Slaughterhouse blockade called off as HK health officials and pork traders reach agreement on future swine fever arrangements, allowing cull of 6,000 pigs to go ahead

14-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong health officials have yielded to pork traders and agreed to explore ways of avoiding a mass pig cull in the event of future cases of African swine fever outbreaks, bringing to an end a two-day siege of the public Sheung Shui slaughterhouse by protesting traders who also at one point threatened a go-slow protest blocking streets in the city centre.

The deal, struck after a three-hour meeting between the two sides on Sunday, cleared the way for a much-needed pig cull operation at the abattoir, prompted by the city’s first confirmed case of African swine fever on Friday.

Officials also promised the cull operation would be completed within seven days, to minimise the possible impact on traders’ business.

Undersecretary for food and health Dr Chui Tak-yi, who led officials in talks with about 10 pork traders’ representatives at government headquarters, said that consensus had been reached on “the possible adjustment of the extent of pig culls” in case of African swine fever outbreaks in the future. But he did not elaborate.

One pork traders’ representative Ling Wai-yip, of Fresh Meat United, described it as a win-win deal. “Our aim has never been occupying the slaughterhouse or stopping the cull of the 6,000 pigs. Of course, we could stay put and carry on with our protests. But it is not in the best interest of the public. Our action has drawn public attention to our concerns.”

Ling added: “The government has promised they will put forward proposals on future pig cull operations immediately after the operation at Sheung Shui slaughter house is done.”

Both sides talked tough before Sunday’s meeting. More than 100 pork traders had besieged the Sheung Shui abattoir since Saturday in protest against the government decision to carry out a cull there. The traders parked two lorries to block the entrance of the complex. Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee warned them they would be breaking the law if they tried to obstruct officers from culling the pigs.

At one point, Hui Wai-kin of the Pork Traders general Association threatened to mobilise some 100 lorries to stage a drive-slow protest outside government headquarters, accusing the government of “breaking our rice bowls”, using a Cantonese idiom meaning to deprive people of their main means of income.

Traders said the government pig cull operation was unreasonable because the pig which tested positive for African swine fever came from a batch sent to the slaughterhouse on May 2. The sick pig did not enter the market and the rest of the batch had been sold.

“The government should do tests on the 6,000 pigs first. But now they are killing these pigs because they found another pig from another batch got infected almost two weeks ago,” Hui said.

Speaking after a radio interview on Sunday, Chan warned the protesting traders that it was illegal for them to obstruct the cull. She also said the operation was in accordance with established international practice.

Assistant director of food and environmental hygiene Fork Ping-lam also said after Sunday’s meeting that the department had no plan to take action against the protesting pork traders.

African swine fever is a highly contagious viral disease that infects pigs. It does not affect other animal species or humans. Although people will not contract the disease from eating pork, the Centre for Food Safety advises people to cook pork thoroughly before consumption to avoid contracting food-borne diseases.

The Sheung Shui abattoir supplies more than 80 per cent of the city’s pork.

The city’s fresh meat supply comes from three licensed abattoirs, in Sheung Shui, Tsuen Wan and Cheung Chau, with an average daily total throughput of about 4,310 pigs, 47 cattle and nine goats.


Category: Hong Kong

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