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Nairobians are eating zebra, antelope and dog meat


Jacob, a Nairobian, often tells his friends a story about eating 'rubber-like' meat at an eatery along River Road in Nairobi."I kept chewing on it but it just wasn't disintegrating," he says. "It made my jaws bounce up and down like I was chewing on a spring."The incident got him thinking: 'Was that really beef or some wild animal?'He will never know.Chances are high though that he could have eaten a zebra, an antelope, a giraffe, or even a dog.Last month, on June 6, a Laikipia man was arrested by police over suspicion of selling dog meat to unsuspecting meat lovers.Ndirangu Wahome made a living hawking 'tasty' fried meat - according to some residents who spoke to the media - in a hot pot at Wanjohi town, in Kipipiri.Acting on a tip-off, police confronted Wahome and conducted a search at his home. They found a fresh dog's head which they suspected had been slaughtered.They also found a blood-stained knife and a cooking pot that suspiciously looked like it was used to fry meat. Another dog lay chained in the compound: police suspected it was next on the chopping board.In June 2018, James Mukangi, a middle-aged man, was arrested skinning a cat in an open field in Nakuru town.Mukangi later confessed to have been supplying 'specific' samosa makers with the meat - since 2012.In other words, for six good years, some samosa lovers in Nakuru had been chomping away at feline protein and perhaps even washing it down with a bottle of cold soda.In Nairobi, Burma Market - straddled between Landhies and Jogoo roads - is a hot spot for meat of unknown origins.In June 2019, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers impounded 800 kilogrammes of bush meat being sold to unsuspecting customers as beef at Burma.Two months later, in August, a team of KWS officers arrested three men on Marula farm, off the Nairobi-Nakuru highway in Naivasha, with over 200 kilogramme of buffalo meat packed behind a van - destined for Burma."Our intelligence indicates that majority of the game meat that finds its way to Burma market is sourced from Naivasha and Gilgil," KWS assistant director in charge of Central Rift Region Aggrey Maumo, told our reporter back then.A month later, in September, KWS conducted a crackdown at the market and nabbed pounds upon pounds of game meat.In a September 12, 2019 tweet carried by KWS's official handle, the corporation wrote: 'Kenya Wildlife Service security teams... arrested three suspects and recovered an estimated 3,000kg of suspected bush meat after raiding six stalls in Nairobi.'And that was just over a period of three months. In short, Burma Market - which at any given time during the day has heavy foot traffic - has a reputation for nefariously sourced meat."I have always bought beef from Burma," says Sheila, a mum who lives in Nairobi. "The meat is really affordable compared to prices at local butcheries."Unbeknownst to her, she could have been buying game meat all these years, thinking it is cheap beef.Game meat at Burma market in 2019 cost between Sh230 and Sh250 - way less than the market rate for beef which was going at Sh400 per kilogramme.In some cultures, game meat is a delicacy. Some anthropological works link the utilisation of game meat to hunter-gatherer groups.A 1997 report published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) mentions the Okiek (Dorobo) and the Mijikenda as reliant (at the time) on bush meat.The paper also points out the high likelihood that many rural communities in Kenya traditionally augmented their protein intake with wildlife sources; and in some cases, bush meat constituted more than half of all meat consumed by a household.Prohibition of the use of bush meat is now well defined in Kenya's legislation and policy: especially in the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act - also known as Act 47 of 2013.Dr Janet Omami is a veterinarian. She is also a Meat Inspector working for the Kisii County government. She says: "The average person would not be able to tell if meat belongs to a food or a non-food animal."The Meat Control Act, Cap 356, lists 'meat animals'. They include; bulls, cows, heifers, calves, oxen, sheep, goats, pigs, hens, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, guinea fowls and pigeons.Omami says that the government allows specific communities to use specific animals for meat if it was traditionally and culturally utilised in that manner."For instance, camels may be gazetted as food animals for communities in North Eastern Kenya," she says.The list is taken through regular updates by the minister in charge of veterinary services.It is not clear the criteria the minister would follow to add or remove an animal from the list. Dr Omami however notes that culture would likely play a role."Generally, in Kenya, we eat meat from cows, goats and sheep," she says. "It is not our culture to eat dogs.""By omitting dogs and cats in that list, the law, therefore, prohibits slaughtering of these animals," says Dr Emily Mudoga, a veterinarian and an expert on dogs.Mudoga, who is also a Director at Action for Protection of Animals Africa (APAA), says that while they are domestic animals, dogs and cats are companion animals.Illegal slaughtering of animals - which is what happens when one slaughters wildlife or companion animals like dogs and cats - poses a grave danger to the human population."Animals carry microbes and parasites in their bodies that could easily cross into human beings and cause epidemics - or even pandemics," she says.Zoonotic diseases - illnesses that can be transferred from animals to man and vice versa - are a constant threat to public health, she says."Our laws and regulations are designed to avoid this cross-pollination of germs that would most likely be catastrophic to humanity," states Mudoga.Dr Marylyn Karani, also a veterinarian, echoes Dr Mudoga's sentiments: that regulations tied to meat consumption are in line with tenets of public health.She says: "Scientifically, there is nothing really wrong with eating dog meat - or meat from any other animal."In Kenya, (every country has its own regulations) it is illegal to slaughter animals not considered meat animals. Dogs, cats and wildlife are not meat animals."In other countries, like China, you may find that the law allows for the consumption of dogs. Even so, the slaughter and processing of such animals are done in accordance with public health regulations."In Kenya, because it is already illegal to eat such animals, chances are that such a slaughter would be done in the absence of hygiene: which then makes the meat a possible conduit for zoonotic diseases."

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