posted on Jul 3, 2024 by

Food animals are domestic (farm) animals that are conventionally consumed by man as food. They constitute the main source of the very important animal protein required for building healthy body capable of fighting infections, ensure normal growth and development. While it is true that plants are also rich sources of protein, some essential amino acids are only obtainable from animal origin. Animal-origin foods such as meat, milk, egg and fish have been a part of human diet since antiquity and fulfill the nutritional requirements of a huge population globally.
Animal foods are a rich source of protein with high digestibility and biological value. Animal foods are also a rich source of other macronutrients such as lipids, micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and functional compounds such as bioactive peptides which are crucial for important metabolic functions and the well-being of humans.
Among the animal species considered as food animals are horses, dogs, cats, cattle, swine, turkeys and chickens. Cattle, swine and poultry (turkeys and chickens) are however classified as major food animals. In contrast, there are many other animal species e.g. sheep, goats, catfish, game birds, honey bees, shellfishes, etc. that are classified as minor food animals. In order to ensure adequate supply of animal protein, some animals that were not popular across different cultures as food for man have now been categorized under the banner of mini-livestock. These include small indigenous vertebrates and invertebrates which can be produced sustainably for food. These include rodents, e.g. African giant rat, grass cutter, rabbits, guinea- pigs, giant snail etc.
Among all these categories of food animals in Nigeria, the cattle is the most prominent species. This may be so because of the large body size and their relative abundance, especially in the savannah and sahel regions where there is abundant grassland for their consumption. Apart from this, cattle is also present in large numbers in other countries of West Africa from where they are transported to Nigeria because of high demand. The traditional trans-humance system of production, also referred to as nomadic pastoralism is practiced in the North West, North East and North Central parts of Nigeria and to a lesser degree in the southern belt of the country, especially, due to scarcity of pasture in the Northern parts in the dry season. The challenge of climate change has now aggravated the practice of nomadism in the South, leading to frequent farmer-herder crisis because of wanton destruction of crop farms by free range cattle, resulting into destruction of lives and properties. Cattle move into Nigeria from Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Senegal and as far as Mauritania among other countries in the West and Central Africa sub-region. Another factor that contribute to the acceptability of beef in Nigeria is that it is acceptable to be consumed by adherents of many religious group without reservations.
Despite this supply chain, human population explosion has continued to place huge demand on cattle (beef) for meat supply. This supply gap is bridged to some extent, by other categories of food animals. Traditionally, bulls are most preferred to cows as a means of getting beef. Bulls are bred mainly for breeding purposes and for consumption. For breeding, few bulls are needed for mating, usually, ratio 1:10 (1 bull to serve 10 cows). Production efficiency, in terms of economics of production and the rate of return on investment does not favor keeping many bulls on the farm. In addition, scientific advancement in the area of animal reproduction, genetics and assisted reproduction techniques have reduced the number of bulls required on the farm for breeding purposes so they are bred for the market!
The preference of bulls over cows is not a taboo. It is because humanity requires many cows to be on the farm, calving (giving birth to the young) and lactating (producing milk). Cows have a gestation period of nine months and they rarely give birth to twins. This has implications on sustainability, conservation and replacement of the national herd. Cows are mostly expected to be found in the abattoir for human consumption after they have become old and spent with very low reproduction and economic potential.
Before the cow is bought from the farm, obstetrical examinations are expected to confirm that the cow is not pregnant. The same obstetrical procedures are expected during ante mortem inspection at the abattoir. Veterinary Inspectors are expected to examine the cows and separate them from the point of no return, if found to be pregnant. The animal is allowed to carry the pregnancy to term before eventual slaughter. By this, the population of the national herd is sustained. Again, slaughtering a pregnant cow is inhumane and unethical. It leads to the phenomenon referred to as calf wastage with its attendant multi-dimensional losses.
Sadly, it could be stated clearly, that many abattoirs in Nigeria are found culpable of wanton slaughtering of pregnant cows without considering the implications. This is so because ante mortem inspections are not routinely carried out as expected before the eventual slaughter of the animals. This is because of lack of adequate manpower to carry out meat inspection professionally. In addition, most public abattoirs are mere four walls without any diagnostic tool to work with. A few veterinarians and their subordinates are expected to examine the animal grossly, perhaps, with palpation, visual assessment and other subjective means to arrive at a diagnosis in this digital age! This should not be so.
Apart from the public health aspect of meat inspection which forms the core duties of the Veterinary Inspectors, enforcement of compliance with animal welfare protocols is equally germane and cannot be discounted.
Therefore, in the interest of the health of the general public and animal welfare, state governments in Nigeria, under whose purview this role falls, along with the Chairmen of the Local Governments, should ensure the employment of adequate manpower in the abattoir. The era of treating abattoir manpower with disdain is over. Abattoirs are sentinels for disease surveillance. Through diligent keeping of records, back tracing of animals with suspected trans-boundary animal diseases is made possible, zoonotic diseases are diagnosed and restricted, thereby safeguarding both human health and that of the national herd.
The intention of economic diversification of Nigerian government through agriculture value chain may not see the light of the day, for example, if the opportunities in the meat value chain are left untapped and left to rot by negligence. Our hope of meat exportation to earn foreign exchange, like Botswana, may not be translated to reality, if minimum standards, such as these are not complied with.
Apart from adequate manpower, the government should invest in the provision of equipment and diagnostic infrastructure that could improve diagnostic precision capable of preventing calf wastages in our abattoirs.
By safeguarding the indiscriminate slaughter of pregnant cows and the resultant wastage of calves, we are boosting food security while protecting our biodiversity.
Let actionable steps begin in this direction today!

Dr. Ibikunle Faramade is a veterinary pathologist, sustainable development practitioner, animal welfare advocate and a lecturer at the Federal College of Animal Health & Production Technology, Apata. Ibadan. He’s the C.E.O of the Society for Animal Rights Protection, a non-profit and a non-governmental organization dedicated to the promotion of animal welfare, animal rights and prevention of cruelty to animals. , +2348028305284

© 2024 Sarp All rights reserved
Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy