February 14, 2006


Hong Kong cracking down on backyard poultry



Scores of government workers combed through rural areas of Hong Kong for poultry on Monday to enforce a ban on backyard fowl in an effort to prevent bird flu.


Six wild birds and two chickens in the territory were found with the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu during the last three weeks.


Government workers, wearing surgical caps, masks and protective gloves searched through 6,000 houses and confiscated 82 chickens, ducks and geese from 12 households.


Some residents in the rural New Territories were visibly upset when authorities took their poultry away to be destroyed. Many have treated their poultry more like pets than food.


Hong Kong has not had any bird flu infections in people but the territory's health chief said earlier this month that H5N1 is probably endemic in the region around Hong Kong.


Hong Kong's legislature passed an emergency law last week banning backyard poultry farming and officials stressed that poultry would be culled with no further warning.


The ban includes chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons and quails, said a government spokesman. Anyone caught with these birds can be fined up to HK$100,000 (US$12,900).


People in Hong Kong favour freshly slaughtered poultry and many rural households keep poultry for their own consumption.


A census last year found nearly 13,000 ducks and chickens in the territory, with each farmer having an average of seven birds.


Before the new law, households did not require any licence if they kept fewer than 20 chickens.