By Femi Kusa
As my widow’s mite contribution to the search for peace in Nigeria during the EndSARS protests, I suggested a national campaign against consumption of cow meat.I suggested we all could stop eating cow meat for health and political reasons. Cow meat was putting billions of naira in the hands of foreigners everyday while young Nigerians were poor and unemployed. If we stopped eating red meat and encouraged young Nigerians to farm smaller animals we could withdraw billions of naira everyday from the hands of foreigners and put it in the hands of our own children.
I remembered this appeal two weeks ago after Sunday Adeniyi Adeyemo a.k.a Sunday Igboho launched a campaign to rid Oyo State of terrorist Fulani herders. I believe the appeal fits his goals shared by millions of South Western Nigeria, although from another front. If we do on health grounds, we can escape premature death from such conditions as elevated blood cholesterol, hypertension, heart failure, stroke, diabetes, kidney failure, cancers of all sorts etc. If we do not banish meat from our dining tables, we would not get the cattle herders out of our land…and, eventually, they will take the land by force. For cow, business is big business which, if need be, would be defended with AK47 riffles and even bombs, however hard we scream. In Lagos, between 6,000 and 10,000 cows are slaughtered every day.
The price of one cow ranges from about #150,000 to about #400,000 depending on how meaty it is. If we settle for #200,000 per cow, 6,000 cows will mean about 1.2 billion naira every day for the cow chain business. How many businesses earn that from Lagos every day? When we multiply this across the east and west of Nigeria, what these regions may be losing every day to the cow trade with origins outside Nigeria may be more than five billion naira every day. How many states in Nigeria can raise this as their daily budget?
The forest trade routes will be defended with guns against farmers who prevent cows from eating their crops.
The herders will set up villages and mini towns in Nigerian forests and, eventually, call them their land. They will bring their people from home to settle in Nigerian villages that are being deserted by young sons and daughters of the soil for the lure of Dubai, America and Europe. Eventually, the migrants will out number the aging men and women left behind by their children in deserted villages, and, through the ballot box, someday become new owners and governors of the land. This is the fix we are all in today nationwide. An intelligent way to peacefully resolve the equation is to mount a vigorous scientific and medical campaign against red meat consumption. If we do not eat red meat again, there will be no market for the cow business causing trouble all over the country. The foreign herders may return home. Meanwhile, we would replace cow meat with the meat of snail, rabbit, grass cutter periwinkle, chicken, goat, ram and fish of all sorts all of which young people and old people alike can easily farm in the villages.
The present predicament is the reward we get from the land, we despise, curse as “good for nothing”, claiming it is not permitting us to be flowering and fruitful, when we cannot separate the land from ourselves and recognise that it echoes to us only what we call to it, but other people see how beautiful it is, adore it and adorn it with beautiful words.
When I am asked how we can disperse the gathering clouds without lightening, thunderstorm and earthquake, I often say I despise violence and prefer to be a mathematician, although I have no head for figures. But I know about equations. All events, personal or group, are reducible to equations.
When I do not enjoy the relationships in an equation, I simply remove myself from that scenario and, for me, and perhaps the other values in the equation, the construction collapses. So, how do we remove ourselves from the herder’s billion naria daily income equation in Lagos in which we appear imprisoned, for which they coveth our land and seek which colonise us? Simple. Let us all stop eating cow meat.
They do not eat it in India and the heavens have not collapsed on them. I heard from many people of my age that they no longer eat cow’s meat and that their health has improved. Adherents of the Seventh Day Adventist Mission do not eat meat and they are most probably healthier than many of us who do.
There are also vegetarians among us. We can mount powerful campaigns in high schools, the universities, the churches and the mosques on radio, television and the newspapers about the dangers of eating red meat. Gradually, the demands for red meat will reduce, the business will slacken and the herders will return home. You will ask what do we replace red meat with? After all, when you withdraw naked sugar from a sickly child, you have to give him something in return, say molases or pure honey. Yes, we can encourage our young ones to begin the farming of snail, periwinkle, rabbits, grass cutters, squirrels, crayfish, mushrooms, fish, goat, ram etc.
I was involved in a similar effort in the 1990s under a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) sponsored by a young man from Edo State. Former Bendel State Governor Samuel Ogbemudia was our chairman. Former President Shehu Shagari was our life patron. We tried to set up a model rabbit farm in each of Nigeria’s 774 local governments. We wanted each model farm linked to an agriculture institution for support services.
We dreamt that the number of rabbit farms will multiply every year and, yield more than 250 million rabbits a year. We would then mount a national campaign for rabbit eating to reduce high blood cholesterol levels from red meat which was damaging blood vessels, causing heart attacks, strokes, cancers and painful, untimely death. As our forefathers taught us in Yoruba land, Ore enu ni ota inu (The friend of the tongue is the enemy of the world within).
In 2011, Harvard University published the findings of a study which linked the processed meat to rising occurrences of Type 2 diabetes in the United States. In the definition of processed meat are such edibles like hot-dog, salami, burger, corn beef etc. The meat in these food products have been “cured” with chemicals to preserve them. These chemicals are not only Not Foodless but poisoning to the body as well.
Increasingly popular in Nigeria today, especially among young persons, is Sharwama. Inside every pack of it is not just cabbage and chicken parts, among other constituents, but also Hot-Dog and Cured Meat.
Those of us who do not eat junk food with cured meat may believe we are off the cancer hook and the red meat risk factor in diabetes and other degenerative diseases. But are we safe from tuberculosis?
The World Health Organisation(WHO) estimate that about 460,000 Nigerians are infected with tuberculosis every year while about 219 of 100,000 persons die of it every year. Surely not all these cases come from eating red meat. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that many cows are infected and there are not enough veterinary medicine doctors to certify them free of tuberculosis and other infections before slaughter.
The paradox is that Nigeria may not have enough veterinary doctors to certify all cows for slaughter. If about 10,000 cows are slaughtered in Lagos everyday, how many veterinary doctors do we need to certify them free of tuberculosis? If we assign one doctor to 100 cows, that means we need 100 doctors to do the job.
Do we have 100 veterinary doctors at the Lagos abattoir in Abule-Egba where all cows are meant to be slaughtered? No, we don’t. If we do, can one doctor certify 100 cows in one day? No, he won’t do a thorough job. And that is why tuberculosis may have been spreading through the meat industry.
Doctors advise that red meat be properly cooked before consumption to get rid of not only this problem but of other germs as well. I recall that my mother’s generation did that. Red meat was boiled, fried and then cooked in soups and stews. But that had its problems. Red meat is a load of proteins. As overheating, boiling, frying and then cooking converts the proteins to nitrosamine which are starting blocks of cancer, because they are carcinogenic, eating meat so treated may expose the consumer to cancer risk. These days, many restaurants merely boil red meat and add it to the soup or stew or cook with the sauce. They do this to prevent shrinkage which may devalue the price. The trouble with this is that some germs survive in their cocoons. The tuberculosis agent is most probably one of them.
Between the 1990s and 2010, two of my cousins from the same mother and father died in Lagos of tuberculosis of the spinal bones with spread to their livers, damaging them. It was the first time it became clear to many people in their family that tuberculosis was not only a disease of the lungs. As red meat is likely to cause 460,000 new tuberculosis infections every year and 219 in every 100,000 citizens are likely to die in the same period, isn’t it better to switch to a less hazardous source of protein? What we observe with tuberculosis in red meat consumption is evident, also, in cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
World Health officials anticipate about 250,000 new cases of strokes every year. Strokes belong to the family of cardiovascular diseases to which belong hardening of the arteries(arterosclerosis), blockage of the arteries (atherosclerosis), elevated blood cholesterol, hypertension or elevated blood pressure, enlarged heart, palpitation of the heart, arythmia(murmuring of the heart), instalmental death of heart muscle fibers, heart failure, rupturing of blood vessels in the brain and so on. Many studies link some, if not all of these deadly conditions to diabetes.
Diabetes or elevated blood sugar is itself linked to the consumption of red meat and poulting meat which are said to impact abnormal loads of heme iron.
Cholesterol was such a bad word in the 1980s that Euro-Americans abstained from practically all fats. Yet cholesterol is important for many body functions, including healthy cell walls, the brain, sex hormones and many more. By the 2000s, a unified fat theory established the healing fats and the killer fats…Now, it is suggested that cholesterol may be a killer because the diet is not mineralised and vitaminised enough to support the liver’s efforts to convert excess cholesterol to bile salts. These salts help to digest fats and to evacuate fat-soluble poisons, through the faeces.
Thanks to the likes of Dr Udo Erasmus, author of Fats That heal and Fats that Kill, we know of the good fat, High Density Lipo Protein(HDL) and killer fat when in excess, Low Density LipoProtein(LDL). But, now, industry sponsored researchers are trying to turn the tables, trying to deconstruct the unified fat theory in order to make all fats appear safe for health. That is the modus operandi of any sagging industry. The sugar industry promoted sugar. So did the cow milk industry despite Professor Pottenger’s experiments see the internet for (Professor Pottenger’s cats). Did the egg industry and the GMO food industries not behave likewise?
In Nigeria today, many people are coming down or dying from high blood cholesterol diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, heart attack and stroke among others. In many of these cases, the liver has become weak or even enlarged and become fatty, unable to optimally support digestion or perform its other functions. Thus, a cholesterol build up continues to mount. Depending on the diet, the transit time for food in the intestine has been established. The Charcoal Test transit time of about 18 hours suggest that plain food should take no more than 18 hours to transit from the mouth to the anus for the waste to be expelled. The story is different for red meat.
According to Google, the stomach should digest red meat in two to five hours, the small intestine in two to six hours and in the colon10 to 59 hours. In other words, the digestive system should be rid of red meat within about 73 hours, which is about three days compared with 18 hours for red meat-free meals. Many people eat three times a day, each meal with either egg, fish, or red meat and void only once a day. Some people eat 21 meals in one week but void two times that week. Thus, not all food waste is eliminated. As many adults in Nigeria cannot have a red meat-free meal, cholesterol must build up and be reabsorbed into the bloodstream, however diligently the liver may have tried to fictionalise it for evacuation.
From this stand point, isn’t it better you do away with red meat and replace it with the lean meat of, say, rabbit, grass cutter, snail, periwinkle, mushrooms, free range chickens , ducks and goat?
This is an interesting question I do not wish to dabble into. Some people have examined Google’s account of Nigeria’s farm animal population, and wondered about where the cattle slaughtered in Nigeria are coming from. According to Google, Nigeria’s farm animal population is: Chickens 84•4 million; Goat 34•5 million; Sheep 22•1 million; Cattle 13•9 million. It takes about 400 days for a female cow to be pregnant and be delivered of only one calf.
We do not know how many of Nigeria’s farm cattle are female. If about half of them are, that is about 7 million cattle which will produce another 7 million calves in 400 days which will reach table size in one year or a little over. So, if Lagos consumes about 10,000 cows a day or 3•7 million cows a year and the south-west consumes that many, that is about half of Nigeria’s farm cattle population gone in one year. What about the east and north? Will their consumption does not wipe off the remainder? So, still, where are the cattle coming from?. Some people have suggested that more events than we can fathom may be going on in the forest.
These stories remind me of a fascinating book I read as a boy. It was titled Cinderella! In my village, there lived a man with 32 wives and 87 children. Feeding them was not a problem. Reportedly, a whirlwind swept their grandmother away for seven years and another brought her back. Whenever foodstuff was scarce at home, all hungry children assembled their bowls on the grounds of the courtyard. Their grandmother spread white cloths over the bowls. Steaming hot food that must be eaten before it went cold filled the bowls! There are living witnesses of this Cinderella type of story. Are the cows we eat “Cinderella cows”?
Some people believe these cows are abused in the forest. My imagination is inelastic to fathom it. But I do know that these animals are under stress, treking through forest and crossing rivers, and that their bodies are saturated with adrenaline and cortisol. Elevated blood levels of adrenaline, even in humans, can damage blood vessels, cause elevated blood pressure ( hypertension), damage the heart and even cause stroke. Add to this scenario the adrenaline upsurge in the slaughter chamber when the cow behind sees the cow ahead beheaded, and imagine the amount of adrenaline we consume in the red meat. Any one who lives around the Lagos Abattoir will tell you that some cows sometimes escape from the slaughter man and furiously flee through the street.
These scenarios and a few more encourage me to give up red meat a few years ago. Now, the insult of the foreign herdsmen has added yet another reason for me to say bye bye to red meat. Nigerians need to be educated that the normadic herdsmen now wish to settle down, more than 500 years after most people in this part of the earth did so, and are, therefore, desperately searching for land on which to settle. Whoever is weak will lose his/her father land for the strong must always overcome the weak. In the southwest, the penchant for naming ceremony feast, house warming feast, wedding feast, birthday feast, funeral feast, school graduation feast, anything feast etc all of which warrants the consumption of red meat should give way so that the cow merchants, finding no more customers, can take their cows elsewhere. Failure to do this may merely postpone the dooms day. Indians don’t eat cow meat, and they are not dead.
Femi Kusa was a former Editor of The Guardian