7 June 2002

Bushmeat crackdown

PASSENGERS found carrying bushmeat should be refused entry to the UK, and the carrying airlines forced to return them to where they started their journey, according to the head of a freight handling company

Clive Lawrance, owner of Slough-based Ciel Logistics, told the meeting that such action was needed to halt a growing problem. The estimated street value of illegal imports from Africa alone was £1.2bn/year, and the trade involved organised crime.

It represented a massive risk to human and animal health, and to endangered species, he said. He also accused the government of apathy and doing almost nothing to stop it, even in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis. There must be more identifiable and uniform controls throughout the EU, he said.

More resources must be allocated to a single enforcement agency empowered to tackle a trade that was as profitable as trafficking in drugs.

Mr Lawrance explained that on a recent trip to Ghana he was reprimanded by security guards for trying to take photographs of passengers struggling to check in overweight bags, each of which probably contained around 90kg of bush meat.

"There is no doubt that in some cases security firms are helping couriers, who are paid £30 to carry meat worth £1000 on the UK black market," he said. &#42

Shaheen Zar, an environmental health team leader in the London borough of Newham, said that honest farmers and consumers perceptions of the food industry were being damaged by sales of illegally slaughtered unfit meat.

He had evidence that illegal meat supplies were leaving Wales almost every night. There was a big trade in the carcasses of old ewes killed in unlicensed premises and singed, which were known in the trade as smokies, he said. He urged Welsh farmers to protect their own interests by being vigilant.

"Tell us about it, tell the Food Standards Agency," he urged. "If you do not do anything and do not share your intelligence you will be shooting yourselves in the foot." &#42