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China’s Smash Sparrows Campaign and Nature’s Revenge!

Great Sparrow Campaign

Nature flows at its own pace like a mountain spring. Unable to adapt to the ever-changing laws of nature, all the monstrous creatures, including dinosaurs and mammoths, got lost. Again, small animals like ants have survived. Only the most capable creatures survive – that is the law of nature.

And sitting at the peak of arrogance, those who have lost the right knowledge and crossed the line by pointing their thumbs at the laws of nature, every time the cruel revenge of nature has come upon them as a result. Nature never forgives transgressors. It is the constant play of destiny.

There have been many catastrophes in the history of human civilization. However, the natural disaster that struck China in 1958 was unimaginable.

What is meant by sparrow campaign?

Sparrow nests were destroyed, eggs were broken, and chicks were killed. Millions of people organized into groups, and hit noisy pots and pans to prevent sparrows from resting in their nests, with the goal of causing them to drop dead from exhaustion. In addition to these tactics, citizens also simply shot the birds down from the sky. The campaign depleted the sparrow population, pushing it to near extinction.

The extermination of sparrows is known as the smash sparrows campaign, the great sparrow campaign or eliminate sparrows campaign. This campaign is a part of the Four Pests campaign. The four pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows.

The “Four Pests” campaign was introduced in China in 1958 as a hygiene campaign aimed to eradicate the pests responsible for the transmission of pestilence and disease:

  • the mosquitos responsible for malaria
  • the rodents that spread the plague
  • the pervasive airborne flies
  • the sparrows—specifically the Eurasian tree sparrow—which eat grain seed and fruit

Who started the Great Sparrow campaign in China?

Mao Zedong
In 1949, Mao Zedong declared the People’s Republic of China

Mao Zedong, the father of the People’s Republic of China, decided one day that it was time to eradicate sparrows from the environment. That order was also properly obeyed. But nature did not tolerate such injustice, so the natural disaster began. The death toll from the disaster rose to 45 million in the next three years.

In 1949, power in China passed to the Communist Party. Mao Zedong announced the “Great Leap Forward” project that year, with the aim of rapidly transforming China’s economy. The aim of this social and economic project was to bring the agro-industry across the country under full state control by conducting agriculture and agricultural activities with government funding. Individual petty farming was also banned as part of China’s transition to a communist government. They were trying their best to make the agrarian revolution a success.

The public cheers with tractors brought in for farmers as part of the Great Leap Forward project
The public cheers with tractors brought in for farmers as part of the Great Leap Forward project

One of the first steps Mao Zedong took to integrate agriculture was crop protection.

Why were sparrows killed in China?

Reports from various parts of the country stated that a significant amount of crops had been eaten by flocks of sparrows living around us. And so to solve this problem, Mao Zedong ordered to kill all the sparrows from the country.

Mao knew nothing special about animals. He never discussed his plans with anyone. Again, he did not borrow the opinion of experts. He decided that they would be killed.

Dai Qing, Environmental activist

According to a report by Chinese scientists, each sparrow eats about 4.5 kg of grains in a year. If every one million sparrows could be killed, it would be possible to provide food for an estimated 60,000 people.

But the extinction of sparrows overnight from the country, which covers an area of ​​about 96 million square kilometers, is not easy. So there was a lot of researches on how sparrows can be eliminated. At the end of the study, after the final decision was made, the public was made aware of their duties through a massive campaign.

Sparrows have been identified as one of the main enemies of crops

In the end, the method was such that every citizen would chase the birds all day long finding the nearest nest of sparrows. All together they would make a loud noise so that the birds could not land anywhere for fear. Tired of flying like this, when the birds fall down, they have to be caught and killed.

Did China declare war on sparrows?

The Great Sparrow Campaign has begun! With the pull of patriotism (!), Everyone jumped into the program of killing sparrows in groups. A Shanghai newspaper described the day as follows:

On the morning of the 13th of December, the battle against sparrows started everywhere. Red flags were seen on major and minor roads. Students, government servants, factory workers, peasants, the People’s Liberation Army, all joined the battle.

Basically, catching sparrows, chasing them, killing them with poison is the responsibility of young people. And the old and the children have been given the responsibility of guard. The workers of the factories of the city also wanted to take part in this war. Earlier, they had assured that they would meet the production target of the day.

In places where the number of people is relatively low, more than one and a half hundred free fire zones were set up to conduct smooth combat operations. The rifle team of Nanyang Girls Middle School has also been given special training on bird hunting.

Kill sparrows
Public awareness poster titled ‘Kill the last sparrow too’

The housewives came out of the house with plates, bowls, pots and pans. They tried to fulfill their civic duty by using them as drums with the help of spoon or stick.

dead sparrow
The housewives also took part in this campaign

Destroying sparrow nests, breaking eggs, shooting, capturing and poisoning were the main part of the horrific program of the day. This is how the residents of Shanghai started fighting against the sparrows. According to estimates, about 194,432 sparrows were killed by 8pm.

This is only Shanghai’s estimate. Can you imagine the number of killed sparrows in the whole country?

festive killing
In the festive mood, sparrows were hunted in China

According to CountryEconomy.com, the population of China in 1958 was 659,943,000. In that case, if every citizen killed even one bird, then the number of sparrows that died that day would be about 659 million!

It should be noted that rats, flies and mosquitoes have been eradicating in China for many years. The aim of the project, called ‘Four Pests Campaign’, was to make the daily living environment of Chinese citizens healthier. One of the steps of Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution was to ensure healthcare for all sections of the population in the country. However, sparrows were killed for agricultural purposes only.

prosperous future
Mao Zedong dreamed of a prosperous future. Image Artist: Zhang Yuqing

How did China lose to sparrows?

Every element of nature belongs to one or another chain. They are intimately involved with each other. So if any one of these elements is damaged in any way, the ecological balance is lost. And as always, nature takes on the responsibility of restoring the balance. It did not take long for the Chinese to pay compensation for such foolish actions. The cruel blow of nature came.

First, in addition to grains, sparrows also eat a variety of insects. With the extinction of sparrows, the number of insects increased geometrically. This caused the crop fields to be infested with harmful insects. As a result, the grain that was saved so much went into the insect’s stomach.

In a very short time the granaries became empty. There was also a shortage of food stored by the common people. Millions of people faced food crisis. There was a famine. This famine is known as ‘The Great Famine’.

Millions of people died in The Great Famine

Before these shocks of famine and food shortage were overcome, a new shock came. Following the launch of The Great Leap Forward project, in April 1959, the government directed the people to make steel, the main purpose of which was to catch the United States and the United Kingdom in the competition of the iron industry.

At that time, steel utensils were used for household purposes in China. Iron pots, dishes, bowls and plates were confiscated from each house. People were instructed to make steel in their backyards. Agriculture slowed down.

The famine had taken a terrible turn by then. According to official Chinese government documents, the death toll from the food crisis was 15 million. However, according to important figures in the country, the number was 45 million or more than 78 million.

Yang Jisheng
Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng

In his book Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, Chinese journalist Yong Jisheng mentions that 36 million people died. The book, which sheds light on many of China’s internal secrets, was banned in China shortly after its release.

However, the Chinese government has not been able to erase the stigma of this scandalous chapter. In an interview with NPR in 2012, Young said,

“According to government documents, there were thousands of cases where people ate people during the food crisis. Parents ate their child out of hunger, the child ate their parents was such a thing every day.”

The Chinese misfortune did not end with the extreme food crisis, famine and killings as a result of the killing of sparrows. This was followed by a severe drought in China in 1960, on which the new agricultural system formulated by the central government also failed.

The biggest problem, however, was that the Chinese communist government, in an attempt to cover up these problems in front of the world, did not agree to distribute the stored food to the public in any way.

Although there was no crop in the grain field, there was sufficient food stock in the government warehouse at that time. But for some strange reason, the central government did not take any steps to make the food available to the public. On top of that, he would be brutally killed if anyone spoke out against the government’s actions.

In an interview with The Guardian, Young said:

The whole truth of that time may never be fully revealed to the world. Because, At present, the government and society of the country have improved. Therefore, it is very difficult for anyone to realize the awfulness of that time. Our history has also been changed at will. The truth has been hidden. And a nation that cannot face its own history cannot have a bright future.

The Four Pasts campaign was one of the most successful projects in history as a public health awareness program. However, without considering the balance of natural harmony and ecology, the Chinese had to pay for this mistake for decades. And the damage that was done was irreparable. But have they ever learned from the consequences of their opposition to nature?

Bat soup
China’s famous ‘Bat Soup’

A research paper published by a Chinese research team last year revealed that the uncontrolled and abnormal eating habits of the Chinese led to the onset of the corona virus risk. However, the appropriate authorities have not taken any steps to increase public awareness to avoid changes in eating habits or risk. As a result, the whole world is trembling today in the terror of the Corona virus.

Can one of the top countries in technology and modernity learn to coexist with the beauty of nature? Or will humanity be repeatedly questioned in front of them?

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Written by:

Harry Bikul
Postgraduated from Jahangirnagar University. Loves blogging and reading other people's writing. Spends leisure time watching good movies. Wants to travel around the world.

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