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Beef growers to burn U.S. flags in protest

2012/02/13 17:19:49

Taipei, Feb. 13 (CNA) Local cattle farmers will join forces with pig farmers in a protest in Taipei if Taiwan caves in to U.S. pressure and drops its ban on a leanness-enhancing drug in imported American beef, a group of livestock farmers said Monday.

The Taiwan Beef Industry Progress Association plans to burn American flags and portraits of U.S. President Barack Obama in the demonstration scheduled for later this month in Taipei, said Tseng Chin-jui on behalf of association director Liu San-he.

The association firmly opposes any policy that will allow the use of the controversial leanness-enhancing drug, called ractopamine, in meat.

The local beef industry suspects that once Taiwan's market opens to U.S. beef containing the drug, it will be forced to open even more widely to American meat products.

"All the world, including the U.S. itself, has been going organic (meat). Why do they want us Taiwanese to eat U.S. beef grown using ractopamine?"

Pig farmers originally planned the protest because they feared that allowing U.S. beef with ractopamine would pave the way to allow the drug in pigs as well.

Also on Monday, Hsu Kuai-sheng, director of the Council of Agriculture's husbandry division, visited swine farmers in Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Miaoli counties and Taichung to hear their opinions on the issue.

"(I) will gather the farmers' opinions and urge them to have confidence in the government. Don't be concerned," Hsu said before meeting them.

The protest was planned amid rumors that the government might deal with the problem by adopting Japan's practice of banning local farmers' use of ractopamine while allowing imports of American beef containing the residues of the drug.

A closed-door inter-ministerial meeting on beef imports took place on Feb. 10, but no decision was made on whether Taiwan would say "yes" to U.S. beef containing ractopamine.

President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated Monday that the government has not set a timetable for resolving the problem and is not leaning one way or the other at present.

"We will surely assess and research both public health and our trade and economic interests as well as inviting opinions from different fields. A decision will be made based on science, experience and facts," Ma said.

The president said the government did not make any promises to Washington, which has been pressing Taipei to lift the ban on the feed additive. It is now actively seeking a public consensus in an effort to tackle the issue positively.

(By Yang Shu-min, Kelven Huang and Kendra Lin)