Abattoir for sick, dying and dead animals
By Faiza Ilyas
Monday, 28 Jun, 2010 | 01:35 AM PST |
KARACHI: Diseased, injured and dying animals are being allowed to be killed and processed at the government-run slaughterhouse in Landhi, where no proper veterinary inspections are taking place, Dawn has found.
A visit to the facility revealed that even dead animals are brought for processing to the slaughterhouse that also facilitates a number of the city’s major private concerns.
These practices are in stark contrast to the claims of the city district government Karachi, which had opened the manual slaughterhouse in March 2008 amid fanfare.
At that time, the CDGK officials had claimed that the new slaughterhouse would be a major shift from the old one, which was notorious for its unhygienic surroundings and poor infrastructure.The CDGK had also declared that the manual slaughterhouse was the first phase of the Rs112 million project, and mechanical slaughtering would begin in 21 months. This process has not yet started.
Even if it does begin, mechanical slaughtering would generally cater to the needs of exporters that the CDGK is currently trying to look for, according to Dr Ali Zafar Zaidi, district officer of Veterinary Services, who oversees the slaughterhouse project.
Karachi, a city of 16 million, has just two slaughterhouses: the Landhi facility is the major one, and has been contracted to a private concern, Multix International Corporation, for 15 years. The company was entrusted with the task of reactivating the decades-old mechanical abattoir that had been inoperative since the 1970s.
The agreement signed between the CDGK and the private company does not refer to any third party to be involved in making the mechanical facility operational and it was believed that the processing plant would exclusively meet the needs of local consumption.
The agreement also makes it obligatory on the first party (the CDGK) that, “it will restrain all sorts of illegal slaughtering by an individual or party within the city limits.”
However, that has not happened. Only 10 per cent of the slaughtering of animals in the city is currently being carried out at the two slaughterhouses and the rest is done illegally across the city, allegedly in connivance with city government officials.
Processing of dead animals
Dawn’s team visited the slaughterhouse on June 23 at 10.15am and spotted that slaughtering of small and big animals was being carried out at different places in the slaughterhouse, though the official timings for slaughtering began at 12.30pm.
No government vet was present, while animals with their throats slit were being brought on donkey-carts and immediately being handed over to butchers for processing. Besides, there were animals with visible signs of poor health waiting to be slaughtered.The staff told Dawn that animals could be slaughtered at the ‘emergency section’ at any time: Rs500 for a healthy-looking animal and Rs1,300 for a dead animal. The official fee is Rs56 and Rs13 for big and small animals, respectively.
As the team made inquiries, government vet Dr Ashfaq Ahmed did arrive. Throughout the day he remained the sole vet on examination duty, as the other government vets had been sent to check illegal slaughtering in the area.
When asked about the ‘emergency area’, Dr Ashfaq said that a few animals were usually brought with some sort of ‘emergency’ to this section and the meat of such animals was checked and stamped before it was given away for selling.
“Being Muslims, we are required to slit the throat of the animal before it dies to make it halal. Dairy farmers adopt this practice to avoid losses when their animals get into any problem. However, there is a clear difference between the meats of diseased and healthy animals, and we discard vital organs of such animals.
“The animals appear emaciated, as they have travelled long distances, but they are otherwise healthy. Animals also get injuries while being loaded or unloaded during transportation,” he explained while claiming that the ante-mortem inspection of the rest of the animals was carried out.
Contrary to what Dr Ashfaq claimed, conditions at the slaughterhouse suggested that no detailed physical examination of animals was being carried out.
Even if the government vet’s claims are to be believed, it would seem humanly impossible for two vets (two doctors are assigned at any given time), or one vet (as was the case on June 23), to examine 1,200-1,300 buffaloes and 3,000-3,500 goats (the average numbers of animals slaughtered a day) in just a few hours.
Additionally, there is no laboratory at the slaughterhouse, and neither have officials ever sent a case to the nearby government veterinary laboratory for investigation of any disease (this was confirmed by the officials at the lab). No slips are issued to the animal owner declaring his animal healthy during the antemortem stage.
According to the Karachi Municipal Corporation Slaughter House Bye-Laws 1975, all animals to be slaughtered shall be presented for inspection during the prescribed hours before the relevant officer and the animals shall be recorded as healthy in a form. Then, the officer-in-charge will issue an inspection slip with necessary particulars to the licensed butcher or middle-man.
Also, the city government has no system to carry out regular medical examination of butchers, which, according to senior vets, is necessary under relevant rules.
The meat is stamped by the workers and no vet is involved in post-mortem examination, sources said.
Cruelty to animals
It’s not just humans who may be suffering due to poorly processed meat – the animals are being mistreated, too. Though a few ramps have been built for them, no-one was using them, and animals were instead being beaten and pushed onto the steps that led to the area where they were to be slaughtered.
There are a few rules related to animals’ rights mentioned in the Karachi Cattle Slaughter Control Rules, 1953. According to one of its clauses, every person slaughtering cattle in a slaughterhouse shall perform the slaughter with as little pain or suffering to the cattle as practicable and shall use such instruments and adopt such methods as may be requisite to secure the infliction of as little pain or suffering as practicable.
These rules also call for all rejected cattle to be marked in a clearly distinguishable way. No such procedure is followed at the Landhi facility.
There are a number of practices which are generally considered necessary to ensure hygiene at slaughterhouses. A few important ones, according to senior vets, include the washing of animals before slaughtering, a reasonable relationship between the size of slaughter facilities and animals killed, personal hygiene of butchers, proper cleaning and disinfection of the area and equipment, use of hooks made of non-corrosive material and above all efficient measures to ensure that clean and unclean processes and products do not mix.
The slaughterhouse in Landhi falls miserably short of meeting any of these conditions. It is difficult to enter any sheds where slaughtering is being carried out because of too much filth in the area, permeated by a foul smell.Dogs are free to roam around and flies cover the areas where intestines and other by-product are cleaned.
There are no basic facilities for the butchers, who drink the same water with which they wash carcasses. The water that is used in skinning and cleaning the floor goes into the same drain where blood is drained. That blood is later collected, sold and used in making poultry feed.
Talking to Dawn, Multix International Corporation’s director Usman Nizami said that it was difficult to ensure 100 per cent cleanliness at a manual slaughterhouse.
“Filthy conditions develop even when animal slaughters take place at homes. This is the same here. We are handling the stuff manually and there will be problems. However, the entire area is cleaned once the shift is over,” he said, adding that the conditions were much better than they were at the old slaughterhouse.
Regarding the mechanical slaughterhouse which is yet to be made functional, Dr Zafar Zaidi said: “The plant is ready, but we need processing of at least 15 to 20 tons of meat daily to make it operational. It would be mainly for exports and currently we are looking for interested parties, though there won’t be any restriction on the local clients to use its services.”
Answering a question that why meat for local consumption could not be totally processed at the mechanical facility, he said that manual slaughtering was faster than mechanical, and that meat merchants hence preferred the former.
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