A police campaign to curb the illicit trade in sick pig parts in China appears to be having little effect as the number of dead pigs recovered in the last two weeks from rivers that supply water to Shanghai now stands at more than 16,000.
The government in China's financial hub says that 10,570 carcasses have been pulled from its Huangpu river. That is in addition to 5,528 pigs plucked from upstream tributaries in the Jiaxing area of Zhejiang province.
Authorities give daily updates assuring the public that tests show Shanghai's water is safe, but no official has given any full explanation about the massive dumping of pig carcasses.
The dumping follows a crackdown on the illegal trade in contaminated pork.
In China, pigs that have died from disease should be either incinerated or buried, but some unscrupulous farmers and animal control officials have sold problematic carcasses to slaughterhouses. The pork harvested from such carcasses has ended up in markets. As a food safety problem, it has drawn attention from China's Ministry of Public Security, which has made it a priority to crack down on gangs that purchase dead or sick pigs and process them for illegal profits.
Three men were sentenced to life prison in Jiaxing last November for procuring dead pigs to sell their meat, the state-controlled Southern Weekly newspaper reported. It says the men and their group purchased and slaughtered 77,000 dead pigs in a period of more than two years.
Local officials also told Southern Weekly that the city lacks enough facilities to properly dispose of dead pigs. Hog farming is a major business in Jiaxing.
Huang Beibei, a lifetime resident of Shanghai, was the first to expose the problem when he took photos of the carcasses and uploaded them onto his microblog.
“This is the water we are drinking,” Huang wrote. “What is the government doing to address this?”