A small group of protesters gathered outside the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in Taipei yesterday, calling on the US not to press Taiwan on beef imports, while opposition lawmakers and heads of local governments called on the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to make public health its No. 1 priority.
Chanting slogans, displaying posters and performing a skit intended to show that imports of US meat products containing the feed additive ractopamine would endanger public health, about 30 protesters, led by Labor Rights Association executive director Wang Chuan-ping (王娟萍), chanted: “Oppose the US imposing drugs on Taiwan,” “Defend the people’s right to health,” “Protest against the US over internal interference” and “Protect the local livestock industry.”
The protest lasted for about 50 minutes and ended when Joseph Parker, an AIT official, came out of the building to receive the protesters’ written statement.
Separately, Yang Guan-chang (楊冠章), director of the nationwide association of hog farmers — the Republic of China Swine Association — said his group would stage protests if the government lifts the import ban.
“We will set up an emergency response team, which will stay on high alert on ractopamine policy, and we will organize a rally immediately” once a decision is made, Yang said.
Meanwhile, Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the county government would establish rules at local government level to prohibit the sale of meat products containing ractopamine if a public hearing scheduled to be held next month reaches a consensus.
The heads of five local governments headed by the DPP in the south of the nation — Yunlin County, Chiayi County, Greater Tainan, Greater Kaohsiung and Pingtung County — issued a statement urging the Ma administration to make food safety and public health the top priority.
The DPP said the Ma administration was ready to sacrifice people’s health to assuage the US with its “obvious” intention to lift the ban on ractopamine.
One of the conclusions reached in the second inter-ministerial meeting on US beef on Tuesday was that ractopamine poses no health concerns unless 500kg of meat containing the drug is consumed, which is “ridiculous,” DPP caucus whip Pan Men-an (潘孟安) told a press conference.
The DPP legislative caucus was disappointed by the meeting, as the government is to make a final decision based on opinions of only 10 experts, DPP Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) said.
The meeting cited only information provided by the US government, which has endorsed the safety of ractopamine, despite reports by the Council of Agriculture, the European Food Safety Authority, the University of Iowa and Purdue University that suggested a negative impact from the use of ractopamine, she said.
“If the Ma administration eventually lifts the restriction, it will be a betrayal of Ma’s campaign pledge,” DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said, adding that Ma expressed his opposition to ractopamine in 2007, while vice president-elect Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said in March last year as premier that “Taiwan welcomes imported US beef not containing ractopamine.”
The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) said it is also strongly opposed to loosening restrictions on ractopamine in meat products and it gave the premier 48 hours to make a pledge not to allow meat imports containing the feed additive.