The authorities should not only focus on healthy animals, but also keep an eye on the butcher shops to ensure that they sell hygienic meat

As the Dashain festival of this year has already knocked on the doors of devout celebrators, traders have started bringing in live mountain goats, goats, sheep and fowls from various parts of the country and outside to the Kathmandu Valley, where the largest number of such animals are sold. Dashain and Tihar are the two major festivals of the Nepalis, when large amounts of meat are consumed compared to the rest of the year. Consuming meat may help in added intake of protein, but its excess consumption could be detrimental to one’s health, which may require emergency health attendance at a time when hospitals are overwhelmed by the rising number of COVID-19 cases. Not a single day passes without new coronavirus infections and deaths. The Kathmandu Valley has now become Nepal’s epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, sounding an alarm bell to the government, doctors and health workers.

So, extra precaution must be taken while consuming meat during the festive season.

As in the past, and also taking into account the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Valley, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has requested consumers to buy only healthy animals. For this purpose, the KMC has deployed three teams comprising veterinary doctors at major places (Kalanki in Kathmandu and Sallaghari in Bhaktapur), where a large number of goats, sheep and fowls are concentrated, to inspect whether the animals are healthy for consumption. A healthy goat or sheep is marked with “green” paint on the horns while an unhealthy one is marked “red”, meaning it is unfit for consumption from the health point of view.

Mostly mountain goats are ferried from Manang and Mustang as well as Tibet while others are brought from India, the Tarai and hills. This year, officials said no animal arrived in the Valley from Tibet due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

KMC officials said there is a short supply of mountain goats and sheep due to the surge in coronavirus cases and hassles faced by the traders while transporting these animals. The price of these animals has also slightly gone up this year compared to last year.

Therefore, most people are queuing up in a long line to buy goats and sheep from the government-owned Food Management and Trading Company (FMTC), which is selling them at a fair price. Despite the fact that the KMC and FMTC are doing their best, the KMC also needs to strictly monitor the traditional butcher shops that sell meat in the open under appalling hygienic conditions. Past studies have shown that the butcher shops are the major source of meat-related diseases as their facilities are not up to the standard set by the Animal Slaughterhouse and Meat Inspection Act, 1999. The KMC and other municipalities across the country have not been able to enforce the Act that requires a separate slaughterhouse in a specific area, away from human settlements.

Contaminated or rotten meat item can be fatal to human health. So, the concerned authorities should not only focus on ensuring the sale of healthy animals but also keep an eye on the butcher shops so that they sell meat under hygienic conditions.

No business ethics

Any crisis, natural or man-made, is a god-sent occasion for our traders to make a quick profit at the expense of our unassertive consumers. We’ve seen this during the Gorkha Earthquake, Indian blockade and on many other occasions. And the recent months-long lockdown period has not let them down either, with the prices of all edibles – from cereals and sugar to vegetables and meat – carrying a new price tag every other day. What’s more, in the midst of a shortage of goods in the market, inedible and date-expired food items found their way into the kitchens of the unsuspecting consumers who also paid more for them.

In just a month from September 17 to October 16, the Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection fined 137 firms for selling substandard foodstuffs and collected Rs 7.8 million in revenue. Also 484 firms out of the 801 inspected were found not following ethical business practices. This goes to show that doing business in Nepal means cheating the consumer in some way. That explains why everyone from the country and from across the border is so keen to start a business here. These fraudsters will not stop unless we have strict laws and a strong consumer forum.