By Mohammed Al A’Ali
BUTCHERS across Muharraq are planning an indefinite strike from Tuesday to protest against what they claim are poor quality meat imports. It was originally supposed to commence at the Muharraq Central Market, but private shop owners are also expected to join in the strike.
Butchers told the GDN yesterday that the market would open for business, but no meat deliveries from the Bahrain Livestock Company (BLC) would be unloaded and no meat would be sold.
Efforts are now underway to encourage butchers in Manama, Sitra and Jidhafs central markets to also take part.
The butchers want to be supplied with meat from animals slaughtered in Bahrain, rather than frozen meat shipped in from abroad.
They also want an overhaul of retirement plans for butchers, saying the trade is in danger of dying out due to a lack of incentives for younger generations.
The GDN reported yesterday that around 100 tonnes of tainted meat had allegedly been imported to Bahrain over the past three years, after revealing on Thursday that Bahrain was looking for new livestock suppliers after authorities rejected a shipment of more than 21,000 sheep infected with Orf disease, which can be transmitted to humans.
It was the latest in a string of discoveries of tainted meat and the Muharraq Municipal Council has set up its own task force to conduct inspections of food retailers, alongside government officials.
“BLC comes up with different supply restrictions daily and this affects the way business is being done in the market regarding meat, with the biggest example being in Ramadan when each butcher was restricted to two carcasses a day,” said council vice-chairman Ali Al Muqla, who also heads the council’s consumer protection committee.
“Then came the tainted meat issue and with it more damage to the market as customers stopped purchasing meat.
“Butchers are being noble by not selling meat when they discover it is rotten because BLC refuses to take it back and doesn’t compensate them,” he added.
Mr Al Muqla also said there were questions over the way sheep were being slaughtered in the country of origin, mainly Australia, and whether it was halal.
“We don’t know if the meat is halal because no-one from the government or the company (BLC) monitors the process and we don’t know if the selected cattle is healthy or sick before being slaughtered – or how it is stored when it is being shipped to Bahrain,” he said.
“These questions are not just asked by the public, but even the butchers who can’t guarantee the meat is halal.
“We are demanding a delegation comprising two clergymen (one Sunni and one Shi’ite), two butchers (one Sunni and one Shi’ite), a Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry veterinarian, a Health Ministry inspector, a representative from BLC, an aviation official from the Transportation Ministry, a co-ordinator from the media and myself to visit suppliers – mainly in Australia – to check on the whole system, considering that what’s being sold in Bahrain is all frozen these days.”
Spokesman for Muharraq’s butchers, Ibrahim Mohammed Salem, said the strike would go on indefinitely until their demands were met.
“We have decided to strike until proper meat is being sold and we will push very hard to have fresh meat, rather than frozen meat that has many problems associated with it,” he said.
Meanwhile, butcher Abdulghaffar Al Faraj said he would rather lose money than sell tainted meat to his customers. “Rotten meat will not be sold,” he said.
“I would prefer to sit at home and starve than know someone is sick or dead because of me.”
Another butcher, Ali Al Hakoor, revealed restaurants were also complaining that butchers were not supplying them with fresh meat.
“Restaurants are not happy that we are selling them frozen meat, but they have demand and in line with that buy most of our stock that the public doesn’t want anymore,” he said.
Meanwhile, butcher Saad Huwaihi said action was needed urgently – particularly since Eid Al Adha is just around the corner.
“Eid Al Adha is next month and there will be huge demand for meat,” he said.
“It will be the same in two months when it’s Ashoora, but the market can’t cope with demand because the supply is either too short or damaged.
“Supply and demand are not constant, but what we want are good supplies that are healthy and acceptable.”
The GDN informed BLC vice-chairman Yousif Al Saleh of butchers’ complaints and the planned strike yesterday.
He said the company adhered to all government requirements and regulations, but declined to comment further. firstname.lastname@example.org
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