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The Count of Dead Pigs Pulled Out of Chinese Rivers Is Up to 16,000

Recent plagues of dead animals floating down China's rivers may be due to farmers evading heightened environmental regulations

Earlier this month, locals spotted what would prove to be the first of a plague of dead pigs floating down the Huangpu River in Shanghai, which supplies drinking water to the metropolis. The pig death toll has steadily risin since then—16,000 confirmed at last counting.

But just as officials said they were finishing up with recovering the last of the carcasses, dead ducks joined the swine in polluting China’s rivers. Locals in Sichuan Province spotted around 1,000 of the birds floating down the Nanhe River, the BBC reports.

As for the dead pigs, officials still have not produced an explanation for the animals’ presence. The Huffington Post writes:

Hog farmers have told state media that the dumping of swine carcasses is rising because police have started cracking down on the illicit sale of pork products made from dead, diseased pigs.

Local officials also told Southern Weekly that the city lacks enough facilities to properly dispose of dead pigs.

Though many hog farms are situated upstream of Shanghai, the authorities still haven’t nailed down any culprits. The New York Times explains that authorities do have their eye on the upstream farmers, though: 

Those suspicions seemed to be confirmed when Shanghai officials said that more than a dozen of the pigs carried ear tags indicating that they were from Jiaxing. The authorities then announced that they had detained a farmer who confessed to throwing his animals into the river.

But in Jiaxing, farmers denied dumping pigs into the river, calling it preposterous and saying that the animals could not possibly have floated all the way to Shanghai.

It’s also possible, the Times writes, that the animals died on their way to Shanghai and that truck drivers decided to dump the bodies in the river. The paper argues, though, that this may actually be a bit of positive environmental news from China:

In May, for example, the police in this hog-producing city arrested four people who had sold dead pigs to slaughterhouses. And in December, a Zhejiang Province court sentenced 17 people to prison sentences, one for life, for processing and selling meat from pigs that had died of various diseases. In less than two years, the group had collected about 77,000 animals.

So, as the authorities have cracked down on people selling diseased or dead pigs, agriculture experts say, it is possible that someone may have decided it was better to dump dead pigs into the river.

Officials insist to locals that the water is still safe to drink and that the city’s pork is fine to eat.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Is It Safe to Eat Pork? 
Horse Meat Turned Up in Irish and British Burger Meat 

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