For many a Ghanaian, a meal without meat is not worth eating. In fact, for many households, it is a sign of living at the lowest rung of the social ladder to cook without meat - beef or mutton. In the capital, Accra, local meat processing outlets litter every obscure corner where the space is available.
Near the capital is Kasoa, a fast growing township in the Central Region where lots of cattle and other animal rearers reside.
The only meat processing centre at Kasoa, the Kasoa Abattoir, a misnomer by all standards, is probably the dirtiest place to prepare anything for consumption. But if the place is notorious for its insanitary conditions, it is equally popular amongst residents of Kasoa and even Accra.
Because of its proximity to the animal market there, residents living in and around the town, especially the middle class and the affluent, troop there to purchase animals, especially during festive seasons, for processing by bare-chested young men.
Last Christmas, dozens of people were spotted around the abattoir – some in their posh vehicles – awaiting their turn to have their animals slaughtered and prepared in the abattoir.
The Kasoa abattoir, located near Obuom junction, also prepares almost all the meat sold in the town’s markets.
It is basically a piece of untidy bare land located near the biggest drain in the town. There is a block wall with concrete slabs used as the operating tables by the butchers. There is no running water. And animals are slaughtered on the dusty floor, which has been blackened by a mixture of blood, ash, smoke and dirt. To de-hair the slaughtered animals, the butchers here set car tyres alight and place the animals on top of them to burn off the fur. One's stomach churns as virtually every inch of this parcel of land called an abattoir is covered by blood with animal parts strewn all over the place. The stench is unbearable.
Chief Butcher Musah Issah, however, will not concede the abattoir is dirty and stinky. He told Myjoyonline.com the abattoir is one of the cleanest in Ghana.
It is hard to understand why residents do not seem bothered by the insanitary conditions under which their meat is prepared and keep patronizing the services of these butchers.
Myjoyonline.com spoke to the Environmental Health Officer of the Ewutu-Senya District, Francis Gzodzia, who said the abattoir had been licensed by the authorities to slaughter animals for public consumption in the town.
While admitting “the place is not so good enough,” Mr Gzodzia said the authorities, in their quest to ensure good health in the community, have stationed environmental officers at the abattoir who inspect all animals before they are slaughtered.
Meanwhile, the Municipal Chief Executive of the Ewutu-Senya District, Dr Nuhu Adams, has said that work on an ultra-modern abattoir is far advanced.
He said the works left to be done are connecting electricity, water and a channel to empty liquid waste from the abattoir.
Dr Nuhu said the recent disruption in water supply had contributed to the delay in completing the project but was hopeful that by June this year, the new abattoir will be opened for use.
Then, he insisted, the "old stinking abattoir” will be closed down.
Doctor warns its risky
Some of the butchers processing meat for market
A Public Health Officer at the La Polyclinic in Accra has warned the Kasoa abattoir “serves as a very good medium for bacteria or germs to thrive” and puts the health of the entire community at great risk.
Residents, she said, may contract different forms of diarrheal diseases if they keep buying meat processed there.
She was particularly disturbed by the use of car tyres to burn the animals before peeling off the skin. The tyres, she explained, contain carcinogenic substances and thus can cause cancer.
The butchers ‘are smoking their organs’ and risk contracting lung diseases, the public health officer stressed, owing to their constant inhalation of fumes as they conduct their business.