01 March 2012

Pig farmers in Taiwan protest US meat imports contaminated with ractopamine

Nearly 20,000 pig farmers will take to the streets of Taiwan's largest city in protest if their government decides to once more allow US meat imports contaminated with ractopamine into the country. 

Ractopamine is added to feed as a way to cut costs, as it promotes muscle growth. However, unlike antibiotics and hormones used and discontinued before slaughter, ractopamine is started in the final days of the animal's life.

In 2003, researchers at Purdue University found that ractopamine can have various effects on the behavior of pigs, making them hyperactive, and more susceptible to transport stress. The report's summary adds that the drug can make pigs more difficult to move, increasing the likelihood that they are "subjected to rough handling and increased stress during transportation, implying reduced welfare, increased workload for the handlers and, potentially, poorer meat quality."

Animal welfare activist Temple Grandin believes that the widespread use of ractopamine has also "contributed to an increase in downer non-ambulatory pigs."

Taiwan's pig farmers "produce" nearly 9 million hogs a year for consumption, importing only a small percentage from countries not using ractopamine, such as Canada.

While the drug is allowed in 27 countries around the world, including the U.S., it is banned in 29 countries, including Taiwan.

Jonathan Reynolds
Jonathan is a freelance writer and blogger residing in upstate New York.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/myklroventine