COA plans tougher penalties for smuggling

‘NO CHOICE’:
The proposal was made after the agency slaughtered 154 cats smuggled from China because the risk of them carrying disease posed a “major threat”

  • By Shelley Shan and Lee I-chia / Journalists

The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday proposed to impose stiffer penalties for animal trafficking after the agency on Saturday euthanized 154 valuable cats illegally imported from China on a Taiwanese fishing boat on Friday.

The murder of the contraband cats, which took place on the same day as International Homeless Animals Day, sparked an uproar.

COA Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) at a press conference in Taipei yesterday defended the council’s decision, saying the agency had no choice but to slaughter the animals.

Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Administration

“Even after quarantine, these cats could still be carriers (…) of diseases due to the long latency periods of the viruses, which could pose a major threat to pets and farm animals in Taiwan,” said Chen said.

He said many animal lovers might find the council’s decision difficult to accept, but the vets who were ordered to slaughter the cats were the saddest of all.

Council officials were also torn between reason and emotion, he added.

“As head of animal and plant quarantine affairs, I made the final decision … because it just had to be done. If there are any criticisms of the way the council has handled this matter, let them be directed against me rather than the core council workers, ”Chen said.

These cats were smuggled in from China, a country at high risk for rabies, Chen said, adding that the death rate for people bitten by an animal with rabies is 100% once the infection clears. is installed.

To combat animal trafficking, Chen said the council will work with the Justice Department to amend the Trafficking Sanctions Act (懲治 走私 條例) to allow jail terms for smugglers. animals over seven years of age, which is currently the maximum penalty.

The council would also amend the Animal Welfare Act (動物 保護 法), which imposes a fine of NT $ 100,000 to 3 million (US $ 3,570 to 107,112) on unlicensed animal sellers or those who sell animals from unknown sources.

Once the law is changed, the departure fine would be NT $ 3 million, he said.

The boat that helped smuggle cats into Taiwan has been permanently banned from fishing, Chen said.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) condemned the smugglers on Facebook, saying she supported the council’s decision to change the laws to ensure that contraband animals are treated in a more humane manner.

Separately, the COA African Swine Fever Disaster Response Center yesterday reported the first case of African swine fever found in smuggled meat products.

The virus was discovered in a 71.79 kg shipment of meat imported from Vietnam by a local distributor using a courier service, he said.

The center is investigating whether infected meat has entered local markets and would destroy it if found, he said.

Pork accounted for 60.28 kg of the contraband shipment, chicken products 5.81 kg and beef products 5.7 kg, Chen said.

The shipment also included a 15.74 kg package of onions, he said, adding that the entire shipment had been destroyed.

“It was the first time in three years that an outbreak of African swine fever has broken out in the region that we have intercepted a contraband shipment containing traces of the virus,” he said.

As this was not the first shipment of processed meat products from Vietnam to be smuggled into Taiwan, authorities were tracing the source of all products sold in the markets and testing those currently on the shelves, he said. declared.

Meanwhile, the customs administration said it has confiscated more than 200 kg of meat products in the past two weeks, mostly consisting of meat-filled mooncakes and sausages.

CNA Supplementary Reports

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