Taiwan's duck egg industry has suffered a humiliating international backlash just as it seeks to gain access to the EU, with the international community condemning its use of battery cages to house semi-aquatic ducks.
Eurogroup for Animals, an alliance representing 70 animal protection organizations from 25 EU member states, issued a statement warning Taiwanese duck eggs pose a threat to EU animal welfare standards and even public health. The Brussels-based alliance demanded the world’s biggest trade bloc strengthen measures to protect European progress on animal welfare, saying Taiwan’s application to export processed duck egg products to the EU underscored the need for more stringent market access provisions.
The statement also urged the EU to wield its market influence to uplift animal welfare standards internationally. The use of trade policy to promote improved animal welfare standards in third countries was recently foreshadowed by the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy, declaring the EU will "obtain ambitious commitments from third countries in key areas such as animal welfare." Animal welfare is already a feature of EU trade activity, with the provisional text of the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement requiring eggs comply with EU welfare standards to qualify for duty-free status.
CEO of Eurogroup for Animals, Reineke Hameleers, stated "The EU welcomes imported products from around the world, however the European public will firmly reject products of cruelty. We look forward to Taiwan abiding by international animal welfare trends and putting an end to this cruel practice."
In addition to its public pronouncements, Eurogroup for Animals made formal representations to the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE). The representations urged the influential body to consider Taiwan’s poor track record on veterinary drug use and avian influenza management in addition to broader animal welfare implications when assessing Taiwan’s application.
Taiwan exports some NT$180 million worth of duck eggs each year to countries including the United States, Canada, Singapore, and Japan. In recent years the industry has attempted to gain access to the European market in pursuit of greater market opportunities.
However, while the world moves away from cage farming in response to growing animal welfare concerns, Taiwan’s duck egg industry continues to move in the wrong direction. Cage eggs farms now represent approximately 20% of Taiwan’s total duck egg production.
Previous investigations by EAST on Taiwanese farms have revealed ducks crammed in rows of metal wire cages, with 2-3 ducks crammed into each cage. Investigators captured footage of ducks exhibiting behaviors indicative of severe distress, and abrasions on the animals’ feet caused by the dry conditions and rusty wire floors.
Animal protection organizations from Europe and major export markets joined Eurogroup for Animals in condemning the caging of ducks in Taiwan. The Humane League (USA), ACRES (Singapore), The Humane League Japan (Japan), Anima International (Europe), RSPCA (England & Wales) and Fundación FAADA (Spain) all backed calls for an end to the practice.
British comedian Ricky Gervais also picked up on the campaign, retweeting harrowing footage of Taiwanese duck egg farms to his more than 14 million followers. Ricky Gervais is the star of The Office and Netflix series After Life, which was recently renewed for a third season.
"The government needs to follow through on its promise to phase out this cruelty," said EAST campaign researcher Fang Chu Chune. "A minority of bad actors are tarnishing the reputation of the industry. The writing is on the wall."
Fang Chu Chune, Campaign Researcher
Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST)
Phone: 02 2236-9735 #6