Several environmental protection groups gathered in front of the Department of Health yesterday to protest against allowing more US beef into the market.
The protesters said that although the government was planning to establish a food and drug administration, they were skeptical of whether the establishment would ensure food safety and protect the public interest.
“The US already supplies 20 to 30 percent of beef in Taiwan, but it is still not satisfied and wants to push even more beef into [Taiwan],” said Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲), secretary-general of the Green Party Taiwan, one of the groups joining the protest.
The protesters held up signs that said “Love the earth by eating vegetables, localize the economy.”
They also chanted phrases such as “Eat less meat, fight global warming” and “Taiwanese should eat locally produced rice.”
As part of the demonstration, the protesters acted out a short skit, showing the doors of the planned food safety administration closed to melamine but open to beef tainted with mad cow disease.
The greenhouse gas emissions per year produced by raising a single cow is equivalent to a car driving 70,000km, said Lai Fen-lan (賴芬蘭), spokesperson of the Union of No Meat No Heat and a member of the Taiwan Friends of the Global Greens.
Since 2005, Taiwan has twice imposed a partial ban on US beef after two cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, were confirmed in the US. Currently, only bone-free beef from cattle under 30 months of age is allowed on the market.
Medical research has shown that consumption of BSE-tainted beef can lead to fatal brain disease in humans.
On Nov. 12, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Stephen Young said that Taiwan should fully open its market to US beef. However, the department has not acted upon the request, saying it first needs to evaluate the health risk.