dead pigs in a river
Reuters

In the week and a half since we first brought you the all-important details on those dead pigs filling the Huangpu River in China, officials have raised the body count to more than 16,000.

On Sunday, the government said the pulling-dead-pigs-out-of-the-water operation was “basically finished.” Chinese official media reports that some of the dead animals were traced by their ear tags to pig farms in Shaoxing, and their owners have been prosecuted. Farmers in Shaoxing have recently been charged with selling meat from diseased animals.

The New York Times points out the silver lining of the porcine flotilla: At least the diseased pigs aren’t ending up on dinner plates. As the government cracks down on contaminated meat, the only place to put them is in the river. Three cheers for food safety!

“Dead pigs have always ended up in Shanghai. This time they just went there by river, instead of by truck,” a Shaoxing pig farmer told The Guardian.

A Zhejiang environmental protection report in 2011 found that 7.7 million pigs were being farmed in Shaoxing. On average 2% to 4% will die, which means between 150,000 and 300,000 corpses need to be disposed of.

“If dumped, they cause bacterial and viral pollution, as well as 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes of chemical oxygen demand,” the report said.

But, still, there are no provisions for proper disposal in place.

One big story here seems to be: Oh my god China is farming a lot of pigs. But heck, so are we. Tom Philpott at Mother Jones makes the case that U.S. factory farming of pigs and other animals is supergross too. Epic loads of pig shit contaminate our lands and waterways, even though the imagery is not quite as immediately horrifying.

And now, in the Sichuan province in central China, there’s a new, slightly different problem: The Nanhe River is clogged with about 1,000 dead ducks of unknown origin.