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March 13, 2013

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Now nearly 6,000 pigs taken from river

The number of the dead pigs fished out of the Huangpu River in Shanghai's Songjiang District had risen to 5,916 by 3pm yesterday, officials said, with the numbers expected to increase.

Dead pigs were also found in waters in the city's Minhang and Fengxian districts, according to online posts, but this has not been confirmed by local authorities.

Shanghai's water quality was normal yesterday and no pollution had been found, officials said. They said the city is working to ensure its water quality, including removing pigs while they are further upstream, setting up aquatic plant barriers and increasing the frequency of quality checks.

Meanwhile, the Jiaxing government in Zhejiang Province has confirmed that 14 ear tags recovered indicated the pigs were from the city, which borders Shanghai. But it told a press conference that this didn't mean they were raised there.

Spokesman Wang Dengfeng said tags only indicated place of birth. "From what we know, we don't exclude the possibility that the dead pigs found in Shanghai were from Jiaxing. But we are not absolutely sure. The incident is still under investigation.

"It is unclear where the dead pigs were raised, thus the dead pigs might be from elsewhere."

He added: "Waterways crisscross Jiaxing, Shanghai and Jiangsu Province, and Jiaxing is a low-lying area, so water doesn't necessarily flow from Jiaxing to Shanghai."

So far, there had been no reports of abnormal animal disease in Jiaxing, Wang said.

Previous reports said that 10,078 pigs in January and 8,325 in February died in a village in Jiaxing.

But Jiang Hao, deputy director of the Jiaxing Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Bureau, said: "The figures still need to be verified."

Jiang admitted that farmers in Jiaxing would dump dead pigs in the river because they thought "dead pigs are inauspicious and they are unaware of environmental protection and lack of law knowledge."

He said: "We have been looking into the source of the dead pigs and are closely cooperating with the Shanghai government."

Experts from the Shanghai Animal Diseases Control and Prevention Center collected more samples yesterday in a bid to find out what had caused the pigs to die.

The porcine circovirus was detected in previous tests. The disease is widespread in pigs but has no effect on other livestock or humans, the Shanghai Agricultural Commission said.

A government official of Zhejiang Province told China News Service that the pigs had died because of the cold weather.

A resident in Jiaxing's Zhulin Village who declined to be named told the Oriental Morning Post it was common that thousands of pigs died because the village was breeding too many.

The newspaper said Jiaxing accounted for a quarter of the pigs raised in Zhejiang Province.

The large number of dead pigs had previously attracted illegal vendors who recycled them, processing the meat and selling it to consumers.

The leader of one criminal ring that had processed 78,000 sick and dead pigs since 2008 was sentenced to life in prison. Other members of the 17-strong ring, which was cracked last year, were jailed for between eight months and 12 years.

The pigs involved were from Nanhu and Haiyan in Jiaxing, and Jiangsu and Shandong provinces.

No need to panic

Jiang said Jiaxing offered a subsidy of 80 yuan for every dead animal given to the government for safe disposal. But villagers told the newspaper that they didn't receive the subsidy. Since there was limited land to bury the pigs, villagers started to dump them in the river.

In Shanghai, officials have advised consumers not to panic after online rumors of illegal vendors taking some of the dead pigs from the river to be sold locally.

Gu Zhenhua, vice director of the Shanghai Food Safety Office, said supervision of pork in local markets had been tightened to prevent tainted meat reaching the public.

Anyone found dealing in pork from the dead pigs would be severely punished, Gu said.

"So far we haven't detected any such illegal behavior," Gu said. "There is also little possibility of these dead pigs being sold in local markets."

Zhejiang farmers wouldn't throw the pigs away if there were still profits to be made, he said.


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