World

Lessons in China

RAE CORELLI December 16 1996
World

Lessons in China

RAE CORELLI December 16 1996

Lessons in China

Chinese consumers want pork with more meat and less fat. So 16 months ago, Canadian Janet Alsop went to China to teach farmers about pig fitness. The 44-year-old veterinarian is the technical adviser on a program to which the Canadian International Development Agency contributed $11 million and 827 pigs, purebred for leanness. Under what is officially known as the “China-Canada

Lean Swine Development Project,” Canadian porkers are mated with Chinese pigs and the healthiest, meatiest offspring are sold to Chinese farmers as breeding stock. Beijing is evidently pleased with the results—“I’m very well looked after here,” says Alsop.

A graduate of the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, Alsop got a phone call in mid-1995 from a former university professor who asked how

she would like to work in China and “I jumped at the opportunity.” Alsop and her dog, Max, wound up in Yutian, a grimy town of 30,000 about 120 km east of Beijing, where she is the only waiguoren (foreigner). “Some of the locals wonder why I’m here,” she says. “You know, why would I want to leave a rich Western country to come to rural China?” The answer: to monitor the health and productivity of the pigs at Yutian and two other project sites in north China. Two or three times a week, she and project manager Brian Bedard climb

into their van and drive to a walled farm compound 25 km south of Yutian for a pig inspection. The animals are pampered: to avoid contaminating their “biosecure” environment, Alsop and Bedard must shower and change clothing before entering it.

Despite Chinese hospitality, Alsop says she gets lonely, adding that “I have to look at how much more time I can afford to spend away from clinical veterinary work.” But for now, she says, “I'm having experiences I would never have had if I had stayed in North America.”

RAE CORELLI

RICHARD TOMLINSON