25 March 2001
Warning of bush meat time bomb
By Mike Stones
THOUSANDS of tonnes of illegal meat is being smuggled each year in suitcases through British airports, claims the head of a freight company.
This illegal trade threatens human and animal health and could be responsible for the foot-and-mouth epidemic.
Meat contaminated with foot-and-mouth is widely blamed for sparking the epidemic, which has exceeded 560 cases.
“Its a disease time bomb on our doorstep,” warns Clive Lawrance,
managing director of Ciel Logistics, Heathrow.
He says neither the Ministry of Agriculture nor Customs and Excise, are prepared to tackle the problem.
“Up to one bag of bush meat per person per flight from African countries, including Nigeria and Ghana, could passing through Heathrow Airport.” Says Mr Lawrance.
Mr Lawrance has photographs of suitcases stuffed with bush rats, haunches of antelope, fish and monkeys destined for ethnic markets and restaurants in Britain.
“Ive seen suitcases weeping blood and trailing maggots from the rotting flesh inside. And no one is prepared to take action,” he says.
Ghana Air 2000 and Nigeria Airways deny that significant quantities of meat are smuggled into Britain through Heathrow.
Mr Lawrances belief that the foot-and-mouth outbreak will eventually be traced to smuggled meat has been backed by several leading scientists.
But even the present countryside carnage could be little compared with the threat to human health.
“Bush meat brings with it a terrifying list of human diseases
including Ebola, TB, polio and yellow fever.”
He says customs staff at Heathrow know the problem exists but give it a low priority preferring to focus on drug detection.
Only co-ordinated action will stop the flood of smuggled meat, he says. “We
should target flights, particularly from Nigeria and Ghana, for inspection.
“All illegal imports should be detained and destroyed and the people who
bring them in to this country should be deported.”
But so far, theres no sign of the authorities responding to Mr Lawrances claims.
After writing twice to farm minister Nick Brown, on May 10 last year
and March 11 this year, he has yet to receive a reply.
“They are all avoiding the problem because to acknowledge its existence means someone will have to admit to making a mistake,” claims Mr Lawrance.