Taiwanese frightened, frustrated by sudden African swine fever text message

Taiwanese complain about random African swine fever alert message

Alert (center), confiscated meat (background).

Alert (center), confiscated meat (background). (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- As more meat products tainted with African swine fever have been intercepted by Customs, the Council of Agriculture issued a text alert at 12 p.m. today warning Taiwanese not to violate regulations against importing meat into the country, frustrating many netizens who say they do not receive such text messages when major disasters occur, such as earthquakes.

So far this year, Customs officers have reported three cases of meat products smuggled into the country that tested positive for African swine fever, resulting in those responsible in each case being fined NT$15,000 (US$486). In an attempt to educate the public about the current restrictions in place on meat products brought in from abroad, the Council of Agriculture issued a text alert to all mobile users in Taiwan today at noon.

The text of the message read as follows:

"To prevent the spread of African swine fever, do not buy meat online and have it sent to Taiwan, violators will be sentenced to seven years in prison. No meat products are allowed to be brought into the country after traveling abroad, violators will be fined up to NT$1 million."

Many Taiwanese netizens then shared the text message on social media and complained that the government seemed to be placing more importance on a disease affecting the pork industry, rather than disasters that affect them directly and immediately, such as earthquakes. Others were initially frightened that the alert was the harbinger of a major calamity such as an earthquake or tsunami, as the government had made announcements that warnings of such events would be sent via text message:

"Never received an earthquake text alert, this time I finally receive an alert, but it's about swine fever."

"I still didn't get it."

"Earthquake notifications are more important to me."

"Scared me, I thought it was a earthquake."

"When there's an earthquake, I get nothing, why send me a message about African swine fever?"

Travelers are strictly prohibited from bringing meat products into the country and violators may be fined up to NT$1 million.