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RICA warns of animal stress before slaughter

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Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA) has warned of animal stress before they are slaughtered so as to prevent low-quality meat.

Cases where animals are physically stressed before slaughter are still present as Marie Claire Uwera, a resident in Musanze district, and Alex Mvunabandi, a slaughter man in Gakenke district, witness.

“Cows are mistreated most of the time on their way to the market,” says Mvunabandi who assures that they wait for a day as a way of responding to such animals’ physical stress and mistreatment.

According to Gaspard Simbarikure, Veterinary Hygiene and Quarantine Specialist at RICA, when a stressful animal is slaughtered, meat quality is affected; hence the meat results in darkness and dryness.

He says stress is one of the significant factors that affect meat pH (level of acidity or alkalinity in meat). When animals are stressed before slaughter, they release adrenaline, which reduces glycogen stores in their muscles due to muscle contraction. This leads to a lower pH, which can result in meat that is tough and dry, with a reduced shelf life.

Additionally, studies reveal that high-pH meat can also be a food safety concern because the high pH level can provide “an ideal environment for bacteria to grow, which can increase the risk of foodborne illness.”

“Such a higher meat in pH also results in dark, firm and dry (DFD) meat as the result of animals experiencing extreme stress. The normal good quality pH meat should be of 5.6 to 5.8,” he added.

A proper pH level ensures that the meat is fresh, tender and juicy for you to preserve it for a longer period of time, other reports say.

Speaking on safety and why animals should rest before slaughter in line with “Safe and Quality Meat” as an ongoing campaign within the meat value chain, he assured that low quality of meat may impose health problems.

It is recommended that large animals need to at least rest for 24 hours while poultry is at least two hours to reduce stress as “it influences the quality of meat.”

“Stressed animals give low-quality meat due to chemical reactions happening in their bodies and this may lead to production of unwanted body secretions which reduces the quality of meat. Low-quality meat has low nutritive value and this may impact the wellbeing of the consumer,” he said.

Despite risks of health problems over low quality meat, however, consumers have the right to get products equally to the price as Simbarikure said.

“It may be contradictory to the right of consumers to access quality products and it violates the principle of equal pay whereby the consumer shall have the product which is equal in terms of quantity and the price,” he added.

Article 159 of the Law Nº 54/2008 of 10/09/2008, determining the prevention and fight against contagious diseases for domestic animals in Rwanda provides an imprisonment between three months and two years with a fine between Rwf100, 000 and Rwf 5,000,000 or one of the penalties.

Gaspard Simbarikure, Veterinary Hygiene and Quarantine Specialist at RICA
Gaspard Simbarikure, Veterinary Hygiene and Quarantine Specialist at RICA

Fines may also be imposed referring to the article 55 of the Law Nº 36/2012 of 21/09/2012 relating to competition and consumer protection which provides an administrative fine of Rwf 20,000 to Rwf 5,000,000.

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