Taipei Times, Sat, Jan 31, 2015 By Sean Lin, Staff reporter. With the number of birds culled in response to the avian influenza outbreaks exceeding 1.7 million, the Environment and Animal Society Taiwan (EAST) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) yesterday slammed what they said were inhumane practices adopted by local governments. The Council of Agriculture also came under fire from the society, who said the council had not updated its culling procedure in compliance with international standards and had been negligent in its duty to monitor the exterminations.
At a news conference in Taipei, EAST played video footage shot during culls last weekend at six poultry farms in Yunlin County — the area most severely hit by the outbreak — and demanded that the council assume responsibility for what it called the cruel treatment of the birds, which included dead and living geese bagged together in blood-stained hessian bags and then snatched up by a crane with a metal claw. Living birds could be seen struggling inside the bags, some of which the group said had been left for more than 12 hours as culling personnel waited for the fowl to suffocate. Geese were shown grabbed by the neck — appearing to be in considerable pain — before being put into the bags.
Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Deputy Director-General Shih Tai-hua (施泰華) had said that carbon dioxide was used to sedate animals before culling, but EAST chief executive Wu Hung (朱增宏) disputed that, saying that his group’s findings showed that culling undertaken at most farms was carried out without the gas, in violation of extermination guidelines stipulated by the World Organization for Animal Health, of which Taiwan is a member. Wu also rejected Shih’s assertion that soldiers had been deployed to disinfect vehicles along roads used by culling personnel to transport dead birds to incinerators or rendering plants — a disease control measure the bureau pledged to implement last week. Meanwhile, the group’s investigation into extermination efforts by nine local governments highlighted the lack of a standard operating procedure in the extermination methods adopted by local governments.
Yunlin County said that its personnel froze geese with dry ice and Changhua County said exterminators suffocated waterfowl showing weak vital signs with hessian sacks. Pingtung and Chiayi counties, as well as Greater Tainan, used chloral hydrate to cull birds — a practice that has been banned by the US Department of Agriculture because the compound is a weak sedative. None of the local governments that used carbon dioxide were able to provide information on the concentration or quantities used, the probe showed.
Citing World Organization for Animal Health extermination guidelines, Wu said that carbon dioxide — at 40 percent to 70 percent concentration — should be introduced gradually directly into poultry houses to sedate or kill the birds in a manner that causes minimum distress. Alternatively, fowl can be placed into plastic or metal containers into which carbon dioxide is introduced to ensure that fowl are properly anesthetized prior to extermination, Wu said, adding that placing birds into hessian sacks did not meet this requirement.
Lin questioned the council’s inactivity over improving culling methods despite the millions of New Taiwan dollars in grants it has distrubuted to academics to conduct research into the field, the results of which include an article describing an automated carbon dioxide administering bagging machine, written by National Chiayi University professor Huang Ching-hsiang (黃慶祥), and an article published in 2008 on an alkaline foam-spraying system for chicken euthanization by National Chung Hsing University professor Yang Chi (楊繼). However, Shih said chloral hydrate was used to sedate the birds and the practice should therefore be considered humane. He said that the bureau would address its administrative negligence and improve its extermination measures.