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Fake news on social media hits poultry industry


June 6, 2020

LAHORE:The government functionaries, including the senior officials of Punjab Livestock Department and representatives of other provincial governments, are acting as silent spectators as fake news targeting poultry products sweeps social media as part of an organised media campaign.

As numerous fake news items containing morphed images and baseless warnings taking rounds on social media, the high-ups are not only tightlipped on the issue but also are in a sort of hiding due to the better reasons know to them. All the government officials concerned seem to be in hibernation in the time of an emergency situation hitting hard the sale of poultry products in the country, said a poultry trader.

These attempts are bound to hit poultry farmers at a time when they are already in deep trouble due to multiple factors. The gap in supply chain of poultry products have resulted in its high prices as farmers had to bear losses of millions of rupees due to slump in sales.

The viral posts warning people against consumption of, what they dubbed, chicken laced with coronavirus going rounds since last about a couple of days at micro-bloging site Twitter, popular socialising platform Facebook, instant messaging and content sharing site Whatsapp, etc. Even the netizens having distinct agenda shared a fake notification of provincial Health Department in which it was claimed that the provincial government imposed an immediate ban on sale of poultry products.

Without sharing any scientific evidence, there are posts in which it is stubbornly insisted that coronavirus is being spread through consumption of poultry products.

The provincial government seems to be in deep slumber over the concerted effort being launched through social media as both provincial minister and livestock secretary remain silent on intentional misunderstanding and confusion over use of poultry products.

Despite contacts, they failed to share their views about the attempts to make the poultry sector controversial.

The management of University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) also lacked proactive approach in defusing the campaign of rumors mongering against the consumption of poultry products.

Earlier, the top management of UVAS used to issue statements containing scientific information about safety and hygienic aspects of poultry products. However, there have been no such activities seen this time.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Poultry Association (Northern Region) vice-chairman sought the attention of the prime minister towards, what he called, the deliberate attempt to destroy the poultry sector in the country.

He added that the fake letter circulated on the letterhead of the Punjab Health Department had been an organised attempt to destroy the agro economy of Pakistan.

Poultry farming consumes over 10 million tonnes of agro residues, which include the items like wheat bran, rice tips, rice bran, rice polishing, corn, molasses, oilseed residues, meat by-products, etc. If the poultry industry collapses, the entire agro economy, including the agro-based industries, would collapse because the cost of principal food items like edible oil, sugar, wheat flour, etc. would increase substantially, resulting in skyrocketing prices. Alternatively, the government will have to give a huge amount of subsidies to ensure that the production of principal food items continues, he observed.

Poultry sector consumes more than 60 per cent of oil residues in the form of oilseed meals and cakes. Almost 70 pc of solvent extraction units’ residues are consumed by poultry sector. The solvent extraction industry would also collapse completely.

Considering the seriousness of the the matter deserves, he said, “We suggest Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan kindly take notice of this extremely damaging propaganda and direct an in-depth investigation by cybercrime departments of law enforcement agencies.”