Critics yesterday expressed concerns that the diversity of chicken breeds in Taiwan might suffer from the government’s “half-baked” live-poultry slaughter ban in traditional markets, which the Council of Agriculture (COA) and the Central Epidemic Command Center have been touting as a success.
The ban took effect on Friday and as of Sunday, none of the 1,051 legally registered poultry stands have been found to have contravened the ban, the center said yesterday.
It added that 869 of the stands, or 94.46 percent, had applied for the government subsidy and agreed to comply with the policy before the date on which it became effective.
“The authority had inspected 1,479 stands and found 17 in violation of the law, either by displaying or butchering live poultry. Those stands were not legally registered,” Centers for Disease Control official Lee Chiu-feng (李翠鳳) said.
When asked about the concerns — voiced in an opinion piece in a Chinese-language newspaper by an animal expert and a chicken farmer — that the ban would crowd out small farmers of native chickens and lead to the extinction of a variety of chicken breeds in Taiwan, council official Chao Parn-Hwa (趙磐華) said he thought the preservation of breeds was a separate issue, not to be conflated with the production and marketing of poultry meat.
He added that 32 of the nation’s 83 slaughterhouses are small slaughterhouses that can fulfill the needs of small chicken farmers.
Lee Yen-pai (李淵百), a professor of animal science at National Chung Hsin University and coauthor of the opinion piece, said in response to Chao’s comment that the preservation of breeds would not be possible if there was no market for the native chickens bred by small farmers.
“Small chicken farmers might have only dozens of chickens from some native breeds,” Lee said.
He added that slaughterhouses might not be able to cater to small chicken farmers’ need to butcher small quantities of chickens at a time, as Chao conceded that even small slaughterhouses deal with hundreds of chickens at a time, if not thousands.
“If letting the free market take the reins is all the government can think of, Taiwan’s agriculture can simply cease to exist,” Lee told the Taipei Times.
He added that Taiwan is too small to participate in a liberal global economy where the largest (and so the cheapest) wins out.
“Taiwan’s agriculture has to aim for high-end food products. Special breeds of native chickens, if certified by a well-established certification system supported by the government, could achieve this. Our government once took the initiative to construct a food traceability system a few years ago, but then stopped short of completing it,” Lee said.
For example, France is a country with a reputable certification system for chickens, Lee said.
“They have a large variety of chicken breeds. It is only when these chickens become valuable that farmers can breed them for a high price,” he said.
Lee said that Taiwanese go to traditional markets for live poultry exactly because they deem it safer and fresher than the chicken meat delivered by slaughterhouses from who knows where.
“Now is the perfect time to push for the long-overdue food traceability system,” Lee said.