Thousands of people took to the streets of Taiwan to protest against the import of US pork

  • As part of an annual labor march, thousands of people in Taiwan protested against the government's decision to overturn a longstanding ban on US pork imports.
  • US pork that contains "acceptable" residues of the animal feed additive ractopamine will be allowed from January 1. Taiwan has banned the sale of pork from pigs fed on the drug since 2006.
  • Both Taiwan citizens and the opposition party Kuomintang have expressed concerns about the effects ractopamine could have on both animals and humans.
  • "I have a child and when we eat things with ractopamine, it's not good for our bodies," protester Jacky Tsui told the Associated Press. "I hope the government can see that we citizens oppose this."
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On Saturday, thousands of people gathered in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei to protest against the country legalization of US pork imports.

In August, the government announced it would lift a ban on US pork and beef imports from January 1, prompting Taiwanese citizens and rival politicians to express concerns about the safety of this meat.

Under the new import policy, pork that has "acceptable" residues of ractopamine, a drug added to animal feed to make farm animals more lean, will be allowed to enter the country.

The drug is banned in most countries including the EU, mainland China, and Russia, but it is legal in around 27 countries including Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand. In the US, it is used to feed turkeys, and cattle, and between 60% and 80% of the country's pigs.

The sale of pork from pigs given ractopamine has been banned in Taiwan since 2006, but from 2012 the country allowed the use of the drug in cattle feed.

The government's announcement to allow the import of American pork from pigs fed on ractopamine has met with fierce opposition, both by the opposition Kuomintang party and individual citizens.

"Taiwanese pigs don't eat ractopamine and yet you are asking Taiwanese people to? Does this make sense?" KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang said.

Demonstrators marched in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei as part of an annual labor march known as "Autumn Struggle," which Kuomintang rallied its supporters to attend. Protesters also discussed education and freedom of speech.

"I came here today to oppose the import of ractopamine," said Kelvin Chen, a 54-year-old computer engineer who was marching. "I feel these days many who do business are not ethical. If they mix the US pork with Taiwan pork and then sell it to us average consumers, we as individuals have no way to know the source of the pork."

"I have a child and when we eat things with ractopamine, it's not good for our bodies," said Jacky Tsui, a 37-year-old factory worker. "I hope the government can see that we citizens oppose this."

But the ruling Democratic Progressive Party argues that allowing US pork imports doesn't pose food safety issues and will strengthen cooperation between the US and Taiwan.

 

Reporting by Taijing Wu for the Associated Press, Grace Dean for Business Insider

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