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Pig farmers' opinions on animal drug will be heeded: gov't official

by 5m Editor
17 August 2007, at 9:08am

TAIPEI - In response to next week's planned demonstration by pig farmers in Taipei against a government plan to allow the use of a veterinary drug, Executive Yuan spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey said Thursday that the government will fully take farmers' opinions into account before lifting the ban.

According to Shieh, the government has heard the voices of hog farmers and the Council of Agriculture (COA) will step up communications with them to ensure that they gain a better understanding of a safe use of the animal drug which promotes the growth of lean meat in livestock.

The Cabinet-level Department of Health (DOH) decided to lift the ban on ractopamine by the end of this month at the earliest, after having studied the drug's use in the United States and Japan, Shieh said.

The DOH is set to permit regulated amounts of ractopamine residues in different organs of pigs and cattle and their meat after Aug. 21 if no one voices opposition, he said, and denied that the decision was made due to strong pressure exerted by the United States, he said.

Later the same day, the Consumers' Foundation issued a statement expressing its objections to the government's plan to legalize the use of the banned drug.

The foundation urged the DOH and COA not to give way to foreign pressure and allow the drug use, which they say will pose great risks to consumers' health, especially to patients with liver and heart problems.

Over 10,000 people from across Taiwan are set to demonstrate next Tuesday in front of relevant agencies and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) against a government decision to lift the ban on ractopamine due to pressure from the United States, a representative from the local pig-raising industry said the same day.

Wang Feng-ming, chairman of the Republic of China hog-raising association, said that in addition to some 7,000 pig farmers from central and southern region, thousands of consumers and environmental protection and female rights activists will also take part in the demonstration in front of the DOH.

From the DOH, demonstrators will proceed to the AIT and the Council of Agriculture (COA) , where they will also stage protests against the easing of the ban, Wang said, adding that pig farmers are prepared to stage a series of demonstrations over the long term if the government fails to repeal its ban decision by Aug. 21.

Despite repeated assurances, the DOH and COA announced Tuesday that they will lift the ban on ractopamine and denied allegations that the decision was made as a result of U.S. concerns after two shipments of U.S. pork imports were found to contain the unlawful substance.

Wang accused the government of turning a blind eye to local hog producers' livelihoods and consumers' health concern, questioning the meaning of the government's efforts over the past decade in guiding farmers not to use the drug, which promotes the growth of lean meat in livestock.

Earlier the same day, Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lawmaker Yin Ling-ying demanded the government give a reasonable explanation of its lifting of the ban on ractopamine and asked relevant agency chiefs to resign from their posts to assume responsibility for what she called a mistaken policy.

Speaking at a news conference held in Yunlin county in southern Taiwan that was also attended by representatives from the local pig- raising association, Yin urged the DOH and the COA to provide the public with a sensible explanation of their decision to allow the use of ractopamine.

Yin also urged relevant DOH and COA officials to step down from their posts and assume responsibility.

The two agencies announced Tuesday that they would lift the ban on the animal drug which was banned by the COA last year.

Although government officials said that limited use of ractopamine is lawful in 24 countries, including the United States and Japan, she asked why they did not also point out that the animal drug is banned in more than 160 other countries.

She threatened to take pig farmers to the streets if the government fails to respond to their calls.

Further Reading

Pig farmers to protest use of animal drug
China Puts U.S. on Notice Over Pork Shipments

5m Editor