This thesis aims to examine how China’s pork industry has turned into one of the
worst sources of pollution in the country. It argues that the restructuring of China’s
pork industry has created and reinforced inequality, thus facilitating environmental
degradation. This argument is developed by engaging with three theoretical
frameworks used to explore and explain the causes of environmental degradation:
environmentalism, neoliberal or free-market environmentalism, and political ecology.
A conclusion is then reached by viewing the connection between inequality and the
industrialisation of China’s pork industry, and the link between inequality and
environmental degradation, through the lens of political ecology.
The restructuring of China’s pork industry has led to backyard farms rapidly being
replaced with specialised and concentrated pork-production agribusinesses. This shift,
which is driven by an overemphasis on economic efficiency, makes it difficult for
small-scale farmers to remain profitable and has forced many farmers out of pork
production and into waged and often migrant labour. This contributes to wider issues
of rural/urban and regional inequality.
In the context of China’s pork industry, inequality is connected to environmental
degradation in three main ways.
First, it promotes unsustainable levels of pork consumption. The richest
socioeconomic groups in China are not only the biggest consumers of pork; they also
encourage increased consumption by the middle class, which seeks to imitate them.
Second, environmentally unsustainable levels of consumption are facilitated by
moving production to disadvantaged and often marginalised communities, which are
unable to absorb the economic and ecological costs of industrial pork production.
Third, heavily polluting industrial pork production in disadvantaged communities
translates to health issues among farm workers and people living near industrial pig
farms. These health problems pose a social threat to communities, and facilitate
environmental degradation by leading to the abandonment of sustainable small-scale
pig farming and the further growth of environmentally unsustainable industrial
farming. The result is increased pollution, as communities are unable to fight the
environmental degradation produced by industrial pork production because they have
lost the resilience required for environmental protection.
These are crucial findings for two reasons.
They illustrate the connection, which is rarely explored in academic literature,
between environmental and social problems associated with China’s pork industry.
Also, they contribute to the broader literature of political ecology by offering an
analysis that contrasts with the approach taken by neoliberal environmentalists, who
have to date dominated academic discourse on environmental degradation caused by
industrial pork production while neglecting the important role that inequality plays in
This is to certify that the thesis comprises only my original work except where
indicated in the preface; due acknowledgement has been made in the text to all other
material used; the thesis is 14,771 words in length exclusive of footnotes, tables,
maps, appendices and bibliography.
Firstly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my thesis supervisor Dr. Du
Liping. I am forever grateful for his invaluable guidance and ability to steer me back
on track when my enthusiasm for research drifted me too far off my course. His
critical eye and ability to ask the right questions have made me emerge at the other
side of this honours year as a more critical and confidant student and writer.
Secondly, I would like to thank my dad for his priceless support. His willingness to
pick up the phone and brainstorm ideas with me was invaluable on days when the
weight of the thesis was resting heavily on my shoulders. I will forever be grateful for
his willingness to share his passion for grammar and writing, which continue to
inspire and influence my writing to this day.
Thirdly, I would like to thank, my mum for always believing in me. Her support was
invaluable during times that the brutal reality of the environmental destruction
produced by China’s pork industry, made me want to change to a more light-hearted
Fourthly, I would like to thank my sister in-law, which so kindly offered to make the
front page for this thesis. Without her artistic skills the final print would not have
ended up looking this good.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the rock of my life, my partner, for always
being there for me. I will forever appreciate his ability to snap me out of my ‘study
bubble’ and show me that there exists a world outside the four walls of the library.
Table of contents
Acknowledgments ................................................................................................. 5
Table of contents ................................................................................................... 7
List of figures......................................................................................................... 9
List of tables......................................................................................................... 10
Literature review ................................................................................................ 21
Environmentalism ............................................................................................. 22
Neoliberal environmentalism, or free-market environmentalism ..................... 24
Political ecology................................................................................................ 26
The lack of political-ecological analyses of China’s pork industry .............. 28
Political ecology offers a more convincing analysis of the phenomenon ..... 29
1. The transformation of China’s pork industry.............................................. 31
Introduction: Pre-reform.................................................................................... 31
Reform and opening.......................................................................................... 33
WTO accession: The mid-1990s....................................................................... 35
The “blue ear disease” outbreak........................................................................ 37
China’s pork industry today .............................................................................. 41
2. The environmental effects of industrial pork production........................... 45
Land pollution and biodiversity loss ................................................................. 46
Water pollution.................................................................................................. 49
GHG emissions and air pollution...................................................................... 51
3. Industrial pork production, inequality and environmental degradation .. 55
The costs of overemphasising economic efficiency in pork production........... 55
The relationship between inequality and environmental degradation............... 60
“Inequality increases the need for environmentally harmful and socially
unnecessary economic growth.”.................................................................... 62
“Inequality increases the ecological irresponsibility of the richest within
each country and among nations.”................................................................. 65
“Inequality affects people’s health, diminishes the social-ecological
resilience of communities and weakens their collective ability to adapt to
environmental change.”................................................................................. 72
Conclusion ........................................................................................................... 81
List of figures
Figure 1. China’s meat consumption preferences ....................................................................12
Figure 2. World’s largest meat consumers, 2011.....................................................................15
Figure 3. Extrapolating recent (1985–2012) production data to 2050 .....................................16
Figure 4. China swine-meat production by year as estimated by the USDA...........................16
Figure 5. China’s pork industry subsidies 2008–2012 .............................................................40
Figure 6. Share of total pig production by farm type: 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015 .................42
Figure 7. Income inequality in China 1981–2012....................................................................63
Figure 8. Growth in Chinese meat consumption between 1979 and 2014...............................63
Figure 9. Per capita purchases of key food products by various income groups in China.......64
Figure 10. Annual per capita income by province ...................................................................68
Figure 11. Pig density (per head) per square km......................................................................68
Figure 12. First-grade arable land as percentage of total cultivated land area.........................71
List of tables
Table 1. CCP subsidies to top pork processing DHEs in 2012 ................................................41
Table 2. GHG emissions by food type .....................................................................................52
Table 3. Some pathogens found in animal manure ..................................................................75
Table 4. Typical pollutants found in air near CAFOs ..............................................................76
In her 2011 report written for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Mindi
Schneider revealed that as causes of environmental degradation, agriculture, and
livestock farming in particular, were the most significant sources of pollution in China
(Schneider2011). Even more conservative estimates, including a 2010 report by the
Chinese government, found that agriculture was a more significant source of water
pollution than industry, with livestock production being the biggest contributor when
the production of animal feed was taken into account (Davison 2013; Watts 2010).
China’s pork industry is a particularly strong contributor to this pollution, as pork is
the country’s most preferred meat (Figure 1).
Figure 1. China’s meat consumption preferences
Source: (Light 2015))
The environmental impact of pork production has not always been this significant; the
environmental degradation caused by the industry has increased as production models
and consumption patterns have shifted (Schneider & Sharma 2014). So, how did
China’s pork industry turn into one of the biggest sources of water and soil pollution
in the country? How did China’s pigs go from what Mao Zedong referred to as a
“fertiliser factory on four legs” ('Swine in China: Empire of the Pig' 2014), due to
their ability to turn edible scraps into manure, to major contributors to waterway
pollution, biodiversity decline, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and destruction of
carbon sinks (Schneider2011)?
Exploring these questions will not only provide valuable insight into a research area
that has received limited attention, but will also contribute to a scholarly debate that
attempts to understand what drives environmental degradation. This field is becoming
increasingly relevant as the environmental impact of industrial meat production
becomes better understood. It is also worth mentioning that China’s pork industry is a
particularly important area of research due to the prominence it has in China’s overall
Apart from being the logical choice due its importance to Chinese cuisine, China’s
pork industry was chosen as the topic for this thesis because it is unique but also
representative of China’s industrial meat boom as a whole. It is representative because
it shares goals, logistics and actors with China’s other livestock industries and,
therefore, illustrates broad trends in that area. But it is also unique, by virtue of being
the biggest meat industry and having the most severe environmental and social
implications. The pork industry is also growing, changing and developing rapidly
(Schneider & Sharma 2014).
To demonstrate the size of China’s pork industry, it is worth considering that China
produces and consume close to 500 million pigs each year—about half of the pigs in
the world (Light 2015). To ensure the continued growth of the Chinese pork industry,
the Chinese state-owned holding company Shanghui International Holdings Ltd
bought the United States firm Smithfield Foods in 2013 for $4.5 billion ('Swine in
China: Empire of the Pig' 2014).1
Now Chinese owned, Smithfield is the world’s largest pork producer and processor.
The vast scope of its operations can be illustrated by considering an excerpt from a
2006 article by Tietz:
Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pork processor in the world,
killed 27 million hogs last year. That’s a number worth considering. A slaughter-
weight hog is fifty percent heavier than a person. The logistical challenge of
processing that many pigs each year is roughly equivalent to butchering and
boxing the entire human populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago,
Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose,
Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Austin, Memphis,
Baltimore, Fort Worth, Charlotte, El Paso, Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston, Denver,
Louisville, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Las Vegas, Portland, Oklahoma City and
Tucson. (Tietz 2006)
The excerpt serves two crucial purposes. First, it illustrates the buying power, size and
demand involved in the Chinese pork industry. Second, it demonstrates the volumes
made possible by the industrialisation of pork production. In China, this
industrialisation was heavily encouraged by the Communist Party to ensure a
continuous supply of cheap pork (Schneider & Sharma 2014). China’s adoption of
this production model, which originated in the United States and whose main goal is
to standardise and centralise production to increase meat production volumes (Imhoff
2010a), has turned China into the world’s largest consumer of pork (Bailey, Froggatt
Unless otherwise specified, dollar figures in this thesis are given in United States currency.
& Wellesley 2014). The massive scale of that consumption level is illustrated in
Figure 2. World’s largest meat consumers, 2011
Source: (Bailey, Froggatt & Wellesley 2014, p.5))
This transition to an industrial production model, coupled with population growth,
rapid economic development, continuous urbanisation (urban consumers eat more
pork than their rural counterparts) and an expanding middle class, has led to a fivefold
increase in China’s total pork consumption since the 1970s (Light 2015). This shift is
illustrated in Figures 3 and 4, which show the rapid growth in pork consumption since
Figure 3. Extrapolating recent (1985–2012) production data for beef, chicken,
and pork (FAO, 2014) in China to 2050
Source: (Machovina, Feeley & Ripple 2015, p.423))
Figure 4. China swine-meat production by year as estimated by the United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Source: (China Swine Production by Year 2015))
The dramatic growth in meat consumption and production has been matched by
increasing environmental degradation (Wang et al. 2016). But what are the factors
that facilitated this shift? The main argument of this thesis is that the restructuring of
China’s pork industry, which will be explored in depth in Chapter 1, has created and
reinforced inequality, which has facilitated environmental degradation.
In arguing this point, this thesis divides into three chapters, preceded by this
introduction, a methodology section, and a literature review. The methodology section
will provide a brief summary of the strategies applied to reach the thesis argument.
The literature review will begin by examining commonly explored frameworks for
explaining environmental degradation, including environmentalism, neoliberal
environmentalism (aka “free-market environmentalism”) and political ecology.
It takes the view that political ecology offers the best theoretical framework for
understanding the environmental issues caused by China’s pork industry. This is
because an analysis based on political ecology fills a gap in the existing literature
while acknowledging the political and economic factors, which are mostly ignored by
the other two frameworks, that create structures favouring environmental degradation.
Chapter 1 will highlight the key characteristics of the restructuring China’s pork
industry has been through since the twentieth century. It will argue that a government
focused on economic growth and increased pork consumption has led to an
increasingly intensified, concentrated and specialised industry that favours
agribusinesses over small-scale farmers.
Chapter 2 will illustrate how the restructuring of China’s pork industry has created an
industry with production volumes that are too large to be environmentally sustainable.
It will highlight that the environmental issues caused by China’s pork industry are not
so much about pork production itself but rather about industrial pork production that
aims to support excessive pork consumption. The result has been an industry that is
responsible for severe water, air and land pollution as well as biodiversity loss.
Chapter 3 will draw on the findings of the two previous chapters to argue that the
government-initiated restructuring of China’s pork industry has created new types of
inequality and reinforced old ones. This inequality interacts with environmental
degradation in three ways.
First, inequality is linked with increased environmentally harmful economic growth,
which in the context of China’s pork industry manifests as increased consumption,
followed by rapidly growing pork production associated with increased pollution.
This growth is driven by the rich, which inspire increased consumption in the middle
class as well as being the biggest consumers of pork.
Second, economic inequality, which correlates with the industrialisation of the pork
industry, has led to increased ecological irresponsibility by the richest in China’s
society. The consumption levels driven by the rich are facilitated by shifting industrial
pork production from the outskirts of wealthy cities and provinces, towards poorer
and less privileged provinces and communities. The inequality involved affects the
environment because these growing volumes are being extracted from areas that are
often ecologically and politically incapable of absorbing the environmental
degradation that industrial pork production inflicts.
Finally, health issues associated with industrial pig farming serves as a social threat to
community wellbeing and contribute to the dissolution of community networks and
outmigration. This shift serves as a factor that helps accelerate the transition from
sustainable small-scale pig farming to unsustainable industrial pork production and
further increase environmental degradation. Here, the link with inequality is in the
way people most affected by the health risks industrial pork production poses tend to
be poorer and less priveliged.
The Economist report titled “Swine in China: Empire of the Pig” (2014) paints a
picture of an industry that is rapidly becoming an ecological threat to the world due to
its environmental impact. Yet, little has been done to explain this trend. Inspired by
the initial discovery of this report, I sought out quantitatively oriented studies
addressing the environmental impact of China’s pork industry. The more I read, the
more I wondered why the industry had been allowed to become such a significant
source of environmental degradation.
With this in mind, I began researching theoretical frameworks that could help me
explain the causes for this environmental degradation. I narrowed the selection down
to three: environmentalism, neoliberal environmentalism, and political ecology. I then
started examining literature in English that addressed the history, current status and
industry trends of Chinese pork production, looking for phenomena to analyse
through these theoretical lenses. Through my document analysis, political ecology
emerged as the framework best suited to explain the industry’s ecological impact; this
judgement will be explored in depth in the literature review.
To reach my conclusions, I engaged with a wide range of studies based on a variety of
methodologies and coming from a variety of academic disciplines. To understand the
forces that drive the environmental degradation caused by China’s industrial pork
production, I had to engage with its historical, socioeconomic and ecological
components. By taking a multidisciplinary approach, I aimed to capture the
multidimensional aspect of the problem.
To answer the thesis question, “how did China’s pork industry turn into one of the
biggest sources of water and soil pollution in the country?” it is first important to
examine the theoretical frameworks that could be used to explore issues of
I have chosen to limit the frameworks considered to three main theories that are
particularly relevant: environmentalism, neoliberal or free-market environmentalism,
and political ecology. These theories offer contrasting explanations for the causes of
environmental degradation, and are all widely discussed in academic literature.
Selecting these three frameworks increased the amount of literature available and
afforded a deeper exploration of the thesis topic.
Despite the eventual decision to use political ecology as the main theoretical
framework for this thesis, examining all three theories at the outset allowed for a more
nuanced and deeper investigation of the environmental degradation caused by China’s
pork industry than any of them could have offered alone.
The next section will address each framework separately, and present their benefits
and shortcomings before offering a more thorough explanation for why political
ecology was eventually selected as the main framework for analysis.
The first framework addressing environmental degradation that this thesis will
examine is environmentalism,2
which Kahraman and Baig (2010) defined as a “broad
philosophy and social movement centred on concern for the conservation and
improvement of the environment” (Kahraman & Baig 2010, p.7). Building on this
definition, one might argue that environmentalism concerns itself with the protection
of natural environments by encouraging proper management through changes in
public policy and individual behaviour.
Despite the fact that environmentalism has produced some impressive results,
including the preservation of selected species and places, the movement has failed to
challenge Western prosperity and comfort, which can be perceived as two main
contributors to environmental degradation (Mar 2014). Notwithstanding their success
in certain areas, environmentalist movements have also distracted from the
fundamental cause of environmental problems: the lack of a sustainable and sensible
relationship with the environment (Mar 2014).
Jedediah Purdy echoes this position in his 2015 article “An Environmentalism for the
Left”. There, he argues that the environmentalism has a mainstream appeal and an
elite constituency due to its close connection to corporations and its focus on
“ecosystem services” that can be monetised (Purdy 2015). In this regard, he argues
Building on this definition, an environmentalist is considered a person who promotes the protection of
the natural environment and a person who promotes the protection of the natural environment and
promotes sustainable management through changes in public policy or individual behaviour. Examples
of volunteer organisations that work under the banner of environmentalism include Greenpeace and the
World Wide Fund (WWF), which spread their message through demonstrations, media and
that environmentalism fits well with neoliberalism due to its consumerist appeal to
eco-consciousness (Purdy 2015). In his opinion, by treating climate change and
environmental degradation as “environmental” problems, one completely ignores
issues of global justice—including the fact that the world’s rich are at once more
responsible for and less vulnerable to environmental problems than the poor are
Purdy’s and Mar’s positions share a grounding in the belief that without challenging
the underlying causes and structures of exploitation that underlie environmental
degradation, fundamental change will not happen. This belief is compatible with
political ecological thinking, and a position that this thesis strongly supports. To
illustrate its shortcomings, it is worthwhile considering how environmentalism would
examine the issues surrounding the environmental issues produced by China’s pork
industry. A typical approach taken by environmentalists would be to view
environmental degradation caused by the pork industry in terms of its failure to create
environmentally sustainable pig farms. Additionally, it would highlight the lack of
responsibility and knowledge, regarding the environmental cost of pork consumption,
among the people that have driven increased demand.
The underlying causes and structures of exploitation that drive the environmental
degradation caused by China’s pork industry, would on this note, be a neglected part
of the environmentalist view. The author of this thesis is not convinced that changing
values will, on its own, be sufficient to alter the environmental impact of
multinational pork producers and hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pork
consumers (Peet, Robbins & Watts 2011a). Because of its lack of insight into
underlying causes, the environmentalist framework is unsuitable for investigating
how China’s pork industry has transitioned into one of the worst sources of water and
land pollution in the country (Davison 2013).
Neoliberal environmentalism, or free-market environmentalism
Another school of thought that offers an explanation of and solution to environmental
problems stands at the crossroads of environmentalism and liberalism. This is
neoliberal environmentalism, or free-market environmentalism. 3
position draws much of its theoretical baseline from neoliberalism, which Rob
believes in the unparalleled capability of the market in the distribution and
allocation of goods and services in meeting the diverse needs of people all over
the world, displaying a commitment to extending the competitive relations of the
market as far as possible, keeping state intervention to a minimum (Plastow 2010,
Neoliberal environmentalists argue that free and unrestricted capitalism could reverse
environmental damage by giving the market more power (Peet, Robbins & Watts
2011a). One suggestion coming from this tradition is to reverse environmental
damage by creating property rights over parts of the environment that are currently
state-administered or in the commons, arguing that there are few incentives to protect
Books offering insight into this framework include Free Market Environmentalism, published by the
Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in 1991; Reconciling Economics and the Environment,
published by the Australian Institute for Public Policy in 1991; and Markets, Resources and the
Environment, published by the Tasman Institute in 1991 (Bender 2001).
environmental resources that are not privately owned (Bender 2001). Another
suggestion is to introduce or increase the use of tradable pollution rights, with the aim
of cleaning up the environment (Bender 2001).
The ideological and political beliefs of neoliberal environmentalism’s supporters are
exemplified in an article by Stavins and Whitehead, two market-centric
environmentalists, who argue that “Market-based environmental policies that focus on
the means of achieving policy goals are largely neutral with respect to the selected
goals and provide cost-effective methods for reaching those goals” (Stavins &
Whitehead 1992, p.8). On a similar note, Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental
Defence Fund since 1984, has argued that the best way to achieve environmental
benefits at the lowest cost was by utilising the power of the market (Regan 2011)
Despite some research finding that under certain conditions, markets protect the
environment better than governments (Kolstad 2011), neoliberal environmentalism
has been criticised for relying too much on economic theory and on the power of the
“invisible hand” of the market. The framework ignores other dimensions of
environmental degradation by seeing it only as the result of a failure to attach a price
to environmental goods and services (Bender 2001). Additionally, contrary to what
neoliberal environmentalists frequently argue, the market sometimes fails to allocate
resources efficiently. This is particularly evident where markets underprovide
environmental goods such as parks and open space and over-provide ills such as air
pollution (Kolstad 2011).
As we observed of environmentalism above, neoliberal environmentalism appears to
oversimplify the reasons behind complex and often multidimensional environmental
problems. The framework has a one-sided perspective that views environmental
degradation purely in terms of economic theory. It is also worth questioning how one
is to remain convinced by market optimism in precisely the world where markets have
failed to protect the environment and in many cases have accelerated its decline (Peet,
Robbins & Watts 2011a). As Peet, Robbins and Watts argue, “The commodification
of nature to save it seems contradictory at best” (Peet, Robbins & Watts 2011a, p.24).
Neoliberal environmentalism would most likely blame the environmental degradation
associated with China’s pork industry to state ownership and control of many of
China’s biggest pig farms. In the neoliberal view, this prevents competition and stops
China’s pork market from self-regulating to clean up the environment. This position
leaves little room for critique of the market itself, or of the underlying structural
causes that allow these environmental issues to persist. It does not, then, offer a
compelling analytical framework through which to explore how China’s pork industry
has turned into one of the country’s largest sources of water and land pollution
The last approach that could offer a theoretical understanding of environmental
degradation is political ecology,4
which has been defined as “the concern of ecology
Most sources trace the concept of political ecology back to the 1980s and the works of Watts (1983),
Blaikie (1985), and Blaikie and Brookfield (1987). These pioneers of political ecology had grown tired
and a broadly defined political economy” (Peet, Robbins & Watts 2011a, p.24).
Political ecology acknowledges the role of economic and political factors that create
structures of exploitation, rather than considering environmental degradation as a
separate concept that operates outside complex political and social structures (Urdal
2008). To simplify, one might argue that political ecology is involved with studying
the relationship between political, economic and social factors and environmental
Political ecologists attempt to explore and explain environmental degradation by
going directly to the roots of the problem, which they argue are the engines of
industrial capitalism: economic growth and the unequal power and influence held by
the different players involved in the use and management of natural systems (Peet,
Robbins & Watts 2011a). In other words, political ecologists argue that environmental
problems are also social problems, and the result of injustice and inequality.
In contrast, critics of political ecology argue that the framework puts too much
emphasis on the political aspects of environmental issues, overshadowing ecological
aspects as well as being a prescription for ‘question-begging research’ that
concentrates on factors assumed in advance to be important (Vayda & Walters 1999).
The result may be that one misses out on other important factors that may influence
environmental degradation. Additionally, critics of the approach have also highlighted
of the mostly apolitical view of environmental degradation, which saw environmental problems simply
as a result of population growth, insufficient technology or poor management (Peet, Robbins & Watts
2011a). These writers were influenced by and reacted to a variety of intellectual traditions, including
environmentalism from the 1960s and 1970s, with its obsession with “over-population” and the
depletion of “finite” resources—an intellectual framework that was built on the work of influential
biologists such as Garret Hardin (1968) and Paul Ehrlich (1968), as well as on the publication in 1972
of The Limits to Growth by Meadows et al. (Bridge, McCarthy & Perreault 2015).
that political ecologists tend to focus on individual case studies, thereby failing to
synthesise the research into broader, integrated regional or global analysis (Walker
These challenges can be overcome by adjusting the methodology accordingly. For
instance, the research for this thesis began by examining a significant amount of
quantitative literature on pollution caused by industrial pig farming. This places the
ecological aspect of the phenomenon as the foundation of the thesis. Then, the choice
of political ecology as a framework after investigating it along with prominent
alternatives should allay concerns that this is ‘question-begging research.'
Political ecology’s selection as a theoretical foundation rests on two arguments.
The lack of political-ecological analyses of China’s pork industry
First, there is a gap in the literature examining China’s pork industry from this
perspective: selecting political economy adds to the debate about how to understand
and consequently solve environmental degradation produced by the pork industry.
The gap is illustrated by the fact that in the literature examining China’s pork
industry, the struggles and relationships between households, communities, and state
and corporate agents are often lacking. Instead, one finds literature that examines the
problem from a purely ecological standpoint, or addressing it from the perspective
that environmental degradation is purely an issue of resource management.5
This position is illustrated in a collaborative report by the World Bank and the Development Research
Centre of the State Council. In this report, six goals are recommended if China is to achieve “green
development and increased efficiency of (natural) resource use”. These include suggestions such as
“providing strong market stimuli”, “improve regulations of the management of natural resources” and
“invest in agricultural R&D and extension services to make the agricultural sector more resilient to the
impacts of climate change” (China 2030: Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative Society
The few examples of literature that offer a more holistic and analytical approach to
the consequences of the restructuring of China’s pork industry are often too short to
examine the topic in depth, or mostly ignore issues of power imbalance and
inequality. For instance, Mindi Schneider and Shefali Sharma, in collaboration with
the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)6
have produced some thorough
and well-researched reports examining the issues associated with China’s pork
industry. However, they should not be classed as political-ecological literature due to
their lack of focus on community impact, power imbalances and industry-caused
environmental degradation. The closest one gets to a political-ecological analysis of
China’s pork industry can be found in the chapter “Killing for Profit: Global
Livestock Industries and their Socio-Ecological Implications,” in the book Global
Political Ecology by Jody Emel and Harvey Neo. The chapter briefly touches on the
Chinese pork industry, but is too short to fully offer a thorough analysis of the topic.
Political ecology offers a more convincing analysis of the phenomenon
Second, political ecology offers a more convincing analysis of the complex factors
that drive environmental degradation caused by China’s pork industry than
2013). Suggestions like these completely ignore the complex political, social and cultural dynamics at
play and make a political-ecological analysis of environmental problems highly relevant and important
(Peet, Robbins & Watts 2011a). The recommendations seem to be taken straight out of a handbook on
neoliberal environmentalism and give an accurate reflection of current attitudes to agricultural
Schneider is an assistant professor at the International Institute for Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague.
Sharma is the director of agricultural commodities and globalisation at the IATP. The IATP traces its
origins back to the 1980s, where the effort to save family farms across America led to its development.
Today, it works both locally and globally to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems
(see more at http://www.iatp.org/about).
environmentalism or neoliberal environmentalism can offer. It makes little sense to
examine an environmental problem that involves the society–nature relationship
without trying to understand the political and power dimension of these problems.
This thesis will, then, argue along political-ecological lines by stating that the
environmental degradation resulting from industrialised pork production is not a
problem of mismanagement of markets or a lack of knowledge on the part of
individuals, as the other two frameworks considered would propose. Instead, the
environmental degradation caused by China’s pork industry is produced within the
structures of a capitalistic world, recognised by an endless pursuit of increased
production and resource exploitation.
Building on this idea, we can see that China’s pork industry has turned into one of the
country’s worst sources of water and soil pollution due to the contradiction between
the twin goals of ecological resilience and economic growth in the logic of Chinese
state capitalism. This contradiction materialises as the self-interested pursuit of profit
reliant on increased growth and consumption on one side, and as the very idea of
reaching ecological resilience and sustainability on the other (Peet, Robbins & Watts
1. The transformation of China’s pork industry
To argue that the restructuring of China’s pork industry is the main reason for the
severe environmental problems associated with the industry today, it is first important
to understand some of the socioeconomic and political factors that underlie this
transformation. To establish such understanding, this chapter will present a history of
China’s pork industry from the twentieth century to today.
High levels of pork consumption are a relatively new phenomenon in China. Before
the revolution in 1949, most Chinese only got 3% of their annual food intake in the
form of meat ('Swine in China: Empire of the Pig' 2014). Even as recently as the
early 1990s, most people lived on a diet consisting mostly of vegetables and grains
('Swine in China: Empire of the Pig' 2014). One reason for this low-meat diet was
that historically, small-scale family farms produced most of China’s pigs. This is also
argued by Schneider (2011), who found that in imperial China, small-scale farmers
were the sole producers of pigs. For large parts of the twentieth century, it was
common practice for farmers to produce two pigs per year, one to sell at government
purchasing stations and one to eat beginning at Spring Festival. This made excessive
consumption impossible (Schneider2011).
Even as recently as 1985, the so-called backyard farms (houyuanshi siyangchang),
which raise less than five pigs per year, in addition to other livestock and crops, on
approximately half an acre of land, were responsible for the production of more than
85% of China’s pork (Jian 2010; Schneider & Sharma 2014). This production model
could not support the current level of pork consumption and meat was, therefore,
likely seen more as a luxury item rather than something to be expected with every
However, this production model slowly began shifting at the beginning of China’s
Reform and Opening-up period. One of the core catalysts that led to this change from
backyard farms to a modernised industrialised production model was the ‘Great
Chinese Famine’ of the 1960s. This tragedy left a permanent mark on the Chinese
psyche and resulted in people associating unlimited pork consumption with progress
and modernity (Davison 2013). The food rationing initiated during the Cultural
Revolution affected almost all Chinese people and also changed popular notions and
expectations surrounding the frequency and amount of meat consumption (Schneider
& Sharma 2014).
As the reforms initiated after Mao’s death began to affect everyday life, increased
meat production, particularly of pork, became an important component of the state’s
effort to create legitimacy and public trust (Schneider & Sharma 2014). With the scars
of the Cultural Revolution fresh in people’s minds, the CCP’s accomplishment of
providing readily available meat also became a crucial tool to signify the state’s
progress and highlight its ability to provide an agribusiness model that would allow
China’s citizens to “eat meat in revenge” (Schneider & Sharma 2014). The memories
of rationing, and a conscious effort by the CCP to provide cheap meat to the people,
mark the beginning of the pork frenzy China is experiencing today.
Reform and opening
As providing cheap pork to the people became an important priority for the state, so
did the need to develop a modern pork industry able to cope with increasing demand.
As a result, the pork industry began changing rapidly throughout the reform era,
starting in 1979, when backyard farms’ share of production began declining as the
government implemented a series of state policies and investment aimed to turn
China’s pork industry into a competitive, global player (Schneider & Sharma 2014).
This transition happened in three stages: first the ‘Reform and Opening’ period, then
the accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the mid-1990s, and the
“blue ear disease” outbreak in 2006.
During the Reform and Opening period starting in the late-1970s, the industrialisation
of China’s pork sector was implemented and a Western meat production model was
adopted. The result was that specialised and highly commercialised agribusinesses
started to displace backyard farms, while official markets began replacing household
self-provision (Schneider & Sharma 2014).
The Western pork production model China adopted, characterised by animal feeding
operations aimed to standardise and increase production, has its origins in the United
States. These concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)7
are, according to
Imhoff (2010), defined as “essentially factorylike buildings into which animals,
industrially bred for rapid growth and large output of meat … are tightly crammed,
These factory farms often go under the name “large-scale commercial farms” (daxing shangye yang
caged, and sometimes even chained and tethered” (p.13). By the current United States
Environmental Protection Agency definition, a large CAFO imports livestock feed
and has an concentration of at least 2,500 swine over 25kg or 10,000 swine under
25kg, where animals are confined indoors for at least 45 days during a growing
season in an area that does not produce vegetation (Imhoff 2010b; Lenhardt &
Ogneva-Himmelberger 2015). The goals of these operations are animal density and
weight gain, and they differ significantly from small or medium-sized diversified
farms that mostly combine two or three crops with livestock raised in pastures, using
the animal’s manure to fertilise the fields or orchards (Imhoff 2010b).
As mentioned, CAFOs rely heavily on imported feed. In these factories, the animals
are grown on high-calorie diets designed to maximise growth and weight gain in the
shortest amount of time possible (Imhoff 2010b). This production model has
drastically changed the way pigs are raised. Within these facilities, the animals no
longer eat kitchen scraps but are fed mostly on industrial feed types, which typically
have three components: energy—grains such as soy, corn, barley, wheat, etc.;
protein—soybean meal [SBM], fishmeal, etc.; and pre-mix—micro-nutrients and
additives such as antibiotics (Sharma 2014). In China, the energy component is
predominately soybeans, and it takes about 6kg of feed to produce 1kg of pork, which
is why pork consumption has become closely connected to soybean production
('Swine in China: Empire of the Pig' 2014).
The CCP began realising that to ensure a steady supply of pork, a stable supply of
cheap grain had to be ensured. From another perspective, we could say that to ensure
the continued growth of China’s pork CAFOs, demand for cheap grain needed to be
met. This led to the next stage of the industrialisation of Chinese pork production,
where the WTO accession in the mid-1990s increased China’s access to cheap
WTO accession: The mid-1990s
The second phase began in the mid-1990s, when the CCP was negotiating China’s
accession to the WTO. To meet WTO protocols, as well as to ensure an increase in
pork production and consumption through safeguarding a continued supply of grain,
some changes to soybean production were implemented. The Chinese government cut
tariffs on soybean used for livestock feed, removed soy from the state’s pricing
controls and liberalised soy imports while simultaneously encouraging domestic
processing (Light 2015; Oliveira & Schneider 2014; Schneider2011). The CCP also
began subsidising big commercial pig farms to boost pork production (Light 2015;
The result was a boom in soybean imports. Over the course of seven years (1996–
2003), China went from being a leading soy-exporting country to being a net
importer, eventually becoming the world’s largest importer of soybeans
(Schneider2011). By 2010, Chinese imports accounted for 50% of the global soybean
market ('Swine in China: Empire of the Pig' 2014; Schneider2011) and by 2013, that
number had risen to 60% (Light 2015). Research illustrates the rapid growth in
imports, finding that China’s soybean imports have soared at an annual average
growth rate of about 26% since the 1990s (Oliveira & Schneider 2014). The soybean
had, as Oliveira and Schneider (2014) put it, “transformed from a protein-rich food
for human consumption and a nitrogen-rich crop in domestic agro-ecosystems, into
the country’s most important agricultural import, primarily to fuel the industrial
livestock industry” (p.4).
The rapid growth in soybean imports, which was a direct result of the decisions by the
CCP to meet increased demand for grain in the pig industry, continued to fuel the
growth of China’s industrial pork industry. The increase in access to cheap grain
made it possible for China’s pork producers to begin speeding up the industrialisation,
commercialisation and scaling up of China’s pork industry, and made them less
dependent on on-farm resources (Schneider & Sharma 2014). Without the CCP’s
conscious decision to make soybeans cheaper and more accessible, it would have
been difficult for China’s pork industry to continue industrialising. The party’s
decision to transform China’s soybean market, became a key turning point for the
development and emergence of China’s industrial livestock feeding and was another
catalyst for China’s rise to a leading position in world pork production (Sharma
The result of cheaper and more accessible feed was an industry that could
accommodate bigger, more industrialised and commercialised agribusiness and
CAFOs. It is, no coincidence that during this period, in 1998, the concept of Dragon
Head Enterprises (DHEs) first appeared in central policy for agriculture (Schneider &
Sharma 2014). These companies were, in the context of China’s pork industry, seen
as flagship enterprises that would lead the modernisation of the industry by
integrating and scaling up pork production (Sharma 2014). DHEs are characterised by
being private or public companies that meet a set of agricultural development criteria
established by the government (Schneider & Sharma 2014).
The perceived benefits of having these companies at the forefront of China’s
agricultural modernisation are revealed in a 2012 statement from the State Council,
which argued that DHEs are “the major agents for constructing a modern agricultural
system, and are the key to advancing agricultural industrialization” (Schneider &
Sharma 2014, p.24). In summary, one might argue that development of DHEs in the
pork industry was made possible by the transformation of China’s soybean market.
These companies led the continued industrialisation and growth of Chinese pork
production and remain one of the most important features of the commercialised pig
industry in China today.
The “blue ear disease” outbreak
The last and most intense phase of the process aimed at industrialising China’s pork
industry began in 2006. During that year, an outbreak of “blue ear disease” caused a
fundamental structural change in China’s pork industry (Light 2015). The outbreak
resulted in the deaths of 50 million pigs and led to pork prices skyrocketing, which
was of great concern to the government (McOrist, Khampee & Guo 2011). The price
rise was seen as a severe problem because the Chinese eat so much pork that when its
cost rises, so does the cost of other goods ('Swine in China: Empire of the Pig' 2014).
The outbreak had such a dramatic impact on the economy that the annual rate of
increase in the consumer price index, sometimes referred to as “consumer pig index”
due to the prominent role pork plays in it, hit a record ten-year high ('Swine in China:
Empire of the Pig' 2014). Because pork is a central component of this index, pork
prices remain critical to the CCP as a significant indicator of inflation and also as an
economic factor that needs to be carefully regulated to prevent social unrest
(Schneider & Sharma 2014).
As pork prices rose because of the epidemic, imports doubled and the government
responded by establishing the world’s first pork reserve, aiming to keep pork
affordable and reasonably priced ('Swine in China: Empire of the Pig' 2014; Light
2015). The pork reserve works by releasing some of its stock onto the market when
pork becomes too expensive, and buying up pork when it becomes too cheap, to
ensure that the farmers make a profit. The epidemic was a turning point, making it
clear how important a secure and affordable supply of pork had become and forcing
the CCP to look for new ways of securing the country’s pork supply.
It is also worth mentioning that due to the dependency on imported soybeans, the
CCP also engaged in a “going out strategy” aimed at protecting the country from
often-volatile global grain prices, again to ensure a continued supply of inexpensive
pork. To protect themselves from grain-price shocks, the CCP encouraged Chinese
companies to acquire and invest in farmland abroad, reserving it for growing pig feed
or to raise pigs destined for China’s home market ('Swine in China: Empire of the Pig'
2014; Horta 2014).8
Today, Chinese-owned or jointly owned farms can be found in
China began its outward-oriented agricultural policy in the early 2000s, when it began investing in
farmland in neighbouring Laos and Cambodia and slowly ventured further afield (Horta 2014). Today,
Chinese-owned or jointly owned farms exist in several African countries, including Mozambique and
Ethiopia, and extend to leased land in Brazil, Peru and Mexico (Horta 2014). The same goes for
Argentina, where in 2011 China’s largest agricultural group, Heilongjiang Beidahuang Nongken,
announced that it was investing $1.5 billion to develop 300,000 hectares of land in Rio Negro province
several African, South-American and Asian countries (Horta 2014). Chinese
companies involved in the pork industry also have a presence in Europe: a land-lease
deal was done with Ukraine to use 3 million hectares of land to grow grain and raise
pigs (Horta 2014).
Additionally, as illustrated by the Smithfield–Shuanghui deal mentioned in the
introduction of this thesis (p.14), Chinese companies have also invested heavily in
overseas mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to protect their country’s pork market from
global commodity price fluctuations (The Earth Security Index 2015: Managing
global resource risks and resilience in the 21st century ; 'Swine in China: Empire of
the Pig' 2014; Light 2015). Such decisions to venture abroad are the result of policies
adopted in 2000 to encourage Chinese state and private firms to invest in foreign
operations and infrastructure (Schneider & Sharma 2014).
By encouraging China’s agricultural corporations and DHEs to go global, China gains
some insulation from global commodity-price movements, as well as control over
sourcing conditions, while becoming able to compete with global food traders (The
Earth Security Index 2015: Managing global resource risks and resilience in the 21st
The result is often a cheaper and more secure supply of soybeans for
China’s pork industry.
in Argentina (Horta 2014). China is also allegedly acquiring land in Russia’s far east, and Chinese
companies are reported to have leased at least 1 million hectares of land throughout Russia (Horta
2014). China has also made a land-lease deal with Ukraine to use 3 million hectares of land to grow
grain and raise pigs (Horta 2014). In a deal from 2010, Chinese companies were reported to have
requested the lease of 1 million hectares from the Kazakhstan government to plant soybeans, most
likely reserved for China’s pigs, as well as wheat (Horta 2014). In Angola, a former Portuguese colony,
Chinese companies currently lease 20,000 hectares of land (Horta 2014).
Including ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus.
As well as establishing the pork reserve and encouraging international investment and
M&A, the government also implemented other pro-pork policies to ensure continued
growth of China’s pork industry. These included grants, tax incentives, subsidies for
pig feeding and standardised-scale farming, cheap loans for farms and free animal
immunisation, all purposefully designed to boost intensive pig farming and ensure a
healthy supply of pork to the market ('Swine in China: Empire of the Pig' 2014; Light
2015). To examine the impact of these measures, we can examine the chart below,
which shows that subsidies to the industry have been increasing since 2008 (Light
2015). Data from Chatham House estimates that these numbers are even higher, and
puts the industry subsidies received from the Chinese government at $22 billion in
2012, which is approximately $47 per pig (Bailey, Froggatt & Wellesley 2014).
Figure 5. China’s pork industry subsidies 2008–2012
Source: (Light 2015))
It is important to note that as these subsidies mainly favour large-scale CAFOs, and
are aimed at modernising the industry and promoting pork production, they have done
little to help backyard and family farms (Light 2015). This is also illustrated in a
snapshot of the type and amount of subsidies the CCP gave to the country’s top pork
processing Dragon Head Enterprises in 2012:
Table 1. CCP subsidies to top pork processing DHEs in 2012
Source: (Schneider & Sharma 2014, p.25))
In summary, one might argue that the blue ear disease epidemic sped up the process
of replacing family farms with CAFOs. It did so by encouraging the growth of large-
scale, industrialised and standardised pork production in an attempt to address food
safety concerns, stabilise the industry and protect against future shocks (McOrist,
Khampee & Guo 2011). The result was an industry that was more centralised and
could produce more pork for a lower price, making a rapid increase in pork
China’s pork industry today
The result of the transition and industrialisation of Chinese pork production, as
described above, is a swine sector that barely resembles its pre-reform self. As this
chapter aims to illustrate, the transition from family farms to CAFOs has been an
ongoing process since the 1970s, when the CCP first made the decision to increase
pork production to meet increasing demand. The industry has transitioned from a
decentralised family-farm system to a more concentrated and standardised system
where a smaller group of companies produce more pigs in more confined spaces
(McOrist, Khampee & Guo 2011). Development saw small-scale farming being
replaced with agribusinesses, local markets with contract farming, and dispersed
production with vertical integration (Schneider & Sharma 2014)
Figure 6. Share of total pig production by farm type: 2000, 2005, 2010 and 2015
Source: (Schneider & Sharma 2014, p.19))
In contrast to the pre-reform situation, in which most farmers raised a few pigs yearly,
typical production volumes for factory pig farms in China today range from 500 to
50,000 pigs a year, and an increasing number of farms have the production capacity to
produce hundreds of thousands of pigs each year (Schneider2011). This shift in
production volumes and models fits perfectly into the broader global change in meat
production, which Schneider and Sharma summarise by saying, “The global trend
points to ever greater consolidation of fewer and more powerful corporations
controlling scarcer water and land resources to feed millions of animals in confined
spaces to produce more cheap meat” (p.8).
The transformation is also illustrated by the rapid growth of Dragon Head Enterprises
(DHEs). Based on 2011 sales, nine of the top 10 pork-processing firms were DHEs
and these companies also accounted for 80% of the top 10 businesses in pork retail
(Schneider & Sharma 2014). In 2010, it was estimated that 66% of China’s pigs were
raised in CAFOs (MacLachlan 2015). Backyard farms, on the other hand, are rapidly
declining in rural China today. For instance, in 2008, the number of rural households
raising pigs was only about 35%, in stark contrast to 85% of households in the 1980s
and 1990s (Jian 2010).
One of the most readily apparent trends is that CAFOs are increasingly replacing
backyard farms, and smallholder farmers are rapidly moving out of pig production by
becoming specialised pork producers or, more typically, waged, mostly migrant,
workers (Schneider & Sharma 2014). The result is an industry that resembles the
contemporary meat industry in the United States, which is characterised by unceasing
concentration and intensification; with fewer but bigger farms, associated with
factories; more specialisation of feed and fewer farm workers (Peet, Robbins & Watts
The industrialisation of Chinese pork production, and of the believed benefits of this
transformation, is reflected in government and consumer attitudes towards this new
business model. Chinese scholars and policymakers portray the pork industry as a
model of “modern agriculture”—a shining example of successful and continuing
vertical integration (Schneider & Sharma 2014). Smallholders and backyard farmers,
who produce fattier pork, are painted as backward, while CAFOs are made out as the
most modern, efficient, and safe method for further increasing pork production and
consumption in China (Schneider2011).
The values and priorities held by state officials are reflected in consumer choices. For
instance, a 2012 study of urban consumers found that the most trusted form of pork is
that originating from industrial production systems (Schneider & Sharma 2014).
Urban consumers are increasingly equating industrial farming with modernisation and
development, while smallholder farmers are blamed for China’s food-safety scandals
(Schneider & Sharma 2014).
This chapter has shown how the CCP successfully restructured China’s pork industry
to accommodate a drastic rise in consumption levels since the beginning of the
reforms. This restructuring served to secure government legitimacy by shaping
consumer attitudes to favour a production model that is the direct result of
government agricultural policies. If these factors were measures of success, then
China’s pork industry would be a shining example of the CCP’s industrial
achievements since the 1970s. However, these accomplishments do not fully illustrate
the social and environmental implications of the shifts that have taken place. Such
implications are the topic of the next two chapters of this thesis.
2. The environmental effects of industrial pork production
The first chapter of this thesis presented some of the economic, social and political
factors that underpinned the restructuring of China’s pork industry to favour CAFOs
rather than backyard farms. This chapter will argue that, despite having achieved
great success in meeting China’s demand for cheap pork, the restructuring of China’s
pork industry allowed production volumes to grow too big to support environmentally
sustainable practices, thereby creating severe environmental problems. The ensuing
environmental degradation has not been created by pork production in itself, but
rather by industrialised, large-scale pork production at unsustainable levels. This
argument is supported by research from China, which has found that the larger
production volumes associated with industrial pork production are more profitable
than small-scale production, but also more environmentally damaging (Wang et al.
As this chapter will illustrate, China’s pork industry is a crucial source of pollution
affecting water, soils, atmosphere and ecosystems, and the industry now has
significant sociopolitical and environmental ramifications on a scale that was unheard
of 30 years ago. We will highlight these problems by arguing that the environmental
effects of industrial pork production are as extensive as they are varied: they include
issues ranging from biodiversity loss to GHG emissions and water and soil pollution.
This chapter will map out these issues in turn, starting with a brief summary of the
biodiversity loss caused by industrialised meat production, followed by land pollution
caused by manure, water pollution, and, finally, an assessment of the impact China’s
pork industry has on global GHG emission levels and air pollution.
Land pollution and biodiversity loss
Researchers have found that livestock production is the leading cause of reduced
biodiversity, mainly due to its huge appetite for land used in feed production and
grazing (Machovina, Feeley & Ripple 2015; Stoll-Kleemanna & O'Riordan 2015;
Westhoek et al. 2011).10
The livestock industry has led to deforestation, pollution,
climate change, overfishing, sedimentation of coastal areas and facilitation of
invasion by alien species, all of which cause biodiversity loss (Machovina, Feeley &
Ripple 2015; Westhoek et al. 2011).
Biodiversity loss is closely linked with the loss of habitat through the cultivation of
grain. China’s industrial pig production contributes significantly to this because of its
demand for soybeans (Machovina, Feeley & Ripple 2015). In 2012, soybeans were
produced on an estimated 2.2% of the world’s agricultural land (The Soybean Market
2014). This land was, according to the United States Department of Agriculture,
estimated to produce approximately 320.21 million metric tonnes of soybeans
between 2015 and 2016 (USDA 2016). China’s soybean imports in those two years
are expected to be 79 million tonnes, making it clear that China’s pork industry is
contributing to global biodiversity loss ('China's soybean imports forecast for 2015-
2016 increases ' 2016).
Locally, China’s pork industry is also causing a decline in farm animal breeds. The
100 locally adapted indigenous pig breeds that were once a common sight in Chinese
This is illustrated in research that found livestock production, particularly through feed production,
accounts for nearly three quarters of all agricultural land and nearly one third of the ice-free surface of
the planet, making it the single largest anthropogenic land-use type (Machovina, Feeley & Ripple
2015; Stănescu 2010; Stoll-Kleemanna & O'Riordan 2015).
villages are increasingly being replaced by a narrow range of exotic pigs designed to
survive in the harsh industrial climate of China’s “modern” pig farms
(Schneider2011). Since China produces and consumes 50% of the world’s pork, it
seems accurate to argue its demand contributes significantly to biodiversity loss at
local and global levels.
Apart from contributing significantly to biodiversity loss, the livestock industry is
also one of the most significant contributors to arable land deterioration caused by
highly concentrated and unprocessed manure (Zhou et al. 2014). The manure
produced by modern CAFOs is so full of chemicals and pharmaceutical residues that
it would be more accurate to compare it to industrial waste than organic manure
(Tietz 2006). The impact of the pollution caused by manure worsened as China
transitioned from a circular pig farming system, where pigs provided food and organic
fertiliser to smallholder farmers, to a linear system that creates waste at dangerous
levels (Shifflett 2014). China’s pig farms have grown so big that manure management
becomes synonymous with runoff and pollution (Tietz 2006).
The extent and scale of waste management required by China’s pork industry
becomes apparent when we look at how much waste a single pig produces. According
to research, a single pig in one of China’s CAFOs produces 5.3kg of waste per day
(Light 2015). Multiply that by the 500 million pigs produced by the industry each
year, and you have the amount of manure generated by China’s pork industry. Popular
disposal methods used to get rid of this waste involves pumping liquefied manure
onto spray fields,11
storing it in deep pits under the buildings that hold animals, and
storing it in clay or concrete pits elsewhere, treatment lagoons, or holding ponds
(Hribar 2010; Imhoff 2010a).12
Current waste management strategies as described above cannot deal with the
hundreds of thousands of tonnes of toxic manure produced by China’s pork industry
each year. As a matter of fact, China’s total livestock industry, where China’s pig
industry is the biggest sector, produced 4.8 billion tonnes of waste in 2008 (Schneider
& Sharma 2014). The country has put aside large areas of land to contain the toxic
waste, but they are poorly managed. In 2007, it was estimated that China had 14,000
factory farms, of which 90% were entirely uncontrolled, and it is estimated that only
5% of their animal waste is treated (Peet, Robbins & Watts 2011b).
Such extensive production of mostly untreated manure has severe environmental
implications, as indicated by research from China. For instance, a 2015 study
investigating arsenic pollution of soil surrounding a typical CAFO zone in Huizhou
found elevated levels of arsenic in comparison to the control sample (Liu et al. 2015).
Another study, from 2011, which examined the concentration of copper residue in
livestock manure, suggested that long-term agricultural application of pig manure
increases the potential for copper pollution in soil and surface water (Fengsong et al.
2011). These findings fit well into a broader, global body of research that links
In the USA, a number of videos have shown how Smithfield contractors spray manure straight up
into the air. This serves as a disposal technique since manure, once lofted and atomised, blows clear of
the farms and lands on nearby properties (Tietz 2006).
Smithfield’s largest lagoon in the United States covers 11,000 square metres, and large scale pig
CAFOs can have hundreds of lagoons, some of which can be nine metres deep (Tietz 2006)
This was to be expected given that manure from CAFOs can cause soil arsenic pollution due to the
widespread use of organoarsenic feed additives (Liu et al. 2015).
industrial pork production with land pollution ('Pollution from industrialized livestock
production ' 2005; Nowlin 2013; Schneider & Sharma 2014; Steinfeld et al. 2006). In
addition to the environmental problems manure causes, the excessive production of
manure is also one of the most serious public health issues associated with CAFOs.
We will examine this in Chapter 3.
The excessive amount of manure produced by China’s industrial pork farms also has a
severe impact on the health of the country’s waterways. The pollution caused by
agriculture, and particularly the livestock industry, is so serious that China’s first
National Pollution Consensus, from 2010, concluded that agriculture was a bigger
cause of water pollution than industry (Davison 2013; Shifflett 2014). 14
statement is supported by further specific examples. For instance, a 2013 study
examining pig farms near the Pearl River Delta found that due to wastewater
pollutants, the environment surrounding intensive pig farms was severely polluted (Li
et al. 2013). These results were echoed by research from the Jiulong River watershed
in Fujian province, which found that the majority of the 67 farms examined
experienced nitrogen imbalances that posed environmental risks (Zeng et al. 2006).
Some current estimates even indicate that industrialised pig farms account for
The reports do not mention specifically what types of industry livestock production was compared
to. Similar results have been reported in other parts of the world. For instance, a study from the United
States found that states with high concentrations of CAFOs experience on average 20 to 30 serious
water quality problems per year as a result of manure-management problems (Hribar 2010). This was
confirmed by the 2000 National Water Quality Inventory by the United States Environmental
Protection Agency, which found that 29 states specifically identified animal feeding operations, not
just CAFOs, as contributing to water-quality impairment (Hribar 2010).
approximately 42% of nitrogen and 90% of phosphorus flowing into the South China
Sea (Shifflett 2014).
Such pollution is particularly harmful for waterways. Pathogens, heavy metals and
high concentrations of nitrates (including nitrogen and phosphorus) in manure leaking
into waterways can lead to eutrophication and the creation of toxic algae blooms in
rivers and lakes, which creates dead zones and makes water uninhabitable by fish or
indigenous aquatic life (Hribar 2010; Shifflett 2014). Additionally, excessive use of
hormones to increase growth in pigs, including testosterone, progesterone, oestradiol,
zeranol, trenbolone and melengestrol, has also increased the risk of these compounds
leaking into waterways near CAFOs (Peet, Robbins & Watts 2011b). These
compounds have a detrimental effect on aquatic life in nearby waterways; research
shows that even low-level exposure to select hormones can have deleterious effects
on aquatic species (Peet, Robbins & Watts 2011b).15
These environmental side effects are not the cause of pig farming as such, but of
intensive, large-scale, “modern” pig farming. In other words, the more intensive the
production process, the worse the mixture of chemicals discharged into the waterways
As backyard farms are increasingly replaced by industrial factory farms,
water quality around pig CAFOs deteriorates. The United States, which has
For instance, tests of surface water near CAFOs have found hormones that can alter the reproductive
habits of aquatic species living in these waters and significantly decrease the fertility of female fish
Waste produced by pig CAFOs can contain a variety of potential contaminants, including nutrients
(primarily nitrogen and phosphorus), sediment (erosion), pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metals, chemical
disinfectants, pathogens including E. coli and pharmaceuticals such as hormones (Hribar 2010; Peet,
Robbins & Watts 2011b). Animal blood, silage leachate from corn feed, and copper sulphate are also
commonly found in waterways near CAFOs in the United States, indicating that similar results could to
be expected in China (Hribar 2010).
experienced the effects of industrial pork production for decades, is a particularly
illustration of the severity and impact of such water pollution. For instance, some of
the biggest fish-kill catastrophes in United States history have occurred as a result of
pig facility lagoon ruptures (Peet, Robbins & Watts 2011b; Tietz 2006).17
GHG emissions and air pollution
China’s pork industry also contributes to global warming and air pollution. The bulk
of emissions produced by industrial pig production are related to feed supply and
manure storage systems (FAO 2007). Although there is a lack of comprehensive
reports assessing the particular contribution of China’s industrial pork industry to
global GHG emissions, we can still draw conclusions as a result of the widely and
thoroughly examined link between livestock production and GHG emissions.
We can start by observing that China’s pork industry is a part of the global livestock
industry, which is responsible for approximately 18% of global GHG production
(Hribar 2010; Stoll-Kleemanna & O'Riordan 2015; Zhou et al. 2014). To put this
number in perspective, the global livestock industry produces more GHGs than the
In 1991, in a North Carolina river, a billion fish were killed and the amount of dead fish found on
nearby beaches was so great that bulldozers had to be used to clean them off the sand (Peet, Robbins &
Watts 2011b). This was not a one-time incident. Over the course of four years, Smithfield lagoons in
North Carolina spilled 2 million gallons of manure into the Cape Fear River, 1.5 million gallons into
Persimmon Branch, 1 million gallons into the Trent River, and 200,000 gallons into Turkey Creek
(Tietz 2006). Over the course of five days in 2003, more than five million fish died, while an incident
from 2009 killed 100 million (Tietz 2006). Similar accidents have happened in Missouri (where
Smithfield owns CAFOs), where 150km of streams were polluted by pig CAFOs, causing 61 fish kills
and killing more than 500,000 fish (Peet, Robbins & Watts 2011b). Manure lagoon ruptures have also
been linked to outbreaks of Pfiesteria piscicida, a multiform microbe, which were responsible for
killing millions of fish in the aftermath of a 1995 manure spill in the United States (Tietz 2006). The
microbe is attracted to the large congregations of fish that are attracted to the nutrient-rich waste that
floods waterways in the aftermath of lagoon overflows (Tietz 2006). Pfiesteria is invisible and
odourless and kills fish by perforating their skin and eating their tissue and blood cells. Affected fish
appear to dissolve (Tietz 2006).
entire global transportation industry, or than the emissions generated by the world’s
second largest economy, the United States (Bailey, Froggatt & Wellesley 2014).
Pig production is the third-largest contributor to livestock-related GHG emissions,
behind cattle production and recirculating aquaculture (mass-produced fish), and
accounts for 9% of the emissions from livestock (FAO 2007). This means that pig
production is responsible for 1.62% of total global GHG emissions (9% of 18%).
Table 2. GHG emissions by food type
Source: (Stoll-Kleemanna & O'Riordan 2015, p.39))
The pork industry is also a strong contributor to deforestation, which contributes
significantly to global green house greenhouse gas emissions, since vast areas of
forests are cleared to meet the growing demand for grain-based feed (Hribar 2010;
Stoll-Kleemanna & O'Riordan 2015; Zhou et al. 2014).
In comparison to those produced by ruminant cattle, the emissions produced by
industrial pig farming appear less significant in a global context. However, the
amount of manure generated by the industry is one area of particular concern. Data
produced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency shows manure from
livestock is the fifth-largest source of methane emissions and the fourth-largest source
of nitrous oxide emissions. Both these gases come from decomposing manure. As a
greenhouse gas, methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and nitrous
oxide is 300 times more potent (Hribar 2010).
China’s pork industry is continuing to grow, and with it the production of pig manure
and methane emissions. This is particularly concerning given the potential future
impact on global GHG emission levels. Despite contributing less to emission levels
than cattle and farmed fish, pig production still produces significantly higher emission
levels than non-animal agriculture. This raises questions about the sustainability of a
pork-centred diet in a world that desperately needs to lower GHG emissions.
While contributing to GHG emissions, China’s pork industry also contributes to other
forms of air pollution. For instance, manure produced by intensified livestock
production has been found responsible for almost two-thirds of global anthropogenic
ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and the acidification
of ecosystems (Stoll-Kleemanna & O'Riordan 2015). Research from 2014 found high
concentrations of ammonia in the vicinity of industrial pig farms, reflecting heavy
ammonia pollution (Xu et al. 2014). Other research from large farms in northern
China found elevated levels and substantial emissions of particulate matter (both
organic and inorganic), which have been linked to environmental and health problems
(Xu et al. 2016).
This chapter has shown that the restructuring of China’s pork industry has created a
production model with serious environmental implications. The industry has grown
too big to be sustainably managed, due to its overemphasis on economic growth and
production volumes. Growth has come at the cost of sustainability and ecological
resilience. The results are severe water and land pollution, biodiversity loss, and
increased GHG emissions and other air pollution.
3. Industrial pork production, inequality and
With a base in political ecological analysis, this chapter will argue that the
environmental problems caused by China’s industrial pork industry can be explained
by arguing that the restructuring of the industry have created inequality. This chapter
will explain this argument by drawing on the work by three academics, Frank Knight,
James K Boyce and Eloí Laurant. The application of the theory by Frank Knight will
highlight how inequality is a cost and a result of an agricultural policy that
overemphasizes economic efficiency. The work by Laurent and Boyce, on the other
hand, will be used to frame the link between inequality and pollution. The chapter
will conclude by combining these two theories to highlight how inequality allows
environmental degradation to occur because inequality (in the context of China’s pork
industry) causes the most environmentally harmful pork production to be situated in
communities that are unable to prevent this pollution from occurring.
The costs of overemphasising economic efficiency in pork production
One might argue that the transformation of China’s pork industry has been and
continues to be driven by a desire for economic efficiency, and has been enabled by
the CCP’s focus on increasing pork production. To elaborate, the industrialisation of
China’s pork industry rests on the capitalistic tendency to prioritise efficiency in
production to minimise cost per unit and maximise profits (Impact of Industrial Farm
Animal Production on Rural Communities 2008).
In the context of China’s pork industry, this is translated into more pigs being
confined in smaller spaces, higher protein diets to ensure maximum growth fast,
imported pig breeds that produce more meat than local breeds and standardised
farming practises. These are all practices that are implemented and promoted with one
goal in mind, to produce more pork as cheaply as possible. CAFOs are simply the
most ‘efficient’ way to produce pork, a fact that the CCP has acknowledged and
embraced since the beginning of the transformation of China’s pork industry in the
Frank Knight, the father of the Chicago school of economics, warned about the
potential negative side effects of an industrial model that overemphasised economic
efficiency as early as the 1920s. He argued that the single-minded pursuit of
economic efficiency would have a detrimental effect on the general welfare of
society, which he believed depended on three core policy goals: economic efficiency,
economic freedom and an acceptable balance of economic power (Nash 1998).
Research examining the impact an overemphasis on economic efficiency in
agricultural production have on community welfare are lacking in China, but the topic
has been widely discusses in the USA. For instance, Knight’s argument seems to be
confirmed in research by Lobao and Stofferahn, which found that out of 51 studies
examining the impact of industrialized farming on community well-being over the
course of nearly 80 years, 57% found largely detrminetal effects (Lobao & Stofferahn
2008). Some scholars argue that this detrimental effect rests on the fact that the
single-minded pursuit of economic efficiency, results in a loss of economic freedom
within rural communities by creating an imbalance of economic power favoring
agribusiness over independent farmers (Impact of Industrial Farm Animal Production
on Rural Communities 2008). An argument that is consistent with the work of Frank
The idea that pursuing economic efficiency creates an imbalance of economic power
seems compatible with out observations here about the restructuring of China’s pork
industry. For instance, in Chapter 1, we saw how the restructuring of China’s pork
industry led to a centralisation of power within it, which appear to have economically
disadvantaged small-scale farmers. For instance, Jian (2010) found that the
restructuring of China’s pork industry is disproportionately benefitting the parts of the
pork industry’s supply chain that are heavily capital dependent and, therefore, often
controlled by massive state or privately owned corporations (Jian 2010).
To illustrate, in rural Guizhou, researchers found that pork traders procured a profit 32
times that of the pig farmer, the slaughterhouse earned a profit 14 times that of the pig
farmer, and the pork retailer made a profit 68 times that of the pig farmer18
2010). This result is echoed by research in Yunnan from 200619
(Jian 2010). Since
backyard farmers heavily rely on the pork traders, slaughterhouse and retailer to sell
their pigs, the farmers were highly economically disadvantaged. The more vertically
integrated pork processing companies are less vulnerable to these costs because they
Although Jian do not state in his research the actual measurements used to produce these numbers, it
is still a useful example to illustrate the level of difference in the profitability of the different stages of
During the first half of 2006, small-scale farmers in Yunnan Province lost 40 Yuan for each hog they
sold, while the hog trader, the slaughter- house, and the pork retailer made a net profit of 15, 6, and 90
Yuan per hog, respectively
often control every step of the production line. On this note, the overemphasis on
economic efficiency by restructuring the industry have compromised the economic
power- and freedom of small-scale farmers and economically disadvantaged them.
Farmers’ disadvantage is built into the CCP’s agricultural priorities and policies,
which, as we discussed in Chapter 1, are mainly concerned with the most efficient
way to mass-produce cheap pork. Policies concerning China’s pork industry promote
CAFOs and economies of scale, making it hard for backyard farmers to make a profit.
Researchers in Chongqing found that farmers could earn a profit of about 70 or
80 yuan from a 100-kilogram pig, yet taxes and levies on that added up to nearly
60 yuan, leaving the farmer with less than 20 yuan per pig (Jian 2010). These costs
are more significant for a backyard farmer breeding a few pigs per year than they are
for a CAFO that is often subsidised and produces hundreds of thousands of pigs per
This trend is also shown in research from Wenling City, where the local government
designated its own pork company as the only enterprise licensed to buy pigs in the
city (Jian 2010). This state-owned industrialised pork company could monopolise the
market and force prices down, resulting in the company making 100 yuan per pig
(Jian 2010). In contrast, local pig farmers lost an equivalent amount for each pig they
sold (Jian 2010).The policy did ensure government tax revenues and helped improve
pork quality to some degree, but it also allowed the pork company to monopolise the
market and made it increasingly hard for independent farmers to make a profit (Jian
These case studies illustrates that small-scale pig farmers are disadvantaged within the
structures of China’s pork industry today. The emphasis on economic efficiency have
compromised farmers’ economic freedom- and power and made it very difficult for
these people to succeed in this industry. The option for most small-scale pig farmers
are, therefore, either to scale up, which most rural farmers cannot afford to do, or
more commonly, turn into waged, mostly migrant, workers (Schneider & Sharma
2014). The result is that small-scale farmers are rapidly being replaced with larger
specialized pork producers that are more able to meet standards of efficiency and
increased production levels.
Drawing on these examples, it seems likely that economic inequality is one effect of
the centralisation of power within China’s pork industry and the diminishing
economic power and freedom of small-scale farmers. This is consistent with data
from the United States, which shows that farm-sector concentration and industrialised
agricultural operations increase poverty and income inequality (Impact of Industrial
Farm Animal Production on Rural Communities 2008; Crowley & Roscigno 2004).
An extensive body of research has, similarly, found that industrialisation in China
increased output significantly but also led to inequality (Cheong & Wu 2009; Kanbur
& Zhang 2005). While it takes these findings into account, this thesis does not attempt
to attribute all of China’s inequality issues to industrialisation. Rather, it aims to point
out that the restructuring of China’s pork industry may be a contributor to larger
issues of inequality.
The relationship between inequality and environmental degradation
Éloi Laurent’s work is the theoretical basis for the second major point of this chapter:
that inequality and pollution are connected. This is an observation frequently made by
scholars of political ecology.
Laurent argues that to address environmental degradation, it is first crucial to
recognise that environmental challenges are social challenges, and arise primarily
from social inequalities (Laurent 2013). This theory is consistent with the work by
Boyce (1994), who argues that environmental degradation would not occur without
winners and losers. In the context of this thesis, winners will be used in broad terms to
refer to people from privileged socioeconomic backgrounds, while the term losers
will be used to describe disadvantaged individuals from poor socioeconomic
Boyce main reasoning is framed by the concept of inequalities. That is, environmental
degradation would not occur if there were no people from the bottom end of the
spectrum, the losers, which were forced to bear the harms of these issues. If the
winners were unable to shift the cost to the losers without resistance, they would be
forced to bear the costs of ecological issues themselves, which would prevent them
from engaging in environmentally degrading activities.
Thus, environmental degradation can only be eliminated if both winners and losers
are forced to suffer the side effect of environmental degradation. This is precisely
why China’s pork industry continues to pose an ecological threat since inequalities
within the country allows winners to impose costs on the losers without resistance. In
the context of this thesis, power imbalances are, therefore, a crucial component in
understanding how China’s industrial pork industry have turned into a source of
Laurent argues that one way to demonstrate how inequality drives environmental
degradation is by analysing the relationship between the winners and the losers and
how their interactions allows environmentally harmful activities to persist. He does
this by examining five channels where rich and poor interact in environmental
degradation. This thesis will only address the first three, since they have direct
relevance to our analysis of China’s pork industry.
Laurent’s analysis of the three chosen channels led him to make the following
1. Inequality increases the need for environmentally harmful and socially
unnecessary economic growth.
2. Inequality increases the ecological irresponsibility of the richest within each
country and among nations.
3. Inequality, which affects the health of individuals and groups, diminishes the
social and ecological resilience of communities and societies and weakens
their collective ability to adapt to accelerating environmental change
We will now address each of these statements and channels, link them to the
industrialisation of Chinese pork production. We will examine each one by
considering how particular inequalities highlighted, produced and reinforced by the
restructuring of China’s pork industry correspond to the environmental problems that
industrial pork production causes.
“Inequality increases the need for environmentally harmful and socially
unnecessary economic growth.”
As we established in Chapter 2, the environmental degradation produced by China’s
pork industry is caused by industrial pork production at environmentally
unsustainable levels. The winners drive this level of consumption in two ways.
Firstly, by influencing levels of consumption in the middle class and secondly, by
being the biggest consumers of meat themselves. This thesis will illustrate this point
by examining Laurent’s first channel, which states that “inequality increases the need
for environmentally harmful and socially unnecessary economic growth” (Laurent
The relationship between inequality and economic growth is based on an economic
mechanism whereby, when wealth accumulation within a country is increasingly
captured by a small elite, the rest of the population needs to compensate for that
capture with additional economic development (Laurent 2013).
In China, one manifestation of inequality is an unsustainable increase in pork
production due to the middle-class desire to imitate the lifestyles of the wealthy upper
class. This increases environmental degradation (Laurent 2013). Research from China
has found that pork, which is China’s most preferred meat, has become an image of
wealth. As one agribusiness executive in Shanghai put it, “ [Pork] signifies wealth.
The more money you have, the more [pork] you will eat” (Schneider & Sharma 2014,
p.21). This desire to imitate the upper-middle class can help explain why China’s
middle class has rapidly increased its pork consumption since the 1970s, bringing
with it a corresponding increase in pollution (Schneider & Sharma 2014).
One way to illustrate how inequality has fuelled environmentally unsustainable levels
of pork consumption is by showing how inequality and pork production have both
grown since the reforms of the 1970s (Figures 7 and 8).
Figure 7. Income inequality in China 1981–2012
Source: World Bank report on inequality (Sicular 2013)
Figure 8. Growth in Chinese meat consumption between 1979 and 2014
Source: USDA (Hansen & Gale 2014)
The relationship between income inequality and growth in meat consumption, as seen
in these graphs, provides clear evidence bearing out Laurent’s argument that
increased inequality will be matched by increased consumption as a result of the less
wealthy seeking to imitate the lifestyles of the rich.
In addition to fuel consumption in the middle class, the winners also drive
environmental degradation by being the biggest consumers of pork themselves. This
is illustrated in a chart from 2014 showing per capita purchases of key food products
by various income groups in China (Figure 9).
Figure 9. Per capita purchases of key food products by various income groups
Source: (Schneider & Sharma 2014))
This figure shows that the richest quintile of Chinese society eats a disproportionate
amount of meat in comparison to the poorest quintile. Research has found meat
consumption is rising across all socioeconomic groups, but the bulk of this growth is
urban-centred—it is not evenly distributed (Schneider & Sharma 2014). Meat may
have moved to the centre of urban middle-class consumption, but it remains
peripheral in rural diets, which still rely heavily on grain.
In summary, one might, therefore, argue that inequality causes environmentally
unsustainable levels of pork production because it increases consumption levels in the
middle-class. The winners also facilitate this degradation by being the biggest
consumers of pork themselves. This is an important argument in the context of this
thesis because increased levels of pork production and consumption result in more
pollution, as we saw in Chapter 2.
“Inequality increases the ecological irresponsibility of the richest within each
country and among nations.”
The previous section showed how the winners in Chinese society are contributing
more towards environmental degradation by consuming more pork than any other
socioeconomic group but also by inspiring increased consumption amongst the rest of
the population. This section will illustrate how the winners can engage in this
environmentally harmful activity by shifting the environmental cost of industrial pork
production onto the losers in Chinese society. The way it will do this is by arguing
along the lines of Laurent’s second channel, which states that “inequality increases
the ecological irresponsibility of the richest, within each country and among nations”
(Laurent 2013, p.7).
Inequality increases the ecological irresponsibility20
amongst the winners by allowing
them to physically distance themselves from environmental degradation brought
about by excessive pork consumption. Laurent argues that his strategy rests of the
notion that widening inequality “exacerbates the fundamental tendency of capitalist
enterprises to maximize profits by externalizing cost at the national and international
level and to turn socially deprived areas into pollution havens” (Laurent 2013, p.7).
As the difference between rich and poor grows, it becomes easier for the wealthy to
transfer the environmentally damaging side effects of their lifestyles to the poorest
(Laurent 2013). Because inequality often disassociates the polluters from the
individuals that are forced to pay the price of environmental degradation, inequality,
therefore, acts as an accelerator of ecological irresponsibility (Laurent 2013).
This argument is consistent with Chinese industry trends that highlight how industrial
pork production is moving to poorer provinces where the winners are not impacted by
the cost of pollution associated with the industry. For instance, China’s pork
production currently seems to be shifting away from rich metropolises and towards
poorer, less developed regions (Godfrey 2015; Shuping & Stanway 2015).
In the context of this thesis the word irresponsible will be used to describe the behaviour of the
winners but I do not imply that this socioeconomic group are necessarily aware of the environmental
degradation produced by their consumption patterns.
Traditionally, most of China’s pork industry has been located on the banks of the
Yangtze River and in southern areas including Guangzhou. However, in the wake of a
number of food safety scandals, such as the discovery of 16,000 dead pigs in the
Huangpu river in Shanghai in 2013, and of the introduction of new environmental
regulations, this trend is changing (Shuping & Stanway 2015). The government has
banned breeding activity around major rivers and cities, a decision that mostly affects
developed regions such as Guangdong and Fujian, where land is expensive (Shuping
& Stanway 2015). This decision appears to be a part of a larger strategy to move
livestock production and other heavily polluting industries away from bigger cities.
They are to be replaced with high-tech, high-value industries, investments and jobs
One result of this shift is that in the first half of 2015 alone, 14,000 small-scale
farmers in Fujian lost their livelihood, often without any form of compensation
(Shuping & Stanway 2015). Major pig feed and breeding companies, including
Guangdong Wen’s Foodstuffs, are moving their production to poorer central and
northern regions, including Henan, Sichuan and Jilin, where environmental
regulations are less rigorously enforced (Godfrey 2015). The poorer and less
politically powerful in Chinese society appear to be the losers in these moves.
The relocation of China’s pork industry is a relatively new process and is still
ongoing. We still do not have a full picture of the inequalities involved in the location
of Chinese pork production. However, we might consider two images (Figures 10 and
11) to get an idea of how the wealthy manage to transfer the environmentally