26 February 2001

Ghana: I. K. Gyasi: Do You Like Vulture Meat?


Accra — Almighty God in His infinite wisdom created the humble vulture and assigned to it the very important role of scavenger.

The vulture is not fearsome like the soaring eagle. Unlike the hawk, it does not swoop down to steal your chickens.

It does not have the dinner-guest appearance of the crow, a creature that is always seen in impeccable white shirt and black suit.

On the contrary, with its baldhead and dirty-greyish feathers, the vulture is not likely to win a beauty or handsomeness contest in the bird kingdom.

As a scavenger, the vulture comes cheap. We do not pay it to take away rotting flesh left lying in the streets following the crushing to death of an unfortunate dog or snake by a vehicle.

They may mass up like a battalion of infantry near slaughter houses but they wait patiently for the parts of the meat we human beings discard.

We do not have to give medical care for the vulture or con­tribute to its funeral expenses. And they do not ask for maternity or annual leave, do they?


With its unsightly appearance and the kind of work it does, the vulture, as far as anyone can tell, has never been a special delicacy on Ghanaian tables.

Then an enterprising man conceived the idea of selling the flesh of vultures to chop bar keepers.

Of course, this man denied the charge of selling vulture meat. Instead, he claimed that he was using the harmless creatures in the preparation of medicine.

Well, whether Jonah swallowed the whale or the whale swallowed Jonah, there was still a swallow, wasn't there?

So whether the poor creatures were killed for food or for medicine, there was still a kill, wasn't there?

The youngman's story brings to mind the risk consumers of goods and services are exposed to on a daily basis.

Sometimes, our own idea of what constitutes a status symbol leads to our being exploited.

As an example, go to a hospital ward and you are likely to see a bottle of Lucozade on the patient's bedside table.

It is a status symbol, showing how 'civilised' or socially important that patient is Lucozade is also seen as a health drink, especially for those with lowered resistance to disease.

Yet, on June 16, 1989, the British magazine, the New Statesman & Society reported as follows: "Lucozade has had the decency to abandon its claim to be a health drink, and no one should be so deluded as to think that there is anything specially healthy about Aqua Libra either."

Producers of goods and services sometimes come up with labels that can confuse the consumer.

In the examples about to be stated, possible lawsuits prevent me from stating which ones I believe to be genuine and which ones to be fake.

Today, we have 'National' as well as 'International' radios. 'Medilab' is matched by 'Medlab' in Kumasi.

If you are buying tea, you are likely to see the brands 'Lipton' and 'Milton'. The design of the pack of both can confuse the consumer.

Formerly, there was 'Exeter' corned beef". Then 'Ester' corned beef also came to the market.


There were other brands of canned beef but the label designs were different. But with 'Exeter' and 'Ester' brands, the designs look so alike that the consumer might not be able to tell the difference.

In addition to the 'colonial' brand of 'Philips' radios, there is also the brand 'Philibs' on the market. And still talking of radios, we have 'Hitachi' and 'Mikachi', 'Mitui' and 'Matsui". And I am always getting confused by 'Auwa' and 'Aiwa'.

In vehicle tyres, we have 'Goodyear' and Goodrich'. If you are buying a foreign-made tracksuit, you may come across 'Adidas' and 'Abibas', among others. For sports shoes, we have 'Nike' and 'Nikki'.

The next time you want a disinfectant, look for both 'Dettol' and 'Dentol' or 'TCP' and 'DCP'.

Oh, oh, talking of radios, I nearly forgot that we have 'Sony' and 'Sunny' radios.

If you are looking for louvre frames, check for 'Naco' and 'Eaco' brands.

I would not shed a single tear if alcoholic drinks were to be banned. Still, I cannot help but observe that every manu­facturer of schnapps thinks he should claim that his drink is a product of Holland.

The brand names may be different but the design of the labels and the bottles can hardly be told apart.

Indeed, you can have the original 'J. H. Henkes' and a product by MAYATA Distilleries known as 'J. H. Haickens'.

Door locks come in such brands as 'Union' and 'Onion' with the same colours and designs.

Are all of them different brands of comparable quality or bare-faced imitations? I leave the answer to you.

Imitation of established name brands may be the sincerest form of flattery but it certainly does a great deal of harm to consumers.

Artisans are in a class by themselves. If you are putting up a house, the block maker you employ will steal your cement so that the right ratio of sand to cement will not be used. And he will steal your cement paper as well.

The mason will do shoddy work, the painter will steal your paint, the electrician will do a dangerous job of incompetent wiring while over-estimating the wires and appliances you will need, and so on and so forth.

Again and again, we hear of fuel stations that adulterate petrol sold to vehicle owners, not to talk of the pump attendant or his employer adjusting the machine in such a way that the consumer is cheated.

Do not be deceived by the green certification tag you see fixed to the delivery machine; you can still be cheated.

Imitation drugs, drinks and electrical appliances such as pressing irons are many on the market, and they pose a danger to the user.

That goes for expired drugs and foods in our pharmaceutical and food shops.

The kente weaver will assure you that he uses nothing but pure silk yarn and that he will certainly do a double weave.


But, as Nigerians will say, 'na lie ide lie'; what you will eventually get is cheap yarn in single weave. The unscrupulous mechanic takes out a perfectly good part, tells you it is not good, collects your money to buy the 'good' part and puts your old one back, or he sells it to the next 'victim' whose vehicle breaks down.

Have you noticed all the bitters that cure barrenness in women and impotence in men besides miraculously handling every imaginable affliction in this world?

There are balms, blood tonics and herbal clinics all over the place, some genuine, some fake, and all cashing in on the unsuspecting poor.

As I once observed in an article in another paper, the Jesus Industry is more profitable than the funeral industry.

You may remember one of the plays of the Osofo Dadzie Group in which Super OD tells his 'accomplice' after they have formed a new church, "This church will bring us a lot of money or a lot of women."

It is incredible how many fake pastors and brothers and bishops with a thousand American doctorate degree gowns preying on deluded women and men with addled brains so that these so-called men and women of God can live in comfort while they pretend that they are preparing their followers for pros­perity on earth and heaven in the hereafter.

Yes, whichever way one turns, we the consumers are truly at risk, and it is not just from sellers of vulture meat.

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