Mar 15 2013
In a river that flows through Shanghai, Chinese officials have pulled 6,000 dead pigs from the water, CNN reported. The situation is undeniably grotesque: “Sanitation workers, clad in masks and plastic suits, have been fishing the bruised pig bodies surfacing in the Huangpu River. The pink, decomposing blobs have wreaked foul odors and alarmed residents.”
According to CNN, the corpses began turning up in the river after a government crackdown on the selling of meat from diseased pigs. In a bind, farmers sought a riparian solution to the problem of disposing them. Gross.
China’s pig-dumping scandal must be seen the context of the nation’s rapidly industrializing hog-production system—as this 2011 Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy report shows, national policy is driving a lightning-fast switch from backyard hog production to vast US-style hog factories. (And now poultry production is following suit.)
But as China reshapes its meat production in our image, we have no standing to feel superior when scandals like the current one in Shanghai’s hinterland erupt. That’s because we don’t do a very good job of protecting our waterways from the hog industry, either. Consider Iowa, which houses around 18 million hogs, making it our most hog-intensive state. All of those hogs concentrated into a relatively small space generate unthinkable amounts of toxic manure. How much? Food & Water Watch weighs in:
• The nearly 733,000 hogs on factory farms in Plymouth County, Iowa, produce twice as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.
• The more than 857,000 hogs on factory farms in Hardin County, Iowa, produce three times as much untreated manure as the sewage from the greater Atlanta metro area.
• The more than 1 million hogs on factory farms in Sioux County, Iowa, produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Los Angeles and Atlanta metro areas combined.