Barbecue chicken image for roasted vulture article

A disturbing incident in Eket, Nigeria reveals that unsuspecting roadside barbecue patrons may have been eating vulture meat instead of chicken.

Hungry buyers tempted by the scrumptious sizzle of meat cooking over a charcoal fire may want to think twice before buying a snack from one of these outdoor roasting vendors. What they think is chicken could actually be … vulture.

Apparently, one vulture-roasting vendor’s plan was disrupted last weekend by market officials when it was discovered he had stuffed ten live vultures in a large “Ghana-Must-Go (GMG) bag” – and was planning to prepare them for roasting.

According to recent articles in two Nigerian sources, The News and The PM News, the incident started when the vultures, suffering from the heat inside the bag, tore open a hole and attempted to escape. This unusual activity attracted the attention of a large curious crowd – that soon became angry. Eyewitnesses were upset that vulture meat was being sold – and eaten – as chicken, noting that vulture meat is considered taboo by the people in the area.

The man caught with the vultures enraged the crowd when he told them his cuisine was nothing new.

I have been in the business for the past five years. I usually prepare some as roasted ‘chicken’ which I sell to the general public.

The same sources reported that the crowd attempted to lynch the man, but were prevented from doing so by market officials. He somehow escaped during the chaos, and officials were unable to recapture him. This failure angered the officials, and in an act of cruelty, they proceeded to set the frightened vultures on fire.

It was also reported that another man confessed to selling vulture as chicken just a few months ago.

(I am presuming that due to the size differences between native vulture species and domestic chickens, the roasted meat was sold in pieces and not as whole birds.)

Vulture populations are declining

Vultures are in trouble, and nearly every species (there are 23 species of vulture!) is currently experiencing a decrease in numbers. In fact, conservationists recently sounded the alarm with International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD09), now slated as an annual event for the first Saturday in September.

Tragically, exploiting the remaining birds for human consumption adds to the problem – and will only hasten their decline. While the seemingly small incident above involves just two people, chances are that others are doing the same thing. Considering that one man may have been killing vultures for five years, how many of these wild birds do you suppose have perished at his hands – and the hands of others like him?

And when the vulture population declines, there are very unpleasant effects on the environment. For example, in India, the devastating decrease in vulture numbers has resulted in feral dog population explosion – which in turn, has been linked to the spread of rabies in humans.

Vultures: Let’s give them the respect they deserve!

More information about vulture conservation and how you can help can be found at Vulture Rescue.

Image: / CC BY 2.0