The hurried rollout of a ban on the live slaughter of poultry has been met with strong criticism from the chicken industry, who yesterday said the policy only aided large slaughterhouses, and would lead to monopolization of the industry while devastating the variety of native chicken breeds that enrich the nation’s food culture.
The ban on the slaughter of live poultry at traditional wet markets took effect on May 17 as the authorities moved to prevent a possible outbreak of the H7N9 avian influenza.
However, at a press conference in Taipei yesterday, experts and the representatives from the industry said the policy has been plagued with problems and called on the government to consider the needs of small poultry farmers.
The director of the Native Chicken Section of the National Poultry Association, Huang Chuan-cheng (黃全成), panned the Council of Agriculture for claiming that existing slaughterhouses would be able to handle all of the nation’s chicken butchering and could satisfy the diverse demand.
Given that the different breeds of native chickens come in varying sizes, catering to the needs of the nation’s chicken farmers would not be the priority of slaughterhouses, which are equipped for and used to butchering standardized-size broiler chickens, Huang said.
“Also, 90 percent of the [current 83] slaughterhouses are selling butchered chickens themselves as well. There is a golden time period to achieve the best quality chicken, but you can’t expect these slaughterhouses to schedule the best time for farmers or vendors with only a small amount of chickens,” Huang said.
Lin Chien-li (林謙利), a chicken farmer from Miaoli County, said the slaughterhouses are currently handling too many chickens, which could easily result in substandard hygiene procedures and chicken meat that putrefies in a short period of time.
Yao Liang-yi (姚量議), a research fellow at the Taiwan Rural Front, said that some vulnerable families had survived by small-scale native chicken farming or custom butchering.
However, the ban has forced them to bring their few chickens to a registered slaughterhouse that might be two hours’ drive away, which has resulted in a loss of livelihood, Yao said.
“Worse, as broiler-chicken slaughtering has been monopolized by eight major slaughterhouses, the ban might further help them monopolize the native chicken industry by controlling the source and the sales channels of chickens,” he said.
Japan has more than 3,000 local, small-sized slaughterhouses that apply electrical shock methods to Japan’s native chickens, which account for only about 5 percent of their chickens in total, said Frida Tsai (蔡培慧), an assistant professor at Shih-Hsin University’s Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies.
“Given that Taiwan has one-fifth of Japan’s population and native chicken consumption accounts for 30 percent of the overall chicken consumption, the number of slaughterhouses in the country pales in comparison,” Tsai said.
In a protest scheduled for next Thursday, the groups said they would demand the establishment of public live poultry wholesale markets and slaughterhouses in every city and county, and the establishment of public slaughter facilities in every township. The groups are also demanding to be allowed to set up simple slaughter equipment in poultry farms, as well as a native chicken certification system.