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the Gauntlet

Picking a patsy

China puts two heads on the chopping block for the melamine milk scandal

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The undesirable effects of melamine on the human body have become well known to the public ever since the Chinese protein export contaminations, perhaps better known as the Chinese milk scam of 2008 and the pet food recall of 2007. The scandal, which resulted from the addition of melamine to raw milk to make it appear higher in protein, left some 300,000 infants with kidney damage and six babies dead.

As with most cases where we, the people, feel we have been wronged by faceless corporations, we want to see some justice and, if it's quite alright with everyone else, we prefer justice to be as absolute as possible. And no other government on our planet has to worry about delivering justice to as many people as the Chinese.

If it had only been justice that the Chinese government had to deliver then things probably wouldn't have been that bad. First, back in 2007, they were slow to respond when problems showed up with contaminated proteins in pet foods, eventually denying that the contaminated proteins were exported from China at all. Then, having barred foreign food safety investigators from the country, officials were ultimately forced to admit that the tainted proteins had in fact originated from their nation. To show that China was serious about getting to the bottom of unsettling matters such as toxic food distribution, two managers from two different protein manufacturers were arrested.

People love their pets, sure, but people love their own children a lot more. So, when melamine started to show up again, this time not in pet food, but in people food, the populace was predictably pissed.

It's not just justice anymore; it's the government's integrity on the line. Their corrective actions after the pet food scandal were clearly not corrective enough. China's a nation that is willing to show off its understanding of right and wrong, so clearly this time around arresting a couple of folks is not going to be enough. This time around somebody has got to go down. But still, one life, one death sentence, can't really account for six babies and hundreds of thousands of damaged kidneys. Two, however, seems to do the trick.

Zhang Yujun, a cattle farmer, and Geng Jinping, a milk trader, are going to die for the evils that they have committed, and no doubt the world will be a safer place once they're gone.

And of course others are being arrested too. When the scandal came to light and it was discovered that the Sanlu Group was well aware that they were selling toxic milk and had shipped over 900 tonnes of it, Tian Wenhua, the chairwoman, was found worthy of a life sentence and a fine of $2.9 million.

Some Chinese parents are upset that Wenhua be allowed to live. But why kill someone who, alive, will deposit $3 million into your coffers? It makes sense if you think that people will really believe that a cattle farmer and a milk trader were ultimately and solely responsible for masterminding the international distribution of tainted food products. It also works if you're not too concerned whether or not people believe that you buy into your own system of justice.

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