Still on effective regulatory system of abattoirs

As people continue to consume different foods with the hope of fortifying their health to protect them
from diseases, there is the need to find out how some foods are processed before they reach the dining tables.

Meat, which is the flesh of an animal, be it cow, ram, goat, among others,
is a source of protein that contains essential amino acids which nourishes the human body for good health.

The animals are slaughtered and processed in abattoirs in most cases, before being sold to butchers and other buyers.

Abattoirs are well designed structural facilities approved by relevant authority for the purpose of ante-mortem,
hygienic slaughtering, evisceration and post-mortem inspection of livestock for wholesome meat production
for public consumption.

What then is the state of abattoirs/slaughterhouses in the country and Abuja in particular, as authorities
strive to serve citizens clean and wholesome meat for good health?, how healthy are the animals?, are they
fit for consumption?.

These are part of questions many people do not know.

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) was first reported among individuals
who had either visited or had consumed food sold at the wet animal market in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

The outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) should, therefore, be an eye opener, being a zoonotic
disease, which means a disease that emanates from animals.

The outbreak compelled Chinese authorities to shut all the wet animal markets in the Hubei province to
curb transmission of the virus.

Consequently, hygiene in abattoirs and lairage is of topmost importance as butchers are likely to come
into contact with contaminated objects or surfaces and may unknowingly infect themselves and others.

A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) correspondent who went round some slaughterhouses in Abuja uncovered
that many abattoir operators do not have the requisite equipment to function properly.

There is also the need to take care of hygiene around the abattoirs, the provision of water, and the
entire meat processing procedure from slaughtering of the animals to roasting and transportation to markets.

This is because, to provide healthy meat for human consumption, there is the need for a lairage, a place
where animals are kept to rest and graze for at least 24 hours before being slaughtered, a qualified veterinary
doctor to certify an animal before slaughtering, while water, hygiene and sanitary conditions are topmost conditions.

The Kubwa, Karu and Dei-Dei slaughterhouses in the FCT all need attention in terms of cleanliness and effective
regulatory system to provide wholesome meat to residents of the capital city and beyond.

Mr Rabiu Ali, a 19-year-old butcher at the Dei-Dei Abattoir, urged the management of the slaughterhouse
to assist butchers with a vehicle to transport animals to the abattoir and to markets.

According to Mr Timothy Dauda, an Environmentalist in Kubwa, Abuja, the manner in which meat is
transported from the point of slaughter to the market is critical, given the health hazards associated with poor
meat handling.

Dauda said an abattoir must be clean, and must slaughter healthy animals certified fit for human consumption
by qualified veterinary doctor and be conveyed to markets in a clean van.

He added that “in the health aspect of meat haulage under the Veterinary Department of the FCT, the
whole essence is to ensure that what Nigerians consume is wholesome.

“Meat must be processed in a clean environment and be transported in a clean van or truck; even
the driver of the truck must be clean.’’

He urged FCT authorities to invite the various transport unions so that they could be carried along
in meat haulage system.

Alhaji Sanni Dankurmi, the Chairman, Garki International Market Meat Shop, who said there are illegal
abattoirs across the FCT, and alleged that some butchers slaughter animals from neighbouring states
and bring them into the FCT without proper documentation

Dankurmi, who is also the Treasurer of Butchers Association in FCT, urged the FCT Administration to
assist abattoirs in the territory with required utilities such as water and electricity to enable them function well.

He said that the slaughter facilities in the FCT, if provided with the requirements, can respond to market
demands and provide wholesome meat.

He added that the regulation of the slaughterhouses across the country would improve hygiene and reduce
contamination, protect consumers, as well as protect butchers from occupational health hazards.

He explained that “there is an urgent need for proper regulation of slaughterhouses across the country; a butcher
living in Bauchi State cannot slaughter an animal there and bring it to Abuja for sale. It is wrong and unhygienic.

“This has contributed to illegal livestock trading and slaughtering of diseased animals.

“Government needs to ensure that appropriate process such as the building structure and layout of abattoirs
are standard, while equipment, personal hygiene, carcass handling, waste management and meat inspection
are observed in all slaughterhouses in the country.’’

Alhaji Isa Malami, the Chairman of Transport, Karu Abattoir, Abuja, complained about how animals are handled
in many abattoirs, saying “there is nothing humane about what happens to animals in many abattoirs.’’

Malami, who is also known as the Sarkin Fulani, said that after a long journey from villages to cities, animals usually arrive
at the slaughterhouse exhausted, dehydrated, hungry and weak.

“And in this terrifying situation, the animals are beaten, dragged and forced to move toward the slaughter slab. This is cruel.’’

Dr Iliasu Suleiman, a Veterinary Doctor, said that the current facilities and practices in many abattoirs may increase
occupational exposure to diseases, and contaminated meat may enter the consumer market.

Suleiman stressed the need for relevant agencies to offer the appropriate interventions to minimise public health risks.

He said most emerging diseases with pandemic potential are zoonotic, many of which can occur in situations where
sick and stressed animals are concentrated, like slaughterhouses.

He added that “common pathogens found in slaughterhouses that impact public health include Salmonella spp.,
E. Coli, Toxoplasma and tapeworms — all of which can lead to death.

The veterinarian said transportation and mixing of unvaccinated and unhealthy animals in slaughterhouses can
spread contagious diseases like foot-and-mouth disease.

He called for enhanced surveillance targeting slaughterhouse operators to help detect disease outbreaks.

Meanwhile, Malam Aminu Adamu, the Vice Chairman, Karu Abattoir in FCT, said that the slaughterhouse was built by
their association and urged government to assist in improving facilities and practices there.

Adamu, popularly known as Danmalik-Sarkin Powa, appealed to the FCT Administration to send qualified
veterinary officials to educate the butchers and train all the animals and meat handlers, as well as inspect
the animals to reduce the risk of contamination.

By Abujah Racheal, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)