Crackdown on illegal farms launched to tackle bird flu

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Animal quarantine authorities have stepped up a crackdown on illegal poultry farms in a bid to contain the spread of bird flu. With the neighboring countries of Japan and South Korea already hit by widespread bird flu outbreaks, poultry farms in Taiwan must be put under close monitoring, officials from the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) said Friday. A Cabinet-organized nationwide meeting was held in Kaohsiung Friday afternoon to discuss ways to consolidate efforts to tackle bird flu, while BAPHIQ, part of the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture, had already begun a joint campaign with local authorities last week to step up inspections of poultry farms, the officials said. In November, 15 poultry farms were fined for violating the regulations, the BAPHIQ said, adding the respective local governments would assess the fines — ranging from NT$50,000 to NT$150,000 — for the violators. According to BAPHIQ, poultry farms in Hungary, Austria and Sweden have recently reported cases of infections by the H5N8 bird flu virus. In Denmark, Holland, Poland, Germany, Switzerland and Croatia, the H5N8 virus has been detected on wild birds. In Japan’s Niigata and Nagano, about 140,000 domesticated birds had been culled as of Nov. 28 due to bird flu outbreaks, according to BAPHIQ. In South Korea, more than 1.42 million birds from 41 H5N6-infected poultry farms have been culled.

BAPHIQ Director General Huang Tze-chung said the best way to prevent bird flu outbreaks was to remove all infected birds. Poultry farmers shouldered the heaviest burden in preventing bird flu outbreaks, Huang said. Poultry farmers have been advised to keep their birds in closed facilities, but many of the farmers have been reluctant to do so, BAPHIQ officials said. Lin Liang-mao, head of Chiayi County’s Agriculture Department, said the inspection and monitoring of poultry farms needed more support from the central government. He said it required the concerted effort of both local and central government to monitor poultry farms, as well as the transportation and management of bird feeds.

He said in some countries, such as China and South Korea, poultry trucks must be disinfected before being allowed onto highways in winter. He suggested Taiwan introduce similar laws to enforce such measures.