Today was quite interesting. I believe it was more interesting than our 1st Field Trip. Yes!! To those who have been following the events of medical students on their community medicine posting, you would understand. I said today was interesting because we visited the Somachi Abbatoir in Owerri, Imo State. This would be our second trip after RECDOT in Anambra State. It was an experience I would rather not have, never again.

The Somachi Abbatoir happen to be a supposed government establishment. A place that serves as the killing/slaughtering point for cattle brought into the Imo State and some other surrounding villages. I gathered that the cattle, goats, sheeps are brought in from different points of the country, especially from the northern part of Nigeria, before they are distributed, of course in pieces, to the different market points in the state.

Two particular scenarios made me wish never to come back to that Slaughter-House again. While our guide, an elderly Veterinary Doctor, tried to explain the ethos, practices, disease conditions commonly seen in an abbatoir, a young key-butcher did something that I thought was so unkind.

By the way, a key-butcher is one who owns the cattle, 5 or 6 in number. He kills them and sells them to meat-vendors, who eventually sell to the final consumers. A key butcher, depending on his financial muscle, can own any number of cattle, goat, or sheep. Meat-vendors are more like the retailers in the whole arrangement.

So about that key-butcher I earlier mentioned, he sliced a major tendon acting as the major traction for the flexion and extension of the hoof as the cattle walks – it is akin to slicing the archilles tendons at the back of our leg. It made the cattle paralysed on that leg, and had to limp to his death. I reckon that action was to save the butcher the stress of having to wrestle a fit cattle. He had to make the cattle ‘disadvantaged’, for his work to be easier. So typical of a shrewd person. A heartless butcher indeed!!!

The second scenario was on my mind from the moment we stepped our foot on the abbatoir floors till we departed. It is a case of literally ‘Standing in a pool of blood’. This time is was not my blood but that of countless cattles, and it was all mixed with the faecal matter from the “beast of burden”. The whole place was bloody, and left that way till we departed.

The institution is supposed to be government owned, but it is replete with features of a failed management. The professionals among the workforce tried to be true professionals amidst poor working conditions. This made the professionals look unprofessional. Basic universal health precautions are abandoned, so that you see a young healthy looking man march bare-footed into a pile of dung, dung we were told are filled with worms, eggs and other stages of parasites. Eye google, elbow length thick gloves, protective aprons, boots and a head gear are what it takes to work and be safe in a standard abbatoir. Regular screening exercise by health workers should also be carried out on the workers, since they are also along the food handler chain.

I do not expect the abbatoir to be sparkling clean, but I expect it to meet up to a minimum standard as its contemporaries in the country. I hope the working condition of the workers, both administrative and professionals alike, get better.  The state government could either bring in private investors to take over this mismanaged abbatoir or close it permanently and approve new private individuals to run and maintain veritable, effective and hygienic abbatoirs, scattered around the state, that would meet the public health standard and threshold of the state. This is not a luxury, it is for public good, least we record another outbreak.

Though animals are animals, I believe they have to be killed with respect and dignity, not maiming or mangling them and still selling them to unsuspecting meat lovers. And to that butcher without a conscience, you succeeded in converting a colleague, who also saw you “kill” the cattle, into a vegetarian!!!


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