"For your own personal safety, stay away from coming in close contact with live chickens and do not buy freshly killed chicken at traditional wet markets," said Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hui of the Life Conservationist Association.
The Buddhist master said that although she would like to see people stop eating meat altogether, she realizes the difficulty but still hoped that the public can kick the habit of eating freshly-killed meat.
She called on consumers to buy meat slain by slaughterhouses rather than from market butchers.
The master said that there are many unsanitary practices involved in the slaughter of live poultry when conducted at traditional markets.
For example, most meat vendors do not wear masks and gloves while handling the meat. They do not wash or sterilize themselves, the bird cages and vehicles before entering and leaving the markets.
Shoppers can also obtain easy access to and come into close contact with the birds. In addition, the blood and droppings of the slaughtered birds splatter on the ground and flow in to the market gutters.
Throwing his backing behind the master, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Yun-peng yesterday called on the government to strictly enforce the Husbandry Law.
The legislation stipulates that the slaughter of poultry, pigs, sheep, cows and other livestock for consumption has to be conducted at government-approved slaughterhouses. Violators are subject to a fine of between NT$100,000 (US$2,970) and NT$500,000.
Statistics show that over 350 million chickens are slaughtered in the country each year, many of which are processed at regulated slaughterhouses.
Lin Chin-chung, head of the Meat Inspection Division under the Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, said there are currently 18 sanctioned slaughterhouses nationwide, while 22 more are under construction. The 18 slaughterhouses process about 82,000 chickens an hour, or 320 million a year.