The news that thousands of dead pigs are floating in Shanghai's Huangpu River is being carefully managed by Chinese officials.
The news apparently was kept bottled up while the "two meetings" were being held in Beijing. The news was first reported in the newspaper of Jiaxing on March 4, but it did not hit major news media until March 11.
The first message was that the water is still safe to drink. Now attention has turned to quelling any rumors of a pig disease epidemic.
Vice Minister of Agriculture Chen Xiao emerged from the big meetings in Beijing to give answers on the dead pigs at a press conference. He explained that it's normal for pigs to die and the best you can do is keep the mortality rate to a minimum. Chen said statistics reported to the Ministry show that the animal disease situation has been stable with only three outbreaks of foot and mouth disease. Of course, he acknowledged that some small, backward farms don't use good practices and are vulnerable to disease.
A livestock official with the Zhejiang Province Agriculture Department--the source of the dead pigs--insisted that swine fever did NOT the cause the pigs to die. He said they were mostly piglets of 10 to 20 pounds who froze to death. Their resistance was low and it was exacerbated by wet conditions.
Pigs froze to death in Zhejiang Province? A check of a weather site for Pinghu (a district of Jiaxing), which seems to be the main source of the dead pigs, the temperature was down to 7 degrees centigrade--cold but not freezing--and doesn't seem to be cold enough to cause a mass kill-off of thousands of pigs.
The Zhejiang official said the number of dead pigs in the river was consistent with normal mortality rates. He said Jiaxing has 7 million pigs. Good farms have a mortality rate of 10 percent and it can be as high as 20 percent on others.
Does that mean it's normal for thousands of dead pigs to show up in the river at once?
Or has the government's crackdown on selling meat from dead pigs pushed them from butcher shops into the rivers?
Yesterday this blog reported news from Bamboo village in Jiaxing where a local person read off numbers showing 10,000 pigs died in January and 8,300 in February. A reporter contacted the propaganda office of the Nanhu District of Jiaxing and the official there said those numbers were from inaccurate data.