Bushmeat trade poses UK health threat

Rising food prices and deepening poverty have increased the illegal global trade of bushmeat, threatening wildlife and posing a health risk for UK consumers.

Rising food prices and deepening poverty has increased the illegal global trade of bushmeat, threatening wildlife and posing a health risk for UK consumers.

According to the latest figures, some 7,500 tonnes of illegal meat products enter Britain every year. Some of this meat is bushmeat from wild animals, which have been snared by African poachers and smuggled into the UK disguised as beef.

It is estimated that more than half of this illegal meat is then sold on to consumers through wholesalers and local street markets. Experts have warned that the illegal bushmeat trade endangers both endangered wildlife and human health, with diseases such as Ebola, anthrax, foot-and-mouth and TB highlighted as potential risks.

Detective Inspector Brian Stuart, head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: "Over the last few years, the UK Law Enforcement Agencies have become increasingly aware of the illegal importation of bushmeat, which is commonly described as the meat of any wild animal hunted for food.


"The practice of introducing bushmeat into the UK illegally will clearly pose some risk of transmitting disease. The main risks are to human health from food poisoning, having consumed putrid meat, and clearly the endangerment of rare or endangered species."

The bushmeat trade can have a devastating effect on wildlife, with endangered species such as gorillas and elephants targeted alongside giraffe and zebra. "From time to time, this type of meat can, and does, contain parts of endangered species," said Stuart.

Wildlife charity The Born Free Foundation has released a film in association with Land Rover to raise awareness of the issue and provide an insight into some of the challenges faced by those in Kenya trying to bring a stop to the trade.

Chief executive of Born Free Will Travers said: "The illegal trade in bushmeat is not only having a negative impact on wildlife populations, but some of the meat is finding its way into the UK and posing a potentially serious health risk to humans."

Bushmeat is also sold to Kenyan consumers, with some 40% of meat sold as beef or goat in certain Nairobi butchers' found to be either wholly or partially bushmeat. In a bid to prevent further transmission of diseases, Born Free is also striving to raise awareness about the danger of bushmeat among Kenyan communities.

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