Hari Narayan Belbase, director at Department of Commerce and Supply Management (DoCSM), said that he has quit eating non-vegetarian food. Once a great meat lover, Belbase has also managed to convince his whole family to go vegetarian.
There was a time when he would slip into the narrow alleys in Mahabaudhha area in Kathmandu to savor cheap Buff momo. “I loved to eat momos as well as other meat items. But no more,” he said.
Squalid slaughter houses and unsanitary meat handling practices, he said, drove him to renounce meat forever.
Belbase, who oversees the market inspection at DoCSM, said anyone who sees the way meat industry operates in Kathmandu would give up eating non vegetarian food.
“It’s done in a very, very unhygienic manner,” he said.
Meat traders slaughter animals in the open and fetid conditions, use dirty water to wash the carcasses, and display raw meat in open space to draw customers.
Consuming such meat poses a grave risk to public health.
Quite alarmingly, meat traders have been found to be selling meat of dead animals instead of the ones that are slaughtered.
Last month, police seized a huge quantity of dead chicken from Welcome Cold Store at Banasthali. When the matter came to light, enraged locals took control of the cold store and called the police.
The operator admitted that he indeed purchased dead chickens at half the market price from poultry farmers. He even claimed that other meat traders in the valley run their businesses in the same way. His claim is not baseless.
The authorities have seized vehicles carrying dead goats and buffalos several times in the past on the way to the capital.
“The practice of selling meat of dead animals is growing,” said Belbase, adding that it was almost impossible for the responsible authorities to regulate the entire meat industry with the limited manpower.
The DoCMS is unaware of the number of meat shops in valley but estimates thousands in number.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), which is responsible to regulate meat shops and slaughter houses in metropolis, said that only very few meat traders have taken approval to run such businesses.
“Meat shops are ubiquitous in the city, but only five to six shops have registered themselves at our office,” said Rajuya Prakash Pradhananga, chief of KMC’s health department.
He conceded that KMC’s failure to regulate the meat market in the metropolis has left consumers’ health at risk.
Despite the presence of Animal Slaughterhouse and Meat Inspection Act, 1999, concerned agencies have not yet bothered to enforce it.