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No more live poultry sales

Publication Date : 18-04-2013


After years of flip-flops on whether poultry dealers should be banned from killing chickens, ducks and geese at traditional markets, the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture (COA) said Monday that such a ban would finally be enforced in Taiwan in response to the H7N9 bird flu scare.

Following more than six years of delay, we are glad that Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji has adopted a more precautionary approach and imposed a nationwide ban before the arrival of migratory birds in August. Without a doubt, we support taking preventive actions before there is complete scientific proof of a risk of transmitting the disease from person to person.

Strangely enough, the COA has already announced several plans to ban the sale of live poultry since 2006, in efforts to counter the various avian flu crises. A ban even went into practice on a trial basis in various locations across the country, and was scheduled to become completely enforced on April 1, 2010.

On March 26, however, The COA announced that poultry dealers won't be required to have their poultry killed at designated slaughterhouses, dismissing fears that contact between human beings and poultry could spread deadly infectious diseases.

Selling live poultry in traditional markets was a terrible idea in the first place. After the animals are beheaded, they are thrown, dead or alive, into a scalding tank to loosen their feathers, then butchered for the client. Meanwhile, the droppings and fluids of the remaining poultry stuffed into overcrowded cages under the counter remain on the wet ground to fester with roaches, vermin and all kinds of diseases.

All for a slightly better taste? You have to be kidding.

The idea that eating freshly butchered meat is always the best is false. Take beef for example; the best steaks are those aged for over 20 days because the low temperature actually reduces the acidity of the meat. The same is true with all meat.

Banning the sale of live poultry will require consumers to change their cooking habits for sure, but we are confident that local residents will make the right choice for themselves, their families and other people's children.

If and when H7N9 gets here, authorities will have to shut down the traditional markets anyway, and we will all have to eat fried pork fiber for weeks. If the virus spreads to other animals and then to humans, it will present a greater challenge for disease control and prevention.

We should remember the bitter lessons learned in the SARS outbreak, and prevent H7N9 from spreading to Taiwan. Ten years ago, severe acute respiratory syndrome killed nearly 800 people worldwide and infected more than 8,000, WHO figures showed.

More importantly, SARS spread to the island in a week's time, though there were no direct flights between Taiwan and mainland China at that time. There are currently more than 600 weekly flights between the two sides of the strait and it is imperative that the country remains on a critical state of alert and enacts a strategy to keep the outbreak out of Taiwan.


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