Former top vet all set for new challenge
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-03-11 07:18
At 61 and retired from public service, Jia Youling could have settled down to a tranquil life like most of his peers.
Instead, the former chief of China's veterinary bureau took on a new role this month that will continue to keep him close to what he does best.
Jia has been chosen as a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC, the country's top political advisory body.
"I'm shifting to a new phase in my life, which I hope will put me at a better position to review the work familiar to me and look further beyond my beloved turf," Jia told China Daily yesterday.
Jia is remembered as the face of bird flu control in a country whose poultry population - the world's largest - was shaken by a highly contagious strain of the disease four years ago, but regained its vigor with massive vaccination and culling measures.
In 2004, China reported 50 cases of the H5N1 virus. The number plummeted to four last year, official figures showed.
In the first two months of this year, the country registered three bird flu cases among fowl in the Tibet and Guizhou regions. All infected birds turned out to be unvaccinated, strengthening Jia's belief that an all-out vaccination among fowl was a necessary and powerful tool against the scourge.
He used the cases to caution the authorities to be relentless in their prevention efforts.
"In 2008, we may have more bird flu cases than last year," Jia warned.
"But they will be sporadic occurrences affecting small clusters of poultry if vaccination is put into place. Gone are the days when a single infection would kill hundreds of birds in one spot."
As a political advisor, Jia is unabashed in pinpointing the weak links in the country's animal disease control, and the areas for improvement in the coming years: The small-scale, stock-breeding of poultry by rural households, often in their back yards; and the live poultry markets under slack regulation in the countryside and suburbs, which will pose threats to human and animal safety.
The CPPCC's charter stipulates its major functions are to conduct political consultation, exercise democratic supervision, and organize its members to take part in the discussion and management of State affairs.
"I like the platform where people speak their minds on issues pertaining to the national economy and the livelihood of the people," Jia said.
"If everything goes well, I'll have a five-year term in the CPPCC, get accustomed to the way it works, and unleash what I have left in me."
Now, without the shackles of an office routine, Jia said he would also like to travel to the grasslands, such as the Inner Mongolia autonomous region where he worked in the 1970s.
"People are worried about soil erosion and desertification in grasslands, some suggest inducing artificial rainfall to help reverse the dire trend, but what is the most viable solution? This is what I want to find out."
Jia said he will come up with proposals that include the curbing of over-grazing. All he needs is more time and field work, which he said a CPPCC membership will offer, to produce a convincing report.
Another advantage of being a political advisor is that one can speak and be heard as a "neutral" party, he said.
In a recent panel discussion, Jia said the country must improve its pork-reserve system to help cushion the impact of dramatic meat price fluctuations, which is a contributor to inflationary pressure.
"I'm not speaking for either the Ministry of Agriculture or the Ministry of Commerce, and so far as I know, the government has given the go-ahead for it."
Jia asked the government to use the 8 million-ton capacity refrigerators of the country's meat processors to store frozen pork. This will save investment in building facilities.
China's pork consumption is over 4 million tons a month. The reserve system will allow authorities to stockpile 500,000 tons in case of emergencies, he said.