2017-09-11 15:47:58

More than 200 tons of rotting pig carcasses were recently dug up in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, exposing the illegal burial of diseased animals, as well as possible government negligence.

The remains were found in late August at three sites on Dayin Mountain, near the city of Huzhou, after a local resident had tipped off an inspection team from the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Five people from Huzhou Industrial and Medical Waste Management Center Co. Ltd., the company responsible for handling the pigs, were detained by police, Beijing Youth Daily reported Monday in an article that has since been deleted.

The animals had not been disposed of in accordance with regulations — which, for example, say the pigs should not have been buried near a residential area. After they were removed from the sites, the animals were burned, according to a statement posted Monday to the Weibo microblog of the Huzhou government. “The burial spots have been sterilized and refilled, without any risk of an epidemic,” it said. The government promised afterward that it would monitor the soil and water quality near the burial sites.

The dig was long awaited by residents living in a village near Dayin Mountain, who had earlier lodged a complaint about the burial sites, Beijing Youth Daily reported. Initially, the government said in a notice published in the Huzhou Daily that they had looked through the company’s records but found no mentions of burials.

“After receiving the complaint, we sent our staff to Dayin Mountain but could not see any sign of burial,” Shen Hongxing, deputy bureau chief of Huzhou’s agricultural bureau, told Sixth Tone. Only after a ministry inspection team that was temporarily stationed in the area got involved were the hogs discovered.

According to a report by business news outlet Caixin, Huzhou Industrial and Medical Waste Management Center Co. Ltd. did not have a valid license to bury the remains of diseased animals, though it was nevertheless contracted in 2009 by the Huzhou agricultural bureau to do so.

When asked if the case indicated a lack of effective government supervision, Shen said that the country in general did not have a proper way of dealing with dead animals until a year or two ago, and that regulations on how to bury or burn animals’ remains were last revised in 2006.

The question of how to dispose of animal carcasses was widely discussed in 2013, when more than 10,000 pig carcasses were found floating down the Huangpu River, which runs through central Shanghai. Most of the pigs came from Jiaxing, a city upstream in Zhejiang, and had died from being kept in overcrowded stalls. Chinese farmers raised around 375 million pigs in 2016.

In 2014, an undercover investigation by a state broadcaster China Central Television found that the meat of diseased pigs was being sold at a market in eastern China’s Jiangxi province. Most of the pigs had died of foot-and-mouth disease. Eight government officials in Jiangxi were fired because of the incident.

Li Enze, an attorney specializing in environmental law at Beijing Impact Law Firm, told Sixth Tone that the incident in Huzhou should be seen as an urgent call for better regulation.

“Dealing with the remains of diseased animals requires cooperation between many government departments,” Li said. “But there are no unified regulations or guidelines among these departments, which leads to a lack of supervision and responsibility.”

Editor: Kevin Schoenmakers.

(Header image: A pig stands in the middle of a road after escaping from a truck in Zhongshan, Guangdong province, Nov. 19, 2012. Zhao Xueming/Zhongshan Daily/IC)