When Azhar Ali bought a mid size cow for Tk 30,000 three months ago, he had one aim in mind, to make some cash ahead of Eid-ul-Azha by selling that cow. To hasten his success, he preferred the way his neighbor Rahmat Gazi took - feeding the bull a lot of "vitamins".
Within a month of extensive feeding, the cow gained substantial weight and a good number of buyers offered almost double the price he bought it with. But he instead opted for feeding the cow Dexamet - a steroid of the Dexamethasone group to make the cow look fatter. The cow died within a week.
Azhar’s attempt at making quick cash ended in a futile manner, but thousands of cattle traders are taking the same path ahead of Qurbani Eid, the second biggest festival of Muslims across the world.
While a fat looking cow obviously looks better to the eyes of the buyers and makes them a proud owner of sacrificial animals for some time, experts concerned have said that the meat of the cow which has been given steroids is very harmful for health.
A widespread practice
A study published in the Bangladesh Animal Journal in 2012 shows 63.7 per cent of farmers in the country use cattle-fattening tablets. Incidentally, the sales of the locally and globally banned steroid hormones soar right before Qurbani Eid.
These hormones are sold in the name of veterinary medicine. These medicines are usually used for saving the lives of critical patients, but a huge number of farmers inject those into cows, goats and other sacrificial animals to fatten them.
The Animal Feed Act 2010 prohibits the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids or other harmful chemicals in animal feed. For violating this law, a person might face up to one year's imprisonment or up to Tk 50,000 in fine or both.
Despite being illegal, the medicines are available even at the grocery stores of the most remote areas in the country. The cow traders buy them, sometimes even at one taka only, from those shops and fatten their cows without any hindrance.
Market sources said, the traders mainly buy the medicines 'Adam-33' and 'Oradexon' marketed by Novita Group, and 'Decatron' by Delta Pharma. Besides, each 'Roxdex' injection of Novita Group is sold at Tk 25. Some companies - Hira Animal Healthcare, Sky Agro Pharma, Kazib Drugs, Saif Agrovet Bangladesh, Cure Life, Glower Stock, and Alpha Argovet, are also marketing illegal medicines and injections in the market. Other than these local products, medicines 'Dexamethason', 'Dexavet' and 'B-50' are also imported from Myanmar and India and sold locally.
The sales of these medicines are mostly done in illegal manners in pharmacies, without the prescription of any veterinary doctors. A whole nexus of traders and pharmacists are involved with this trade.
What happens to the cattle with these steroids?
Professor Abdus Samad, Member of Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Bangladesh Agriculture University (BAU), said that this is a very common scenario in the country’s cattle market during Eid-ul-Azha, where dishonest cattle traders inject some banned steroid hormone into animals in order to fatten them.
According to Prof Samad, the cow becomes fat from irrational use of steroid hormones within a short period of time because steroid hormones damage its kidney and liver. The fluid in the animal body cannot pass and cells accumulate water which virtually seems to be fat, but cows become infected with diabetes and other diseases.
Under this unscientific fattening method, an animal is fed with 20 to 25 tablets and it creates abnormal pressure on kidney and other organs as the drug slowly affects the normal circulation of urine, he said, adding that within a few days the cattle looks fat.
According to the scientific cattle fattening method, the cattle should be fed the correct proportion of urea, molasses and straw (UMS) daily for about six months. On the other hand, the rapid method of cattle fattening may even cause death of the animal within 20-25 days after giving the drug, Prof Samad added.
If someone consumes the meat of cattle fattened with such drugs, it will surely have negative impacts on his/her health. It may even cause cancer and kidney failure. However, there is no specific research conducted in Bangladesh about the harmful effects of cow fattening, but the adverse effects of these chemicals on humans are well-known.
The impacts would not be visible in an adult consuming meat of cattle fattened with drugs, he added.
- The cows which look extremely fat and stand in one position without moving are probably artificially fattened cows
- If you poke a cow fattened through steroids, its response will not be as quick as the one that has been fattened naturally
- The skin of the fattened cow looks abnormally smooth. The skin is less sensitive to touch, which means if someone touches the skin of the fattened cow, it will not respond like a normal cow.