In the city of Huangshi in Hubei province there’s a lake called Cihu Lake. Situated close to the Yangtze River, the lake area appears to be an idyllic scenic spot. Yet, especially in light of recent events, Cihu Lake is blemished by the existence of ten pig farms that are situated on the south-western edge of the lake. After 108 pigs were fished out of the lake in the last few days and several thousand more in lakes and rivers elsewhere in China, the local newspaper Dongchu Evening News wanted some answers, so it sent a journalist to the ten pig farms on Cihu Lake to investigate. The situation the newspaper uncovered is startling. Not only were all the pig farms technically illegal, none of them had the proper paperwork, and the farms were falsifying the labels on their pigs’ ears.
Yet making this deplorable situation worse is the state of government regulation being applied to the pig farms, regulation which can only be described as messy and inefficient. So while we may not yet know the full details of where all the dead pigs in the rivers originated from, the out of control pig farms on Cihu Lake can shed a lot of light on the situation.
The front page of the Dongchu Evening News (东楚晚报) from Hubei province today makes an insightful contribution to our understanding of why several thousand dead pigs ended up in rivers in China. 108 pigs were fished out of Cihu Lake (磁湖) in Huangshi (黄石), Hubei province, and the newspaper today casts a suspicious eye on the ten pig farms on the south-western edge of Cihu Lake. And not without reason, because after the pigs were removed from the lake, authorities in the city went to check up on the ten pig farms and found that not a single one among them had its documents in order, and in particular none of them were holding a valid certificate for animal disease prevention.
Yet when a journalist from the newspaper went to interview some people at the ten pig farms, the manager of one farm let on more than he intended when he protested: “I have a valid business license, and that’s all you need for a pig farm!” This was strongly denied by the animal health authorities in Huangshi, who maintained that you can only obtain a business license once you have the animal disease prevention certificate.
According to regulations from the Ministry of Agriculture, however, the Cihu pig farms are not even supposed to exist. The regulations specify that no pig farm can be situated closer than 500 meters from sources of drinking water or from residential areas, and the Cihu Lake pig farms fail on both these criteria.
Not only are the documentation of the pig farms not in order, the labels on their pigs’ ears are all highly suspicious as well. The label is supposed to state exactly where each and every pig came from, yet the pigs fished out of Cihu Lake have labels linking them to locations far and wide such as Anhui, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces – but none from Hubei. What this suggests is that the farms on Cihu Lake didn’t bother to update the labels or simply falsified them.
Throwing dead pigs in rivers is in fact nothing new and has been happening for years. So why, the newspaper asks, has regulation of this issue been so lax? In fact, as the journalist discovered, government regulation on the issue of pig farming is convoluted to say the least, with no less than seven different government departments (e.g. agriculture, quality supervision, health and hygiene, etc.) having some responsibility for regulation. So the journalist decided to get in touch with each of these departments to find out who is really responsible, but the only reply he got was “it’s not our responsibility”, before being fobbed off with the instruction to get in touch with some other department.
With this chaotic situation, thousands of dead pigs in rivers seem a lot less surprising, if not any less awful.