A two-day siege by more than 100 protesting traders of the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse in Hong Kong came to an end Sunday afternoon after Hong Kong health officials agreed to explore ways of avoiding a mass pig cull in the event of future cases of African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks.
This protest followed Hong Kong’s confirmed first case of ASF in a government-owned slaughterhouse on Friday. Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee announced the finding late on Friday.
Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse was ordered to cull all 6,000 pigs at the slaughterhouse and suspend operations until disinfection was completed. Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse is owned by the Hong Kong government and supplies 80% of the city’s pork.
Protesters and Hong Kong officials struck a deal after a three-hour meeting between the two sides on Sunday, clearing the way for a much-needed pig cull operation at the abattoir.
Officials also promised the cull operation would be completed within seven days, to minimize the possible impact on traders’ business.
One pork traders’ representative, Ling Wai-yip, of Fresh Meat United, described it as a win-win deal, according to the South China Morning Post.
“Our aim has never been occupying the slaughterhouse or stopping the cull of the 6,000 pigs,” Wai-yip said. “Of course, we could stay put and carry on with our protests. But it is not in the best interest of the public. Our action has drawn public attention to our concerns.”
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee warned protestors they would be breaking the law if they tried to obstruct officers from culling the pigs.
Traders argued that the government pig cull operation was unreasonable because the pig which tested positive for ASF came from a batch sent to the slaughterhouse on May 2. The sick pig did not enter the market and the rest of the batch had been sold.
“The government should do tests on the 6,000 pigs first. But now they are killing these pigs because they found another pig from another batch got infected almost two weeks ago,” said Hui Wai-kin of the Pork Traders General Association.
Authorities report that the infected pig was imported from Zhanjiang, Guangdong province. Dr. Kenny Ho Chin-ho, a city agriculture official, said the pig showed no symptoms of the fever before it was slaughtered for consumption, the South China Morning Post reported. A routine test on an organ sample, which was collected on May 2 but only tested on Friday, detected the virus.
Between 3,500 and 4,000 live pigs are imported from the mainland to Hong Kong each day and slaughtered for consumption, the article said. Another 250 pigs from local farms are also slaughtered every day in the city.
ASF poses no food safety risk to people but is highly transmissible among wild and domestic pigs.
For more on ASF, visit porkbusiness.com/ASF.