Opinion: Should I Boycott Nigerian Beef?

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Opinion: Should I Boycott Nigerian Beef?
Ndidi Uwechue
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25th June 2020


This article is one that I posted on June 18, 2019 on my Facebook page. The question is now even more urgent with the violence, slaughter and food insecurity being foisted upon the country by herdsmen. Please therefore consider this question well: Should I boycott beef?


By early 2016, the world was horrified to hear about massacres and destruction carried out by nomadic herdsmen when Agatu in Benue State, Nigeria experienced appalling violence. Even before that time there had been regular reports of herdsmen trespassing onto farms, slaughtering people, stealing, destroying, and then grabbing the lands of their victims. The mindless slaughter continues and we now read that these militant herdsmen have been ranked as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index.


Given that in Nigeria cattle business has now come to involve herdsman violence the question that each of us should ask ourselves is, “Should I boycott beef?”


A boycott is when you decide to stop buying a product or service, or stop attending a particular event because it has caused a moral outrage of some kind. For example, in Western countries citizens boycott businesses that behave inappropriately eg if the business shows signs of racism or antisemitism or pornography etc. Then, the CEO of the business apologises and may even resign, and the offensive situation is stopped. A boycott is thus a means of showing disapproval of a particular behaviour or situation, so that it stops. Boycott is a power that each of us has. It is an expression of people power, a “soft power”, but a power nonetheless. Boycotts can be used to bring about social change.


In herdsmen attacks many lives are lost and property destroyed. Thousands of surviving victims and terrified citizens are displaced from their homes, and the peace, security and unity of the country come under threat. So, should I boycott beef? This will depend on the kind of country that I want Nigeria to be now, and that I want to leave as a legacy. It may help us decide whether or not to boycott beef by imagining ourselves the victim of a militant herdsman. Picture yourself (or the person you love the most) out on your farmland. Suddenly you hear sounds approaching and getting louder. Over there you see a group of armed herdsmen and fear engulfs you. They run menacingly towards you shouting in a language that you do not understand. Some are armed with AK47 rifles, some are brandishing cutlasses. Terror fills your heart. Tears come into your eyes. You know from what has happened to others on their farms that torture then your death is at hand. You are completely powerless as you crumble to the ground and have to face a violent death.


For sure, the government and security services have the responsibility of protecting peoples’ lives and property, but every citizen has the responsibility of using their people power to do nothing or to do something. It is quite important that as a nation we grasp the reality that we ourselves are responsible for the kind of country we have because of the choices we make! We each choose whether to be community-focused, or to instead be individual-minded and self-focused. The choice that we collectively make determines the type of society that we collectively create.


Producing beef has led to, and continues to cause the death of others, so should I boycott beef? Before we answer this question let us look at one more thing. Life can be brutally hard in Nigeria because of the levels of corruption, so many people have been hurt, and even very deeply wounded by their experiences and have responded by erecting a wall around their heart to block out feelings, and so they have become numb to others’ pain as a means of self-protection. However, psychologists tell us that indifference when it becomes a habit, actually dehumanizes us. Indifference can make us lose our humanity. Our humanity is that quality in us that allows us to connect with others.


As a nation we can reject the culture of indifference and unconcern by reclaiming our humanity, and one way we can do so is by showing solidarity with the victims of herdsmen through boycotting beef and beef products. It may not be easy for some people to stop eating beef because it is so tasty, however, showing care for the suffering members of our society and becoming a more caring person will taste even better for our souls.


So, should I boycott beef? The answer comes when we ask ourselves three other questions:
1) Have I completely lost my humanity?
2) Do I want to be a community-focused person or a self-focused person?
3) Do I want to do the right thing?


Some of us may be involved in the beef business as butchers, restaurant owners, caterers, etc and we may be concerned that we would lose money or even go out of business. It all boils down to whether you are comfortable with “blood money” and whether you think that making money when this involves the torture and death of others (through herdsmen violence and criminality) will ultimately make you and your future prosperous. Sometimes things happen in life that cause us to adjust and reshape, and for the sake of our humanity we may need to sell other types of meat and exclude beef. Restaurant and supermarket owners could even consider putting up a notice or poster informing customers of their new ethical position with wording such as, “Until there is a change in the beef business this establishment will no longer sell beef or beef products, in solidarity with and out of concern for the victims of herdsmen.” Nigerians will understand the principle behind this decision, and the sales of other products will compensate for the exclusion of beef.


So should I boycott beef? Doing the right thing is not often easy, but it is the only way to create a just and caring society. You should never ever be ashamed of doing the right thing. Your humanity calls for it.



This post was written by Ndidi Uwechue.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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