Wed, Aug 22, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Pig farmers protest drug policy

ODORIFEROUS Some brought piglets and threw excrement at the Department of Health over its hormone policy and demanded that Minister Hou Sheng-mou appear

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pig farmers yesterday protest against the Department of Health's policy on ractopamine, which is also known as ''lean meat essence.'' The sign on the left reads: ''We want lean meat, but no 'essence!'''

PHOTO: CNA

The smell of rotten eggs filled Aiguo E Road in Taipei City yesterday morning as thousands of pig farmers gathered in front of the Department of Health (DOH) to protest a potential change in policy on the use of ractopamine.

Taiwan bans ractopamine, a drug that promotes the growth of lean meat in pigs and cattle, calling it a health hazard. The ban on the hormone covers domestic and imported meat.

However, the government has said it is considering lifting the ban on imported meat that contains ractopamine.

Farmers fear that, if the import ban is lifted, their products will suffer in the domestic marketplace.

Wu Fu-li, who is from a rural community near Kaohsiung City, said he came to Taipei to press for keeping the ban, warning that a change in policy would indicate double standards.

"The government doesn't allow us to use this chemical," he said. "Why do they allow other countries to import pork that contains it?"

During the protest yesterday, angry farmers hurled rotten eggs at police who stood guard at the DOH entrance. Police were also dispatched yesterday to guard the entrances of the Council of Agriculture and American Institute in Taiwan.

The crowd of protesting farmers briefly tried to overturn a barbed-wire barricade separating them from the government building, with some managing to break into the department's main entrance on Aiguo E Road.

Some farmers brought the piglets they had raised and threw eggs and pig excrement at the building, demanding that Department of Health Minister Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂) make an immediate appearance.

Hou eventually agreed to meet the protesters and was pressured to sign a formal agreement.

In the agreement, Hou was asked to promise that he would ban imports of pork containing ractopamine before any change in regulations takes effect and that in the future, the DOH and the council would have a consistent position on the issue.

Pan Lien-chou (潘連周), president of the Swine Association, said nearly all of the association's local chapters sent representatives to join the protest.

Those from Hualien could not attend because of landslides that were caused by Typhoon Sepat, he said.

Legislators from the Democratic Progressive Party, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Taiwan Solidarity Union also attended the event to support the pig farmers' cause.

Police made no arrests and there were no injuries during the protest.

At a separate setting yesterday, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said that the government has no set position or any timetable for resolving the controversy over the use of ractopamine.

Asserting that the government is doing its best to properly handle the issue, Chang said he has instructed Vice Premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) to coordinate the work of government agencies in order to forge a consensus.

Additional reporting by AP and CNA

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