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COA wants life terms for fatal veterinary drug use

The Council of Agriculture (COA, 農委會) announced yesterday that it is planning to amend the Veterinary Drugs Control Act (動物用藥品管理法) to mandate stricter penalties for the use, sale, manufacture and import of illicit drugs.

According to the new draft, for cases in which a person's health is impaired, those responsible may be given prison sentences of up to seven years and fines of up to NT$10 million. For cases in which fatalities occur, those responsible may be given life sentences.

According to current regulations, information about those in violation of the act cannot be made public; however, Huang Kuo-ching (黃國青), deputy director general of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ, 防檢局), said that the amendments will allow authorities to disclose the names, addresses and descriptions of violators.

One to 2 percent of pig farmers are still using forbidden drugs, Huang stated, adding that once the amendments are passed, the BAPHIQ will be able to disclose their information.

Huang explained that under current regulations, livestock farmers who use illicit drugs are fined NT$30,000 to NT$150,000, while repeat offenders are fined up to NT$1.25 million. If the amendments are passed, first-time offenders will be fined NT$60,000 to NT$300,000, while repeat offenders can be fined up to NT$2.5 million.

Under the Veterinary Drugs Control Act, those who manufacture or import illicit drugs are given a prison sentence of up to five years, as well as a maximum fine of NT$2.5 million. Once the amendments are approved, offenders may serve a maximum of seven years in prison and receive a fine of NT$4.5 million.

The COA also plans to adjust the three-year sentence and NT$4.5 million fine for those found guilty of selling illicit drugs to a penalty of five years in prison and a NT$5 million fine.

Huang explained that in mainland China, if farmers are found using illicit drugs, they can be given the death penalty.

Stricter penalties are meant to be a stronger determent, Huang stated, adding that the COA will do its best to safeguard public health.

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