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Swine in China译文来源:龙腾网 HTTP://WWW.LTAAA.COM


Empire of the pig


China’s insatiable appetite for pork is a symbol of the country’s rise. It is also a danger to the world.

中国对猪肉的无底洞般的胃口标志着中国的崛起,也是对世界的威胁译文来源:龙腾网 HTTP://WWW.LTAAA.COM

PIG number 5422 saunters into the pen, circles its few square metres and mounts a plastic stand. The farmer cleans the animal’s underside, feels around and draws out what appears to be a thin pink tube around 30cm long. He begins to massage. Pigs elsewhere snort, grunt or squeal, but the alpha pig is unmoved. Soon he has filled a thermal cup with more than 60 billion sperm. Around 150 pigs will owe their short, brutish lives to this emission.

5422号猪漫步进入围栏,在狭小的空间内转了转,然后爬上一个塑料台。养猪人弄干净猪的下体,为猪撸了撸(feel在俚语里,指摸弄…的身体,尤指生殖器等部位) ,然后拿出一个粉色细管,约30厘米长。他开始按摩。其它猪哼哼着,噜噜着,尖叫着。但5422不受影响。很快,养猪人装满了一保温杯的精子,足有600亿个。这些精子足可以产出150头猪,150个短暂、残忍的一生。

A malty smell hangs in the air at the Fuxin Breeding Farm in Jiangxi province in central China, 10 hectares of low concrete barns and fields beside a small reservoir, which is home to around 2,000 pigs. The business was started four years ago by 31-year-old Ouyang Kuanxue. Mr Ouyang’s friends say he was destined to be a pig farmer—he was born in the Chinese zodiacal year of the pig—but his own explanation is more prosaic: when he came back to Pingxiang, his hometown, in 2003 after studying management at university in Beijing, he could not think what else to do. His grandfather was a coalminer who kept a few pigs. His father already had 100. He decided to expand.


Now the whole family is involved: together they have three farms with a total of around 5,000 swine. Mr Ouyang’s younger brother is in charge of production; his sister-in-law runs the office. The past year has been hard for them and other pig farmers, Mr Ouyang says, because pork prices have been low and feed expensive. But this lean year followed many fat ones. Mr Ouyang drives a Volkswagen SUV; his wife has a new Audi, wears a Cartier bracelet and runs two nail bars; they own an apartment in a new block in the local town. Mr Ouyang has a panoply of pig-related news feeds on his phone. Still, when he goes out for dinner with friends, he tends to avoid pork.


A brief history of Chinese pork


The family’s good fortune is emblematic of China’s flying pig market over the past 35 years. Since the late 1970s, when the government liberalised agriculture, pork consumption has increased nearly sevenfold in China. It now produces and consumes almost 500m swine a year, half of all the pigs in the world. The tale of Chinese pigs is thus a parable of the country’s breakneck economic rise. But it is more than symbolic: China’s lust for pork has serious consequences for the country’s economy and environment—and for the world.


Pigs have been at the centre of Chinese culture, cuisine and family life for thousands of years. Pork is the country’s essential meat. In Mandarin the word for “meat” and “pork” are the same. The character for “family” is a pig under a roof. The pig is one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac: those born in that year are said to be diligent, sympathetic and generous. Pigs signify prosperity, fertility and virility. Poems, stories and songs celebrate them. Miniature clay pigs have been found in graves from the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). Historians think people in southern China were the first in the world to domesticate wild boars, 10,000 years ago.


For centuries sacrificial pigs—and the eating of pork—featured prominently in all forms of commemoration and festivity. At the autumnal Double Ninth Festival (on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month), male elders gathered at their ancestors’ tombs and slaughtered a pig as a symbol of that forebear’s ongoing provision for his descendants. When an estate was in financial trouble, pigs were the last expense to go, says James Watson, an anthropologist at Harvard University, because if the autumn rites were neglected, the ancestor would die a second, terrible death, a final expiration of his spirit.

几千年来中国人在祭典上节日上献祭猪肉享用猪肉。九九重阳节时,年长者杀猪以祭先人,猪肉也象征着祖先对后代子孙的赐福。哈佛大学人类学家James Watson说:当人们遇到经济困难时,也不会轻易把猪卖掉,因为若无秋季的祭典,祖先的灵魂将会魂消魄散。

Almost every rural home once had a pig, not least because, well into the Communist era, the animals were part of the household recycling system. They consumed otherwise inedible waste and were valued for their manure (even Mao Zedong was a fan of the “fertiliser factory on four legs”). And their meat has always been central to Chinese cooking: it has “the perfect flavour for Chinese cuisine,” reckons Fuchsia Dunlop, a food writer and cook. Nothing is wasted. Pigs’ faces are served whole as a gourmet treat; their brains, says Ms Dunlop, are “soft as custard, and dangerously rich”. The appeal is medicinal as well as culinary: the innards are ascribed therapeutic benefits.

几乎每一农家都有一头猪,这是因为猪是家庭生活循环的一部分。猪能吃那些人没法吃的饲料,猪粪还能作肥料。猪肉在中国烹饪里居核心地位。美食作家和厨师Fuchsia Dunlop说:中国饮食中猪肉是绝佳食材,猪的每个部位都不浪费,猪头肉能做成佳肴,猪脑松软的如同蛋黄酱,内脏有食疗作用。

From trotter to tail, the Chinese eat the whole hog. Still, for much of China’s history, pigs were a luxury consumed only rarely, sometimes extremely rarely. That has changed dramatically.


Everything but the squeal


Lei Xiaoping, the manager of Mr Ouyang’s farm, eats pork for every lunch and dinner these days—swine from the farm that have died in a fight or are too small to sell. He is not squeamish about guzzling pigs he has reared himself. After all, as a child Mr Lei (now aged 51) ate pork only three times a year.


Even before the revolution of 1949, most people in China got only 3% of their annual calorific intake from meat. Pork soon became scarcer still. Tens of millions died in the famine that followed Mao’s Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s and early 1960s. For decades after that peasants would rub pork fat around their woks to give their vegetables a meaty hint, says Ms Dunlop, before putting the fat away to use on another occasion. As recently as the early 1990s many Chinese mostly subsisted on a diet of vegetables bought at street markets.


For Mr Lei, as for many of his countrymen, the years of deprivation are well within living memory. Not surprising, then, that eating meat has become a symbol of triumph over hardship, as much a part of China’s transformation as the towering skyscrapers and glistening cities. Grandparents who once went hungry stuff their grandchildren with the treats they lacked—and top of the list is pork. The average Chinese now eats 39kg of pork a year (roughly a third of a pig), more even than Americans (who typically prefer beef), and five times more per person than they ate in 1979.


The most obvious impact has been on the pigs themselves. Until the 1980s farms as large as Mr Ouyang’s were unknown: 95% of Chinese pigs came from smallholdings with fewer than five animals. Today just 20% come from these backyard farms, says Mindi Schneider of the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. Some industrial facilities, often owned by the state or by multinationals, produce as many as 100,000 swine a year. These are born and live for ever on slatted metal beds; most never see direct sunlight; very few ever get to breed. The pigs themselves have changed physically, too. Three foreign breeds now account for 95% of them; to preserve its own kinds, China has a national gene bank (basically a giant freezer of pig semen) and a network of indigenous-pig menageries. Nevertheless, scores of ancient variants may soon die out.

这极大影响了猪或者说养猪业。海牙国际社会科学研究所的Mindi Schneider表示:80年代时,95%的猪来自于小规模养殖;而今,只有20%的猪来自于家庭散养。一些国有的或合资的工业化的养殖场每年生猪出栏量能达到10万头。这些猪一生都呆在金属板条上,不接触地面,不见阳光,只有很少的猪能繁衍后代。猪在生理上也有大变化。所有的猪里95%是国外的三个品种。为了保护本土品种,中国建有国立的基因库,冷冻了猪的精液。还建了一个本土原生猪种的保护网络。以避免古老的品种灭绝。

But China’s pigs are far from the only victims of their popularity. Demand for them worries the Communist Party, underpins what will soon be the world’s biggest economy and threatens Amazon rainforests.


This little piggy stayed home


The Chinese eat so much pork that when its price goes up, the cost of other things rises, too. For the Communist Party, therefore, keeping affordable meat on the table is vital, not least for the stability of the economy. In 2007, for example, an estimated 45m pigs died in China from “blue ear pig disease”. Pork prices rocketed; the annual rate of increase of the consumer price index (sometimes known as the “consumer pig index” because of the creature’s prominent role in it) hit a ten-year high. Panic buying ensued. There were reports of customers being injured in a crush on a supermarket escalator when rushing to buy cheap chilled pork in Guangzhou, and a general pork-buying frenzy across China. Imports doubled.


In response the party established the world’s first pork reserve, some of it in frozen form and some the live, snorting variety. This aims to keep pork affordable and reasonably priced: when pigs become too expensive, the government releases some of its stock onto the market; if they become too cheap, the reserve buys more porkers to keep farmers in profit. Other pro-pork policies include grants, tax incentives, cheap loans for farms and free animal immunisation—all intended to boost intensive pig farming and to keep plates loaded high with Chinese pork. According to Chatham House, a London-based think-tank, the Chinese government subsidised pork production by $22 billion in 2012. That is roughly $47 per pig.

作为应对中共建立了世界上首个猪肉储备机制-包括冷冻肉和生猪。这是为了向市场提供足够的猪肉和保持合理的价格-当猪肉价格太高时,政府向市场投放一些储备;当肉价过低时,政府向养殖户购买猪肉以维持养殖户的利润。其他的支持政策包括-拨款补贴、税收优惠、低息贷款、免费的防疫-这都是为了促进养猪业,以及保证中国人的餐盘里有足够的猪肉。据一伦敦的智囊机构Chatham House,中国政府2012年为养猪业补贴了220亿美元,平均每头猪补了47美元。

Yet even the Communist Party can no longer control every aspect of this vast industry. That is partly because the appetite for pork is now so great—and growing so fast—that sating it depends on places far beyond China’s borders. Chinese pigs, in turn, are reshaping the environments of faraway countries.


The Communist Party prizes self-sufficiency in food. Most of the pigs China eats are indeed home-grown. But each kilogram of pork requires 6kg of feed, usually processed soy or corn. Given the scarcity of water and land in China, it cannot feed its pigs as well as its people. The upshot is that Chinese swine, which previously ate household scraps, increasingly rely on imported feed.


Ms Schneider reckons that more than half of the world’s feed crops will soon be eaten by Chinese pigs. Already in 2010 China’s soy imports accounted for more than 50% of the total global soy market. From a low base, grain imports are rising fast as well: the US Grains Council, a trade body, predicts that by 2022 China will need to import 19m-32m tonnes of corn. That equates to between a fifth and a third of the world’s entire trade in corn today.

Ms Schneider认为在不久将来全世界超半数的用于饲料的谷物将会被中国猪吃掉。2010年,中国的大豆进口占全球市场超过50%。谷物的进口也在飞速增长,美国谷物协会预计到2022年中国的进口需求是1900万吨到3200万吨玉米。这是现在全球玉米贸易的五分之一到三分之一。

As a result, land use is changing drastically on the other side of the world. In Brazil, more than 25m hectares of land—parts of which were once Amazon rainforest—are being used to cultivate soy (Chinese companies have not signed up to the “soy roundtable”, a voluntary association, the members of which agree not to buy soyabeans from newly deforested land). Entire species of plants and trees are being sacrificed to fatten China’s pigs. Argentina has chopped down thousands of hectares of forest and shifted its traditional cattle-breeding to remote areas to make way for soyabeans. Since 1990 the Argentine acreage given over to that crop has quadrupled: the country exports almost all of its whole soyabeans—around 8m tonnes—to China. In some areas farmers harvest two or three crops a year, using herbicides that have been linked to birth defects and increased cancer rates.


All these imports have made China ever-more exposed to global commodity prices. China has responded by buying land in other countries, some of which is used to grow feed crops or to raise pigs that are sold onto the domestic market at preferential prices. China itself is secretive about these purchases, but the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian think-tank, calculates that it has bought 5m hectares in developing countries; others think the total is higher. When Shuanghui, China’s largest pork producer, bought Smithfield Foods, an American firm, in 2013, it acquired huge stretches of Missouri and Texas. As demand for pork rises, China’s porcine empire is sure to expand.


Pigging out


Feeding the pigs is not farmers’ only concern. Their greatest fear is disease: growth slows when a pig gets sick, and, even more worryingly, swine on modern Chinese farms tend to be genetically similar (many are half-siblings), so when one gets ill, much of the herd may succumb. Farmers routinely add small doses of antibiotics to their feed, and this, too, has daunting knock-on effects. In America and Europe such practices are associated with the emergence of “superbugs”, bacteria in animals and humans that are resistant to most antibiotics. In 2009 pigs exported from China to Hong Kong were found to harbour one such bug. The mainland government acknowledged the problem, yet the use of antibiotics, hormones and growth-promoters is barely regulated.


These drugs pass into the wider food chain partly via sizzling plates of pork, and partly through the 5kg of manure that the average pig produces a day. This once-desirable substance is now a critical problem for China. Though large swathes of land have been set aside to contain it, they are poorly managed. The billions of tonnes of waste China’s livestock produce each year are one of the biggest sources of water and soil pollution in the country, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. The 16,000 dead pigs that were dumped in the tributaries of the Huangpu river, a source of Shanghai’s tap-water, after a virus outbreak in 2013, were a lurid indicator of a seeping national problem.


Porcine waste also contributes to emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Intensive swine-farming is much more polluting than smallholding. So, as well as depriving Earth of the natural cooling function of the rainforests they displace, Chinese pigs contribute to global warming more directly. Greenhouse-gas emissions from Chinese agriculture increased by 35% between 1994 and 2005. The global expansion of livestock production is one of the primary causes of climate change, says Tony Weis of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, responsible for almost a fifth of emissions produced by human activity.

猪还排放甲烷和一氧化二氮,一氧化二氮的温室效应是二氧化碳的300倍。所以,中国猪不仅通过砍伐亚马逊雨林摧毁地球的自然降温系统,还直接的导致全球变暖。中国农业部门产生的温室气体排放从1994年到2005年增加了35%。全球的牲畜养殖业的扩张是气候变化的重要原因之一,养殖业的排放占人类总排放的五分之一,牲畜加拿大西安大略大学的Tony Weis表示。

So although its proliferating pigs are a resonant symbol of China’s prosperity, they are also a menace. A few inChina—a very few—are beginning to question the benefits of eating more and more pork. Meat consumption is beginning to plateau among the very rich; health scares have boosted sales of organic food, though it still accounts for a tiny share of agricultural production. Vegetarianism is growing, but is generally thought eccentric. The ambition of most Chinese continues to be to devour as large a slice of the pork pie as possible. In much of the rich world meat consumption is stable or falling but in the Middle Kingdom it soars unrestrained. Forget the zodiac: in today’s China, every year is the year of the pig.



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