The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has shut down a slaughterhouse in Karatina town, Nyeri County.
Local butchers have protested the closure, saying it is tantamount to killing their business.
In a letter signed by the acting Nema Director General Mamo B Mamo, the authority directed the Nyeri County government to close the slaughter house immediately.
The closure is due to the county government’s failure to put in place appropriate measures to ensure both the liquid and solid waste does not negatively impact the environment.
Police led by Mathira East Sub-County Commander James Barasa immediately moved in to enforce compliance with the Nema directive, warning that anybody found conducting any operations there will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
“This is a government directive and we are here to enforce compliance. We shall remain here until Nema directs otherwise. It is about the health of the people and anybody who flouts this directive will face the full weight of the law,” Mr Barasa said.
But the butchers, through their spokesman Joseph Wakabai, claimed that the closure of the abattoir was ill-timed and ill-intentioned, given that the December festive season when meat traders make a killing is approaching.
“We feel that the move by Nema is instigated by private slaughterhouses which expect to benefit from the closure especially when we are approaching the month of December when we expect to make better sales. We shall resist this move even if it means going to court. We have had this slaughter house for a long time and closing it will be like sabotaging our livelihoods,” Mr Wakabai said.
More than 400 meat traders in Karatina town and its environs including some from as far as Kagumo, Kagio in neighbouring Kirinyaga County are likely to be affected by the closure of the facility which is the largest in Nyeri County.
A spot check by the Nation established that currently, there is a shortage of meat since most butchers have not received fresh supplies since Monday and were selling the remaining stock at between Sh400 and Sh500 per kilo of beef.
It was also established butchers have resorted to seeking slaughter services from private abattoirs at a higher fee, and whose hygienic conditions are wanting.
“We expect the price of meat to be affected by the closure of this slaughterhouse because the private abattoirs have increased their slaughtering fee from Sh820 to Sh1,200 for a cow and Sh400 up from Sh250 for a goat. The peripheral abattoirs cannot meet the high demand and a shortage of meat is looming,” said Mr Patrick Muriithi.
CASH ON CRISIS
Mr Muriithi said he suspects the closure could have been instigated by owners of private slaughterhouses who hope to cash in on the crisis.
But Mr Paul Ngati, the chairman of a private slaughterhouse which is run by a self-help group and situated barely 20 metres from the closed facility, denied any involvement in closure.
“We have nothing to do with those claims. We have our own customers and in fact, before we opened this facility, we were using that particular slaughterhouse but we moved out owing to its pathetic conditions. Those accusing us are jealous of our progress,” he said.
Meanwhile, residents who talked to the Nation said they are hesitant to buy meat whose source is not clear, an issue that could negatively affect meat trade in the area.
“I have not bought any meat since I heard about the closure of the government-owned slaughter house. I can’t risk my family’s health because I’m not sure whether the meat is inspected or not. The government should intervene and solve this matter,” said Mr Patrick Wachira Mumbi.
The Nema directive also directed the county veterinary officer to withdraw meat inspection services.
Nyeri County Agriculture CEC James Muturi, who was accompanied by public health officials, said the county government will comply with the directive and rectify the situation.
“It is true we have some challenges with the slaughterhouse. Sometimes back we had set aside some money for renovations but the butchers themselves declined to move out to facilitate the work. The money was returned to the treasury but now we have no alternative but to comply with the directive,” he said.