Open Letter: Nigerian Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Health.
Hon Mrs. Laurentia Laraba Mallam Minister of Environment
Hon Dr. Akinwumi Adesina
Hon. Hajiya Asmau Asabe Ahmed
Hon. Arc. Sonny S. T. Echono, fnia
Hon. Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Nigeria’s Minister of Health
GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA.
Re: Nigerian Pet Meat Trade:
The Nigerian pet meat trade and culture has been responsible for many deaths this year and previous years from rabies and other viral diseases passed on from dogs and cats slaughtered in the pet meat trade. Pet meat traders and market sales-people continue to place their own lives and the public’s in danger via selling tainted, contaminated or diseased riddled pet meat. Furthermore the unsanitary conditions that pet meat, either dogs or cats are slaughtered within, cooked or contained for public consumption have led to wide outbreaks of food poisoning this year and past - some of these cases have led to the deaths of those consumers.
The majority of Nigerians look down on this form of food culture of which view felines and canines as companion pets. However the trade still continues, and within the last few years we have witnessed traders openly killing peoples pets either stolen within the local states or illegally trafficked from Niger into Nigeria in the most appalling conditions. Most of these dogs and cats never make it alive into Nigeria if trafficked from Niger. Their bodies cramped into tiny holding cages on the back of dirty wagons they suffer agonizing pain, heatstroke, dehydration, crushing injuries from pets placed on top of them -these-being just some of the many abuses witnessed. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa can now confirm that over 1.2 million dogs and cats are killed for the meat trade every year alone in Nigeria which proves this trade a deadly one at that is one of the largest on the planet and inline with some Asian pet meat traded - however still rarely documented on.
While we recognize animal abuse cases as serious we must also continue to address the case of rabies that sees over 60,000 people a year die from the rabies virus. Studies of Abia State in the south-eastern part of Nigeria whose native population consumes dog meat as part of the traditional diet, detected the rabies virus in the saliva and brain tissue of 5% of slaughtered dogs, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) reported on.
The study, by Nigerian researchers published in ISRN Veterinary Science, was carried out in eight dogs slaughtering outlets within four Local Government Areas of the State for the determination of rabies antigen in the saliva and brain of apparently healthy dogs slaughtered for human consumption. What they found was after testing (The saliva was subjected to rapid immune-chromatographic test (RICT) while direct fluorescent antibody test (DFAT) was carried out on the brain samples) samples of apparently healthy dogs slaughtered for human consumption, 5% tested positive for rabies antigen with the use of both tests.
None of the butchers in this study were previously vaccinated against rabies, although majority of them (94.7%) were previously bitten during the course of slaughtering. Following dog bite, majority of the butchers sought traditional method of treatment ( using traditional leaves and teethes of the offending dog, which is burnt to aches, mixed with native gin; part is given to the victim to drink and vomit while the rest is applied at the site of bite), as against proper medical care, a practice which will further complicate the problem as none of the methods used have been tested to be effective.
The GARC reports, because dog meat is habitually consumed, and local butchers are unable to screen out infected animals and remove them from the food supply, the handling of infected dog meat may have implications on regional public health. Furthermore tourists that visit the country sampling the local tropical delicacy are also placed at risk from death and/or disease.
There is potential for virus transfer if fluids or nervous tissues of infected animals come into contact with breaks in the skin before the meat is cooked.
The researchers conclude that the presence of rabies in apparently healthy dogs slaughtered for human consumption in Abia State signifying its endemicity as it is in other states where studies have been conducted. This study also revealed the practices of dog slaughtering as a possible source of exposure to dog meat processors in Abia State. Hence mass enlightenment program for dog meat processors, consumers, and children in the state is highly recommended.
Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the saliva or tissues from the nervous system from an infected mammal to another mammal. Rabies is a zoonotic disease. Zoonotic diseases can pass between species. Bird flu and swine flu are other zoonotic diseases. The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system causing severely distressing neurological symptoms before causing the victim to die.
Rabies is the deadliest disease on earth with a 99.9% fatality rate. While such a fatality rate is clearly understood we question again why the government of Nigeria continues to allow traders to place not only Nigerian local citizens in danger of death but also those visiting the country and African citizens visiting from neighboring African countries.
Butchers take few precautions around symptom-free dogs prior to slaughter, using their bare hands to muzzle animals without using adequate protection against bites, potentially placing butchers at high risk for contracting rabies. A recent rabies outbreak in neighboring Cross Rivers State in Nigeria this year again claimed the lives of 8 people who suffered dog bites, showing that rabies is a growing regional problem.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa and Say No To Dog Meat.Net have amassed over 40,200 signatures to date calling on the Minister of Environment, Minister of Public Health, Minster of Agriculture and Food and Governors of surrounding Nigerian States to now impose a ban on the sale, slaughter and trafficking of pet meat immediately to preserve human life, control the increasing menace of rabies and reducing animal abuse.
While we recognize dog meat joints within Nigeria as being established for “medicinal purposes” such as 1. to make men stronger, 2. to increase male impotence, 3. to ward of bad spirits, 4. to heal disabled children of their disabilities and more there is to date no proven evidence that has indicated or even shown that pet meat can cure such illnesses or disabilities. Furthermore by stating in chop joints or “404” joints that pet meat holds medicinal powers it only confuses the public more into believing such lies thus placing human life in danger significantly.
International Animal Rescue Foundation Europe has since September 2104 began working with Japanese Food and Alternative Medicine Researchers that has been provided dead dog and cat meat purchased from the markets in Lagos state and shipped to the independent research team. The team has been instructed by our Environmental Team to conduct research on any such medicinal properties and to exhaust every possible examination and study that either proves pet meat is medicinal or not.
We hope to have within our hands for public disclosure the full research papers within the next six months. Finally International Animal Rescue Foundation Great Britain have liaised and asked scientists from East Anglia, United Kingdom to conduct a more in-depth study of which have been instructed to locate whether dog meat is tainted with pharmaceutical properties to fool individuals into believing pet meat has active working properties.
This same type of public trading in animal parts is seen within Viet Nam and China where Rhinoceros horn is infused with - say - Viagra of which when the the public (mainly men) purchase Rhino horn and use it they are in the belief that the horn really has increased male erectile dysfunction syndrome. While there is little evidence to back such claims up with regards to the pet trade within Nigeria we have already proven and witnessed countless times Anti Malaria drugs found within dog meat in Zimbabwe - dog meat is then palmed of as a miracle cure aimed at treating malaria when in reality traders are only selling tainted dog and or cat meat out of sheer poverty.
With over 40,000 signatures calling for the Nigerian pet meat to stop we publicly call on Hon Mrs. Laurentia Laraba Mallam Minister of Environment, Hon Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Hon. Hajiya Asmau Asabe Ahmed and Hon. Arc. Sonny S. T. Echono, fnia Minster of Agriculture and Food and Minister of Public Health Hon. Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Nigeria’s Minister of Health to now impose a ban on all pet trade. A ban that will see no killing, trafficking of dogs and cats to preserve human life immediately and halt the onset of rabies.
Public can engage the following ministers by copying and pasting the above open letter calling for an end to the trade. Lastly when concluded scientific research has reached us regarding pet meat and supposed medicinal properties this evidence will be passed on to the above named ministers and made public. We hope to see a trade ban imposed using our mission within the next five years.
Environmental and Animal Welfare Team
International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa.
Copy and paste the letter above to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development here - Please use this link contact form to send the above copy and pasted communication to the Minster of Environment Nigeria here and lastly please use this link to contact Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu sending the above copied and pasted email and petition to the top Minster of Public Health, Nigeria.
Members of the public can continue to sign our petition hereto by clicking on the petition picture that will direct you to our petition addressed to the above ministers.