Thousands of people involved in the poultry industry nationwide braved the rainy weather yesterday to protest outside the Council of Agriculture in Taipei against the council’s order that chickens must be electronically slaughtered in certified slaughterhouses. The demonstrators said the new policy threatens their livelihoods.
Some of the protesters held banners accusing the government of “forcing the people to revolt,” while others threw rotten eggs, water bottles and flag poles at the council building — and the police deployed to guard it.
“I have five people to feed in my family with my small chicken farm, but now that traditional slaughtering is banned, I have to travel two hours back and forth to take the chickens to certified electrical slaughterhouse in Fengshan District (鳳山), Greater Kaohsiung. Sometimes the dead chickens go bad on the return trip, especially in the summer heat,” a farmer who identified himself as A-ching (阿清) from Kaohsiung’s Meinong District (美濃) told the crowd.
“Sometimes the slaughterhouse refuses to take my order, since it only starts the machine when there are at least 500 chickens,” she said.
A-ching said her business has been seriously affected since the order was imposed on May 17.
“What am I going to do to feed my family if I cannot make a living anymore?” A-ching said. “Are you going to feed my family, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)?”
The crowd responded with a round of applause and airhorn blasts.
Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Frida Tsai (蔡培慧) said that while Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) has repeatedly said the 83 certified poultry slaughterhouses nationwide were enough to meet demand, “it was a total lie.”
“The Poultry Association recently telephoned each of the 83 slaughterhouses for a poll. Only 47 provide slaughtering services for non-associated chicken farmers,” Tsai said.
Lee Wen-yang (李文揚), the second-generation owner of a popular poultry shop in Taipei’s Nanmen Market (南門市場) founded by his parents 50 years ago, said the capacity of the slaughterhouses was not sufficient to meet demand.
“My shop opens at 6am, but the poultry slaughterhouse is so jammed that often we cannot get our chickens until noon, and by that time the shopping crowd is gone,” Lee said. “The [slaughterhouse’s] quality of service is poor too. My mother and I have to spend a lot of time cleaning the chickens before putting them on shelf.”
The unequal distribution of the slaughterhouses around the country was also an issue, the protesters said, because there is only one certified electrical poultry slaughterhouse for Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市), which have a combined population of more than 6 million people.
There were minor clashes between the demonstrators and police, with the protesters pushing at police barricades.
Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Wang Cheng-teng (王政騰) met with a 10 representatives from the protesters, but the two sides were not able to reach an agreement. After the meeting, the demonstrators marched to the Presidential Office for another protest.