By Gatonye Gathura
Government livestock officers have revealed how Nairobi residents are being fed with dead and sick animals.
The officers tell of an elaborate black market where meat inspectors are threatened with death at slaughterhouses if they refuse to clear sick or dead animals for consumption.
A survey of the livestock food chain in Nairobi, by a team of local and UK livestock experts say 90 per cent of sick and dead cows are eaten with 60 per cent of them passing through formal abattoirs.
The findings by the Nairobi based International Livestock Research Institute, University of Nairobi, University of London, UK, and the University of Liverpool, UK, were published on 25th October 2017 in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.
The study shows hardly any dead or sick cow is thrown away in Nairobi, with almost everything finding their way onto the dinner table.
The survey covered Dagoretti, Lang’ata, Kasarani, Embakasi, Njiru, Makadara and Thika west, the latter an important source of livestock products for Nairobi.
Kamukunji and Starehe sub-counties were not included in the study because they are located in the Nairobi’s business center and have minimal livestock production.
Information on Maasai herders was also incorporated in the study because they also form an important livestock production chain for Nairobi County.
Meat from dead animals the study says in most cases is sold to customers with the full knowledge and participation of butchery managers or retailers.
Dead animals, the city livestock officers told the researchers are sold to meat butcheries at low prices, who in turn sell to consumers at normal prices.
Tragically the butchers, who knowingly serve meat from dead animals to their customers including children, the officers say have no perception of wrongdoing.
The black market for dead animals, the report says is operated through a network of brokers and is powerful and highly organised.
“Vets are threatened to either stamp meat from dead animals on the farm or get hurt or they have to accept collusion,” says the report.
The Maasai who also herd or supply meat animals in Nairobi have been sucked into the cartels though will hardly sell meat from animals dying of anthrax, snake bites or foot and mouth disease.
In some cases, the study says brokers use their networks of vets and farmers to know where there are sick or dying animals.
“Some will cheat farmers telling them they will feed their dogs with the dead animals while in reality they sell the meat to consumers.”
In the informal estates the study says most of the scavenging pigs are slaughtered at home with no inspection and offered for sale including those which die of diseases.
“Very sick beef cattle which do not respond to treatment are quickly sent to the slaughterhouse,” says the extensive report.
This, the research shows to mean farmers do not observe the antibiotic withdrawal period before taking the animals for slaughter.
The authors describe a thriving illegal livestock sector in the city which while contributing to family income and food security is also a major public health risk.
‘Many of the farms animals are fed with market waste, swirl from restaurants, or grass cut on road sides, and therefore increasing movement of disease causing germs throughout the city.”
In slums , the vets told of farmers keeping dairy animals inside the household or in their bedrooms.
The 1961 Nairobi City by-laws, still in operation declare that livestock production within city boundaries is an illegal activity however livestock officers says this is hardly enforced.
Currently, the study says new policies that will designate areas for livestock farming are under consideration.
Despite all the risks, the study cautions against any outright ban on livestock keeping in the city.
Instead, the authors suggest adoption of policies that would ensure hygienic practices and strict adherence to new city-by laws.
Livestock estimates in Nairobi
1.3 million animals compared to 3.4 million of human population
Poultry has highest population 880,000 birds half of them broilers
In the last decade the population of pigs increased by 56 per cent
During the same period number of broilers has doubled
Urban dairy cattle produce about 4.5 million kilogram of milk per year
Dairy, broiler, and egg production are the priority animal commercial enterprise
Urban livestock supply up to 25 per cent of milk or 20 per cent of eggs consumed in the city