On July 2, the Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) launched a landmark campaign to end Taiwan’s live poultry trade, demanding urgent action from Taiwanese authorities to protect animal welfare and human health.
The campaign launch featured extensive investigative footage detailing mistreatment of animals and zoonotic disease risks in Taiwan’s live poultry trade, captured over a two-year period at the Greater Taipei Area’s two wholesale poultry markets: the Huannan Wholesale Poultry Market in Taipei and the Taishan Poultry Cooperative in New Taipei City.
Each day, more than 100,000 live animals are transported from southern and central Taiwan for slaughter in the highly-urbanized Greater Taipei Area. The trade is fuelled by consumer preference for ‘warm meat’ that has not undergone refrigeration before sale.
In the online press conference, EAST demanded Taiwanese authorities heed the lessons from the coronavirus pandemic and take urgent action to mitigate the risk of a deadly avian influenza outbreak.
According to official statistics, highly pathogenic avian influenza strains have been identified in wholesale poultry markets in Taipei and New Taipei a total of 49 times from 2016 to June 17, 2021, including the subtypes H5N2, H5N8, and H5N5. The infected birds were transported from farms spread across eight cities and counties located mostly in central and southern Taiwan. In the first half of this year alone, Taiwan has culled more than 42,000 birds to contain outbreaks of avian influenza.
Since avian influenza was first recorded in 1878, it has continuously evolved and demonstrated the ability for animal-human transmission, and even human-human transmission. Across the Taiwan Strait, China has recorded multiple instances of humans contracting the virus from poultry in recent years, including in February and May of this year.
“We cannot ignore the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic” warned Yu-Min Chen, Deputy Chief Executive of EAST, urging the government to take urgent preventative action to mitigate risk of disease outbreak.
In addition to heightening the risk of zoonotic disease transmission, Taiwan’s live poultry trade inflicts immense and unnecessary suffering on the animals involved. Live birds are stuffed into crammed wire cages that are stacked onto trucks for transport to wholesale markets in northern Taiwan. They are transported in rain and extreme temperatures with no protection from the elements, including Taiwan’s blistering summer heat. Many birds do not survive the arduous journey.
Once they arrive at northern Taiwan’s live trade markets, birds must endure rough handling and the brutal ‘sorting’ process—where birds are weighed and inspected determine their grade—before being sent to their death. EAST investigators uncovered cages containing chickens being roughly thrown or dropped from heights of several meters during unloading, causing severe distress to the animals. The footage also showed workers, who themselves ensure punishing working conditions, roughly tossing or slamming birds into cages during sorting.
Lastly, the live poultry trade results in large amounts of organic waste that is returned to central and southern Taiwan. This includes innards, bloodied feathers, fats, faeces, and an estimated 1,500 tons of wastewater per day. In addition to the unjustified environmental toll, the transport of organic matter across the country provides another window for disease transmission.
In other advanced countries, animals are slaughtered in the region they are raised in, while sorting is conducted after slaughter using weighing and carcass grading, reducing distress for the animals. This result is a fairer, more scientific, and more humane process.
In 2019, Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je acknowledged the faults in the current live trade system and said that Taipei should move to a modern, humane alternative and end the transport of live poultry into Taipei. An overhaul of the system has also been proposed in talks between Taipei and New Taipei City since late 2019, though meeting minutes show the plans have stalled.
Huannan Wholesale Poultry Market has been ordered to suspend operations for three days after a COVID-19 outbreak at the neighbouring Huannan Market resulted in the infection of 41 workers. This has forced some animals to be slaughtered prior to transportation, demonstrating the feasibility of this system.
“The live poultry trade is an anachronism with no place in modern society” stated Ms. Chen.
“We cannot wait until it is too late to act.”
Yu-Min Chen, Deputy Chief Executive
Environment & Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST)
Mobile: 0910 150 908
Phone: 02 22369735