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Cattle Markets in the Street Threaten Disease in Damascus

Abu Khaled, a butcher, sets out every day at dawn to the cattle market before returning to his shop in the Adwi neighborhood of Damascus.

Written by Ahmad Hajj Hamdo Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Along with fellow butchers, he starts the slaughter of the day on the pavement outside his shop. Residents often wake up to the sight of animal remains and the stench of blood.

This practice isn’t limited to the Adwi neighborhood. Many other residential areas have recently become accustomed to unmonitored livestock slaughtering, mainly in Bab Sreijeh, al-Sheikh Muhieddine and Basateen al-Adwi.

With the chaos of Syria’s conflict, the lack of specialized slaughterhouses in Damascus has left butchers to their own devices, allowing them to go about their business in the open among markets, residential buildings, hospitals and parks. Bassam Darwish, the former director of the Butchers’ Assembly in Damascus, says that the slaughterhouse in al-Zablatani area has been shut down since February 2013 due to the escalation of violence.

Residents have since complained about the unmonitored practices of meat markets in the streets. But they say government authorities have failed to address the issue.

A source from the General Craftsmens’ Union in Damascus says that “in the absence of control [mechanisms] for slaughtering cattle, butchers started conducting their business on the streets of residential areas. This presents a significant risk to the consumer since roads are full of germs and dirt.”

The source says they have demanded that the Damascus governorate assign a place where animals can be slaughtered, away from residential areas.

At first glance, a passerby in the meat market in Bab Sreijeh would think the butchers here do as they please, without rules. Animal remains are dumped along the street. Insects and flies are everywhere.

The Union source said Damascus will face an environmental disaster should the slaughtering continue in residential areas, particularly in the Bab Sreijeh neighborhood, where over 400 cattle are slaughtered every day.

Residents in Bab Sreijeh said that a number of them, many of them children, have contracted different kinds of diseases due to the unmonitored slaughtering practices. They have demanded officials find a new venue for the meat market.

Most cattle slaughtered on sidewalks and roads in the Bab Sreijeh neighborhood is unfit for human consumption. Meat is left exposed for long hours, while the process of transporting it to neighboring areas is subpar. Workers often have dirty hands and usually use open pick-up trucks to transport the meat instead of special refrigerated meat transport vehicles.

Amid the uproar, some butchers have come up with innovative ways to cheat unsuspecting customers. Mustapha S., a former butcher, says some smuggle already-dead sheep into the Bab Sreijeh meat market while claiming the cattle has been slaughtered properly under the supervision of a trained employee.

In an effort to exercise some control over the local meat industry, Damascus officials began daily patrols within the meat markets, bringing along a veterinarian whose task is to determine if the meat is fit for human consumption.

Last month, these patrols shut down 12 butcheries in Bab Sreijeh for intentionally misrepresenting items on sale.

Among their findings: cheaper buffalo meat presented as lamb.

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