‘States should emplace central abattoirs to ensure public health, meat safety’
• ‘Zoonotic diseases avoidable with good hygiene’
Prof. Olufunke Ola-Davies, Dean, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ibadan, spoke with Head, Agro-Economy, FEMI IBIROGBA, on how to prevent outbreaks of animal-to-man infectious diseases through effective abattoir management, awareness and public-private partnership initiatives.
With your vast experience, how will you advise various states in Nigeria to go about standardisation of abattoirs to prevent out-breaks of zoonotic diseases?
Actually, I will like to say that we need more veterinarians to be engaged in Nigeria. In many of our states, we don’t have enough veterinarians and if you must maintain the public health system, we need veterinary services and how do you get the veterinary services? You need veterinarians to be in charge of our abattoirs. They are necessarily to be there to inspect before animals are slaughtered. That is what we call ante-mortem inspection.
They should also inspect the animals after the slaughtering, which we call post-mortem examination and that will help us to know that the meat we are putting into the market is hygienic for consumption. This will improve the public health system. So, there is a need for more veterinarians to be engaged.
Oyo State has a centralised abattoir and Lagos State also has some modern ones. Are you calling on other states to adopt the models?
I will advise other state governments to follow suit because there is a need for a well-regulated abattoir. of course, we are not saying Oyo and Lagos States are prefect in their models or operations, because we still see some people slaughtering animals in old abattoirs which are not meant to be used. So, we encourage our government to create more abattoirs in all the states and it doesn’t have to be the government alone. It can actually be a private-public partnership. The government doesn’t have to put in all the money; somebody can come in with the government and establish one and at the end of the day, the public health system of our society is ensured
There would be money generated from this because some of the wastes are actually useful. The blood could be harvested for a healthy blood meal in animal feeds. The bones are also money-spinning for poultry. Also, the institution can purchase those bones for training and teaching, and so, nothing is actually wasted. At the end of the day, they generate money and also our society will live healthy.
How can Nigerians prevent spread of tuberculosis through beef consumption?
What I will say is that everybody should make sure they consume wholesome meat. If you don’t buy your meat from the healthy source, then there is no how we can prevent the spread of tuberculosis and other animal-to-man diseases, and these are things that spread easily. We call them zoonotic diseases. And there are so many out-breaks now.
We have TB, Ebolavirus and COVID-19 virus. Now, we are struggling with monkey-pox. But we have people that are trained that could help to prevent the spread through ante-mortem and post-mortem inspections at abattoirs. So, the government should encourage the people and engage more veterinarians. There should be more of public awareness in which people will be educated on television, social media platform to buy healthy meat. So, it’s not just about being cheap, but it has to be wholesome and healthy.
Do you have any training scheme for abattoir operators or meat sellers and cattle herders?
Actually, at every of those abattoirs, they should be veterinarians but at times in University of Ibadan, we do training, in which we bring in people from outside and we train them. But now, there is scarcity of funds. So, we’ve not done it this year. But I would remember two years ago, we actually did for cattle sellers. We brought in people from outside and then we trained them, but if there is no fund, what can we do? ASUU is on strike.
What is your suggestion on awareness creation, particularly among cattle butchers and sellers?
Our government must be responsible. They must be ready to put in some funds because prevention is better and cheaper than cure. So, there must be awareness programmes in which veterinarians are invited to give talks at different fora so that people will be aware, not only the butchers or the sellers. The butchers need to be aware and then our government also must be ready to give compensation, because if your animal is condemned because it is not wholesome, who will pay compensation? So, the owner will rather prefer to slaughter behind abattoir if the government does not pay compensation. He will no longer come to the abattoir because nobody is going to compensate him if the animal is found unwholesome. So, our government must rise to that responsibility. If they don’t, honestly, we cannot get there!