VICTORIA ADENEKAN writes about the Nigerian dog meat market which veterinary doctors and dog lovers want activities halted to preserve companion animals
The nation’s dog meat market thrives largely in many states, particularly in some states in the South-West and South-South. It features prominently dog sellers and buyers with the latter mostly specialists who prepare dog meat for sale. There are even spots in some areas around Lagos and in some states where dogs are killed, dressed, and prepared for consumption.
One of the joints is in Ijesa in Surulere, Lagos. Sunday evenings and on public holidays are when sales are the highest for a dog meat seller, who gave his name only as Michael and his boss identified only as “Alapata (someone who butchers animals).”
Michael told our correspondent that the boom in the business had been keeping them in business for over 20 years.
The brutal killing
It was gathered that the dogs are kept in a cage and served only water to await death. The killing process is gruesome and dog lovers will hate to witness it.
A noose, an iron rod with a long twine attached to it is used to drag the identified dog out of the cage. Once the rope catches the dog’s neck, the length of the twine is shortened and holds the dog’s neck in a choking way. The dog’s mouth opens with intermittent cries of helplessness as it is dragged out of the cage. The remaining dogs in the cage join their departing dog in the cries but they remain helpless.
Michael said, “Once the dog is brought out of the cage, the noose remains on its neck to prevent it from attacking the person holding it. The iron rod is then used to smash the dog’s head twice, to weaken it. After that, the neck is slit and the blood is collected or made to flow. Once the blood flow stops, the carcasses are placed on the wired mesh with a hearth or fireplace and doused with kerosene. Fire is kindled to burn the hair to make it easy to remove. Then it is washed with soap to scrape excess hair.’’
All parts of the dog are edible except what Michael referred to as “bile duct. It’s attached to the liver and also present in chicken.
For dogs with a lot of fat, the oil is extracted and can be used as a regular vegetable or soya oil.
Asked if there were other ways of killing the dogs, Alapata said, “They are wild dogs. They are not a chicken, ram or goat that one can tie their limbs and kill. The dogs will bite someone if they are not held that way.”
An apprentice with Alapata identified only as Daniel said the dogs also called 404 had a unique taste different from beef, chicken or pork.
The Akwa-Ibom indigene stated, “I eat dog meat and it is good. The taste and the method of preparation are different from that of other animals whose meat is eaten. We cook it with a lot of pepper and scented leaves.”
Speaking on how they sell and buy the dogs, Daniel said they usually sell dog meat at N100 per piece.
Daniel added, “On Sundays, we used to kill like eight or nine dogs, and we always sold everything. The meat is now costly, it’s not like before, a dog costs about N20,000. We buy from sellers who come from the North and South.
“We don’t raise them, we buy different sizes on a weekly basis. Every week they bring like 20 or 50. They bring them on Saturdays. The business is really booming. If one doesn’t have skills and techniques, one can’t kill dogs. Also, if one doesn’t know how to prepare it, people will not enjoy it.’’
Daniel, who called their joint, Hotdog Centre, said that their customers were of different ages, sexes and from parts of the country.
“Most of our customers are from the North and South. The general name for dog meat is 404, because of the dog’s speed akin to that of a car of the same brand. We call it 404 meat in Calabar, Cross River State. It can’t be differentiated after it’s been cooked.”
“In Lagos, we don’t have what we can use to burn the hair on the dog apart from kerosene. In my village, when we kill it, we use some particular type of leaves to burn it. But in Lagos we use kerosene to burn it and wash it with soap so it won’t affect the taste.”
He noted that they usually recorded quality sales, adding that some people could kill only two dogs and not exhaust the meat due to low patronage.
He noted, “Environmental health officers come to the area to complain about the front-yard. They always say that the frontage is not clean but we covered the cage so it won’t be exposed to the main road.”
Daniel further stated that they only kill local dogs, adding that the dogs were always but not fed after being purchased because, “if we give them food they will defecate anyhow. They can stay a month without eating and nothing will happen to them. When we buy them, we only give them water to drink and we add a small amount of salt to the water so it won’t reduce their weight. These dogs are healthy when bought. I can’t kill a dog I trained. I can have a dog as a pet but these dogs are easy to kill because we didn’t train them.’’
Also speaking, Michael’s boss, Alapata said it’s almost 20 years since he started the business, explaining that people knew him in the area. He noted that his joint was like the headquarters where people buy raw dog meat from him to cook at their stalls.
Alapata said, “People are really going into the business, it’s profitable. People like dog meat because it is not the common meat one sees in any market or anywhere. Some people like the dried meat, so we dry some and make some into something similar to pepper soup.”
“The residents don’t discriminate against us but when I was using the backyard of where I live people usually complained including co-tenants and the landlord. I am the oldest tenant there. The landlord said I should use the front of my shop to do whatever I want to do.”
An Ondo State-based dog meat seller, Jimoh Mustapha, otherwise called ‘Jimoh Alaja’ (Jimoh the dog man) said he joined the business because it was lucrative in Ondo State and commonly eaten in the state.
Mustapha stated, “Dog meat is good, people like it in Ondo State. They believe it cures some ailments too. People know me in Oba-Ile garage for dog meat. There are many dog meat joints in the town. I don’t have a name for my joint, but people call me Jimoh Alaja.
“We call dog meat ‘404’ because some people don’t want others to know that they want to buy dog meat so they call it ‘404.’ Whenever I want to kill a dog, I use a rod with a long rope tied to it. I will hold its neck with the rod and someone will help hold it down and I will hit its head with a stick till it becomes weak. I will then use a knife to cut the neck.
Mustapha said, “After cutting the neck, I will burn it to remove the hair and wash it, cook it with pepper and scent leaves. I will later cut it into different sizes. Each portion sells for N100 or N200.”
He said he could kill about three to four dogs in a day without any of the meat remaining.
“The people that sell the dogs call me sometimes saying that they have dogs to sell. I either go there or they bring them to my place. We buy dogs from anywhere, sometimes in Sokoto, Igbara Odo, Igbara-Oke and Ogbese. If I have 10 dogs in a day, I can manage them for a few days,’’ he noted.
He added that he could buy dogs at expensive prices and sold them at ridiculous prices and sometimes the sales were higher. “There’s nothing in killing dogs for food. We have power over animals and dogs are among them,’’ the dog meat seller said.
Another dog meat seller identified only as Solomon, told our correspondent that that finance was his only challenge in the business. He noted that he also sold alcoholic drinks in his joint located at Oke Arata, along Igbo-Oliki, Akure, Ondo State.
Solomon said, “The patronage is good. Patronage increases if the joint is located where there are many people. They will patronise one especially where there are youths. They call me Solo around where my joint is.
“I go to villages in Ondo State to buy dogs. I kill about two to three dogs in a day and I sell everything. Sometimes, some portions may remain if the business is dull.’’
Speaking on how he prepares the dog meat, he said, “After killing the dogs, I roast and slice them into pieces. Then I put the meat in a pot with scent leaves and I use gin to cook it with other ingredients. We cook it with scent leaves or gin to make the meat solid and the scent leaves makes the water good.’’
He further said that finance was hampering his business because he wanted to buy alcoholic drinks which youths enjoyed taking when taking dog meat.
“If I have a joint and stock a fridge with beer, youths will flock to the place regularly but I am hampered by finance,’’ he noted.
A dog seller, Emma Ekpenyong, who runs a joint, Hot Spot at 204, Calabar-Itu Road, Akwa Ibom State, said that the dog meat business was booming.
He told Saturday PUNCH that since he started the business 19 years ago, he had not regretted venturing into the business.
Ekpenyong said, “The business is growing and the patronage is good. I kill five dogs daily and I sell the meat once. I have been in the business for 19 years.
“I sell palm wine, beer, and other alcoholic drinks to customers who take them to wash down the meat. Dogs are wild animals, so we use kaikai (local drink) and Ntong (scent leaves) to bring out the meat’s flavour and it makes it nice.”
Petition against Nigeria’s dog meat trade
A worldwide petition website, change.org has created a petition to stop Nigeria’s dog and cat meat trade.
The petition, started by United Kingdom-based international animal rights activist, Natasha Choolun, urged members of the African Union , Union of Chiefs, African Union Commission, African Union and House of Chiefs to ban what it described as barbaric animal cruelty trades and implement enforceable animal protection laws within their tribes.
It urged them to join the global millions of people calling on governments of all nations to protect the animals from harm.
The petition noted, “Animal cruelty does not appease the gods, its not culture or tourism and like many outdated and harmful practices. From the past, these barbaric animal cruelty trades must be abolished. Nigeria’s barbaric dog and cat meat trade involves terrified dogs that are stolen from surrounding countries such as Niger and transported into Nigeria.
“While Nigeria has a growing number of pet owners who have dogs and cats as companions and not for consumption, these owners live in constant fear of having their companions stolen by local dog or cat thieves, knowing their pet would be sold to a dog trader or butcher, for quick cash.
“Arriving at dog markets, exhausted dogs are unloaded for sale, then crammed back into different cages and reloaded onto different trucks for more gruelling journeys toward dog slaughterhouses, where they face a brutally violent death. Nigeria’s slogan “Good people great nation” should also include its animals, and consequently engage police and magistrates to be in sympathy with Nigeria’s animal cruelty laws, to implement and enforce them.’’
As of April 8, 2022, 17, 837 people have signed the petition out of 25, 000 target.
In a study titled, “Dog-friendly country index updated on The Swiftest on March 25, 2022, by Mathew Nash, Nigeria was ranked the third country with the highest dog consumption. Several countries were rated in this research with Nigeria being the 7th worst country for dog ownership at 44.41 points and the 9th country with the fewest veterinarians per capita.
Eight ranking factors were used to grade the 51 most and least dog friendly countries which included Animal Protection Index, API companion animals grade, pet-friendly hotels per million population, number of vets per million population, country’s law on animal rights, formal recognition of animal sentience, low risk rabies country and significant dog meat consumption. In the factors used, Nigeria was listed among countries with laws on animal rights while ranking close to least in every other ranking factor utilised. In addition, Nigeria was ranked to have one pet-friendly hotel per million populations.
Among 15 other countries, Nigeria was labelled to have high risk for rabies infection, lack comprehensive legislation with uncompleted laws on animal sentience, have few veterinarians per capita and include a current documented practice of eating dog meat.
Under miscellaneous offence, Chapter 50, of the country’s 1999 Constitution frowns on abuse of animals. However, it’s doubtful if anyone has been prosecuted under the law for animal cruelty.
The demand for dog meat
Michael told Saturday PUNCH that on public holidays they could kill 10 dogs and not be enough to cater to the customers. Michael added that some regular customers could buy dog meat worth N5,000 and upwards.
As barbecue meat is flavoured with spices, Michael said the meat is cooked with scent leaves to give it a particular flavour that will make it enjoyable.
In Nigeria, dog eating is not so common among all the tribes. There are specific tribes reportedly associated with dog meat. However, some persons who do not belong to these tribes have also said that they had eaten the meat.
One of those who have eaten dog meat, identified only as Elizabeth, said the first time she ate dog meat was when she was served during a festival. She admitted that it was until much later she knew that the meat was from a local dog.
She said, “I ate dog meat when I travelled with my grandmother to the village. It tasted good though and I actually didn’t know it was dog meat because there was an Ogun festival. We went to a family friend’s house who gave us pounded yam and the meat. It was later when I went back to Lagos to live with my uncle that I got to know about it.”
The Ekiti State indigene added, “The dog meat tasted better than any other meat.”
Also, an indigene of Ondo State, Bernard Egbodofo-Olu said he enjoyed eating dog meat.
He said, “Dog meat tastes delicious. I eat the local breed and there is no particular sex of dog I eat. I prefer dog meat to other meat such as beef, chicken or pork. I eat because I like it based on personal.’’
Also, a security expert and an indigene of Ekiti State, Idowu Bankole, said he had eaten dog meat once. He said that the taste was a bit close to goat meat.
Bankole added, “I am from Ekiti State but I was born and raised in Ondo town.”
An indigene of Gombe State, Rejoice Hussaini, who said she had been consuming dog meat for over 10 years, noted that only a few of her family members eat the meat.
Hussaini stated, “Consuming dog meat is a personal choice. Some of my family members detest the meat and some love it.’’
Despite Hussaini’s love for dog meat, she said she enjoyed consuming other animal meat.
She said, “I buy dog meat from the market. I prefer it to other animal meat and I eat meat from local dogs. There is no peculiarity in the sex of the animal when it is killed but they are usually grown dogs and not puppies.”
Foreign dogs used as pets, security –Dog breeders
A dog breeder and salesman who gave his name only as Gbenga stated that people buy foreign breeds for security use and not for consumption.
He said, “Different people buy dogs for various purposes, some as pets, security, passion etc. People who eat dog meat can’t eat foreign dogs because of fats and injections, though some of my customers claim they can eat it but mostly they don’t. People from Ondo, Cross River, and Akwa-Ibom eat dog meat but they can’t eat that of foreign dogs.
“I have seen people who eat dog meat but not that of foreign breeds. They can’t just buy foreign dogs for eating because an adult foreign dog costs between N150,000 and N3,000,000. They wouldn’t buy that just for consumption.”
Gbenga, who said the business was lucrative, said those who invested hugely into it would make good money from it.
He said, “Dog business is lucrative. If a dog is well taken care of, it can generate a net income of N1,500,000 annually. If one has three dogs, one can imagine the profit when it gives birth. The patronage is good. It’s sold in various forms, online and offline. I have various breeds; Boerboel, Caucasian, bull Mastiff.”
Another dog breeder, Blakk Santa, also said people who eat dogs don’t eat foreign breeds.
He said, “I have family members and friends who eat dogs. They eat the native Nigerian breed popularly called local dog. They don’t buy dog meat in the market, most joints sell it cooked. They don’t sell dog meat, they only eat them. To me, eating dog meat is disgusting. I have tried to discourage those that eat dog meat. People eat dogs across states in Nigeria. People eat dogs due to personal preferences, except Muslims.”
He stated that breeding and selling dogs had its merits and demerits, saying “I breed Rottweiler and Boerboel. I encounter different buyers every day, fellow breeders, dog lovers and people who need dogs for security purposes. It’s a side hustle, it’s either one makes money from it or not.’’
No medical benefits in eating dog meat, say vet doctors
Commenting on the issue, a professor of Veterinary Medicine at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto State, Adamu Yunusa, stated that there were no medical benefits in eating dog meat.
He added that the consumption of dogs was mostly personal choice, noting that some people chose to eat pigs reared in an unhealthy way.
Yunusa said, “Whatever a dog meat has is the same nutritive value with what goat meat has. Actually, there is no difference between goat meat and dog meat. Some tribes in Nigeria kill dogs for cultural or traditional reasons like the Muslims slaughter rams yearly. Some tribes use dogs when they have some festivities. Calabar people take it as a special meat.”
Yunusa noted that the other breeds were expensive to kill for consumption unless they died naturally, stating that no one would buy a dog for N100,000 upwards to eat its meat. He stated, “Perhaps, they kill local dogs because they are cheap to get.”
Another veterinary doctor, Dr Ukamaka Uchenna, stated that killing of dogs for human consumption should be condemned.
She said, “Eating of dogs these days is not peculiar to any tribe. Many people eat it but it’s not used in household cooking. It is often eaten socially in bars and restaurants that specialise in the preparation.
“Like every other meat, dog meat is rich in protein. However, some of the eaters said that it cures malaria and high blood pressure, but this has not been scientifically proven. They also said that it increases male libido. This claim has also not been proven scientifically.”
Uchenna said that the killing of dogs for human consumption should be frowned at, noting that dogs were not food animals but companion animals and should not be eaten.
She stated, “It’s like eating an animal that provides one security and obeys one. Eating dogs is inhumane. “Dogs may harbour some diseases such as rabies. The butcher can get rabies in the process of killing and processing the dog for meat.’’
A professor of food animal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oladele Talabi, said that people had made dog meat a delicacy because of culture and where they hail from.
Talabi said, “Dog meat is proteinous and some people eat it depending on their background. In veterinary medicine, dogs should be companion animals but in Nigeria, they are killed for consumption. Depending on where you are from, for example, you may be a native of Ogun State but have a background in Ondo State and you have delicacies for it.
“Dogs are companion animals, dogs normally shouldn’t be killed for human consumption. There are categories of animals, for example, companion animals such as dogs and horses. Animals for consumption are rabbits, pigs, chickens, and cattle.”
“Normally dogs shouldn’t be slaughtered for consumption but because of the situation some people have found themselves in over the years, their culture and locality made them to eat dogs and it has become a delicacy in their area. Of course, no law says don’t eat dogs.”
He stated that medically, there were no disadvantages in eating dog meat, noting that in the process of trying to catch a dog to kill, the dog could scratch the person or the saliva of the dog may touch an open wound and cause rabies.
He added, “Dogs are carriers of rabies. If the dog is not slaughtered properly, the person will be infected with rabies.”
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