The slaughter of live poultry in traditional markets is to be banned from June 17 because of the risk of avian influenza outbreaks, according to a joint announcement made yesterday by the Central Epidemic Command Center and the Council of Agriculture.
The announcement was made at the conclusion of the center’s fourth general meeting.
The slaughter of chickens, ducks and geese will be prohibited in traditional markets, and all poultry raised for meat should be butchered in the 79 licensed slaughterhouses across the nation, according to the announcement.
The center added that the ban would be imposed earlier than the set date under certain conditions, including if migratory birds journey south earlier than expected, if the H7N9 virus is detected in live poultry locally, if the H7N9 bird flu danger in China worsens, or with the emergence of the first local H7N9 human infection in Taiwan.
The legal basis for the ban lies in the Animal Industry Act (畜牧法), which requires that “the slaughtering of pigs, cattle, goats or other livestock or poultry as designated by the central competent authority for human consumption … be carried out in a slaughterhouse, unless the central competent authority otherwise designates it.”
Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Deputy Director Huang Kuo-ching (黃國青) said that anyone transgressing this law would be subject to a fine of no less than NT$20,000 and no more than NT$100,000.
“If severe harm is inflicted on the health of humans by illicit slaughtering, or if an offender has repeatedly violated the law, a penalty of a prison term of no more than three years and/or a fine of no more than NT$100,000 shall be imposed,” Huang added.
When asked whether the ban coming into effect so soon would negatively affect the livelihoods of vendors operating poultry slaughtering stands in traditional markets, Huang said that the vendors could still procure slaughtered poultry from the licensed slaughterhouses.
“It is mostly simulated native chickens that are butchered in traditional markets, not broiler chickens, that are now all slaughtered in slaughterhouses. Out of the 330,000 simulated native chickens slaughtered and sold per day, only approximately 20,000 are slaughtered in the markets,” Huang said.
He added that the number of licensed slaughterhouses is sufficient for meeting market demand.
Meanwhile, the center said that seven suspected H7N9 cases were reported in the 24-hour period that ended at 8am yesterday, of which four had tested negative for the bird flu virus. The test results of the other three cases were still pending.
The command center also reported on the results of the surveillance and detection activities the Council of Agriculture has recently conducted on animals, including live poultry, pet birds, pigs and wild-bird droppings, saying that none of their tests had identified influenza A(H7N9) viruses or antibodies.
On receiving the H7N9 virus strain as promised by the Chinese government, Centers for Disease Control Director-General Chang Feng-yee (張峰義), who heads the command center, said that all the necessary paperwork had been prepared and provided to China.
“All that is left to be done is simply to wait for delivery from China, and I expect that the virus strain will arrive soon,” Chang said.