of miles away from the original source.
It was a grim discovery for pork eaters around the world. But there's good news — we may finally know why the dead pigs appeared.
While pig breeders in China are legally barred from sending pigs that die from disease or natural causes to butchers, estimates suggest that dead pigs being sold on the black market might make up to 10 percent of China's pork supply, the South China Morning Post reports.
In an interview with China's CCTV this week, Pan Huimin, a resident of the region where the pigs were first found, told the crew there was a “100 per cent” correlation between the pigs in the river and his own arrest for dealing in dead pigs.
Pan explained that his business was well-known in the region. “I managed [to get rid of the dead pigs] for them while they benefited financially too," he explained.
What appears to have happened is that farmers, perhaps accustomed to keeping pigs who died naturally to sell later, may have panicked upon hearing of Pan's arrest and dumped the pigs. At least one farmer has come forward to admit to dumping the pigs so far.
On the one hand, this seems like good news. The obvious fear with the discovery of so many dead pigs was the outbreak of a (possibly new) disease.
On the other hand, that the illegal sale of dead pigs for food was so common in China should probably cause concern. As Bill Bishop wrote in his Sinocism newsletter earlier this month, "another reason, if you need one, to avoid processed pork in China."
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