Putting U.S. beef back on the shelves in Asia caused riots last year in Seoul and now it is bringing a street protest to Taipei on Saturday.
Taiwan and the U.S. reached an agreement last week to allow bone-in-beef and beef organs from cattle less than 30 months in age to be exported to the Asian nation for the first time since 2003.
Before a cow with Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease was found in Washington State in December 2003, U.S. beef exports totaled 9.6 percent of its overall production.
The ban of U.S. beef over the Mad Cow scare dropped exports to just 460 million pounds in 2004, down from 2.5 billion pounds the year earlier. U.S. beef has been fighting to get back in, one country at a time.
While never one of its top markets, Taiwan is a target for U.S. beef.
Opposition to the announcement was immediate and there was enough confusion about the change to cause the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to put a hold on all beef shipments to Taiwan.
On Saturday, the opposition will be taking to the streets. However, unlike the 2008 protests in Seoul, opposition organizers in Taipei are going out of their way to stress that it will not be an anti-U.S. demonstration.
Chen Yi-shen, chairman of the Taiwan Association of University Professors, said the rally would be against lifting the ban and the government making its decisions behind closed doors. He said the U.S. remains an important partner to Taiwan in business and politics.
Two of Taiwan’s political parties, the Chinese Nationalists and the Democratic Progressive Party, want to amend the country’s food sanitation act to prohibit bone-in-beef and beef organ imports.
Some of Taiwan’s medical experts are telling consumers with fears about U.S. beef that the simple thing to do is not to protest, but to simply not eat the American beef.
The China Post reported medical experts were advising that “the best way to shield themselves from safety hazards that could be caused by imported products is to reject the purchase and use of beef products from abroad.”
“Consumers should stay away from cattle’s internal organs, ground beef and bones from the U.S.,” it continued. “This will be an effective way to show importers that there will be no profits for them if they insist on shipping such products to the Taiwan market.”
At nearly $80 billion annually, the United States has the largest feed-cattle industry in the world, and is the world’s largest producer of beef, primarily high-quality, grain-fed beef for domestic and export use. Its largest export markets are Japan, Canada, and Mexico.