HK poultry industry easier to monitor than mainland farms
Illegal imports of poultry and waning vaccine effectiveness have been blamed for the recent finding of H5N1 viruses in some wet markets, but none of these has been confirmed.
Even if these were the causes the problem would not be solved by eradicating the poultry industry in Hong Kong. If the problem lies in illegal imports of poultry efforts should be put into confiscating such poultry. If the problem lies in mainland farms using inferior vaccines (or not vaccinating the chickens), these farms - not local farms - are to be condemned.
If the problem lies in mutation of viruses and diminished effectiveness of vaccines, new vaccines should be made. This is the same as human seasonal influenza in which new vaccines are being produced every year to counter the problem of continuous virus mutations.
If the problem lies in the failure of local farms' biosecurity there are good reasons to punish or buy out the industry. But surveillance in the local farms has not shown the presence of the virus so far. Another consideration is food security. Eliminating all forms of animal husbandry locally means we have to rely on supplies almost solely from the mainland. However, the mainland does not have a good reputation in food safety. If anything happens to the mainland poultry industry in terms of quantity and quality, the supply of poultry and poultry products will almost certainly be severed. However, our local industry can at least sustain supply for some time. Monitoring the compliance of local farms in biosecurity and vaccination measures is always easier than checking mainland farms.
If we kill the local animal husbandry we kill our last means of maintaining our food security. Modernisation does not mean conventional agricultural industries should be eliminated. Instead, new technologies should be employed to improve its yield, safety and environmental friendliness. Countries like the Netherlands and Britain would never terminate the poultry industry because of bird flu.
They learn to live with and control the disease. Chicken farms should stay, as should other types of farming and animal husbandry in Hong Kong.
Samson Wong, Pok Fu Lam