On a recent visit to my hometown by the Yangtze River in eastern China, relatives welcomed me, as ever, with a feast: steamed perch and hairy crab, deep-fried river shrimp — and braised pork. My 84-year-old father made sure to serve pork, even though it was now twice as expensive as the year before. This time, he didn’t get the meat from my brother, who until this fall had been the village’s largest pork producer: All 150 pigs on my brother’s farm had either died or been culled because of African swine fever.
The disease was first reported in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, in early August 2018. By the end of August 2019, the entire pig population of China had dropped by about 40 percent. China accounted for more than half of the global pig population in 2018, and the epidemic there alone has killed nearly one-quarter of all the world’s pigs.