Destruction of sparrows


August 8, 2022

Extermination of sparrows (Chinese: 打麻雀运动, 消线麻雀运动) is a large-scale campaign that took place as part of the fight against agricultural pests, organized in China as part of the Great Leap Forward policy (1958-1962).

Campaign Progress

The goal of the campaign was to destroy the "four pests" - rats, mosquitoes, flies and sparrows. The campaign against sparrows became the most massive. Propaganda explained that sparrows eat crops en masse, causing colossal losses to the national economy. The plan was developed in 1958. Mao Zedong called for this on March 18, 1958 at the VIII Congress of the Communist Party of China. A sparrow cannot stay in the air for more than a certain period of time, about 15 minutes. All peasants, as well as schoolchildren and city dwellers, had to shout, beat basins, drums, wave sticks and rags while standing on the roofs of houses to scare the sparrows and not give them shelter. Tired birds fell to the ground without spirit, which was what the enthusiasts of the action achieved. They widely exhibited photographs with mountains of dead sparrows several meters high. At the same time, there was no registered decrease in the number of the other three "enemies" (flies, mosquitoes and rats), since the reduction of their population can be achieved only by hygienic means, and not by "hunting" for them, even nationwide. During the campaign in March-April 1958, 900,000 birds were destroyed in just three days in Beijing and Shanghai, and by the first decade of November of the same year in China, according to incomplete statistics, 1.96 billion sparrows were destroyed. In Beijing and the coastal provinces, where sparrows were destroyed the most, all small birds were destroyed at the same time.


A year after the campaign, the harvest really got better, but at the same time, caterpillars and locusts proliferated, which began to eat the shoots. In the following years, harvests decreased sharply, the country suffered a famine, as a result of which more than 20 million people died. The result of the sparrow extermination campaign was the purchase and delivery of live sparrows from neighboring regions and countries to the country. The authorities curtailed the campaign. In the draft "Decree of the Central Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Hygienic Measures", adopted on March 18, 1960, Mao Zedong wrote: "There is no need to destroy sparrows, as a result, we only got bugs. The slogan is: Destroy rats, k�