Bush meat smuggling is a disease time-bomb…

23 March 2001

Bush meat smuggling is a disease time-bomb…

Human and animal health is

being threatened by illegal

meat imports through British

airports, claims the head of

a freight handling company.

Mike Stones reports

THOUSANDS of tonnes of illegal meat, smuggled each year in suitcases through British airports, threaten human and animal health and could be responsible for foot-and-mouth.

"Its a disease time bomb on our doorstep and no group; neither MAFF, nor Customs and Excise, prepared to tackle the problem," warns Clive Lawrance, managing director of Ciel Logistics, Heathrow. "Up to one bag of bush meat per person per flight from African countries, including Nigeria and Ghana, could passing through Heathrow."

To back his claims, he points to photographs of suitcases stuffed with bush rats, haunches of antelope, fish and monkeys destined for ethnic markets and restaurants throughout Britain. "Ive seen suitcases weeping blood and trailing maggots from the rotting flesh inside. And no one is prepared to take action."

The foot-and-mouth outbreak will eventually be traced to smuggled meat, according to Mr Lawrance and two 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."

Senior airline staff in Nigeria and Ghana are routinely bribed to allow illegal meat on aircraft, claims Mr Lawrance.

Customs staff at Heathrow know the problem exists but give it a low priority preferring to focus on drug detection, he adds. "Government has tasked Customs with increasing drug interception levels by 700% so they dont look for illegal meat."

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.

"MAFF, Customs and Excise and government are all avoiding the problem because to acknowledge its existence means someone will have to admit to making a mistake."

While government delays, illegal imports continue to flood in, says Mr Lawrance. "We have allowed this countrys manufacturing base to erode away – are we willing to let foreign diseases destroy our farming too?"

Suitcases and packages stuffed with meat (including bushrat, inset) and fish detained at Heathrow.


&#8226 600kg of foodstuffs detained after inspecting flights from Nigeria on May 7,8 and 11, 2000.

&#8226 2500kg was seized from one flight from Nigeria. Passenger baggage contained one freshly slaughtered deer and maggot infested fish.

&#8226 190kg detained on May 17.

&#8226 1388kg in 56 cases detained from flights arriving from Nigeria and Ghana on Sept 6 and Sept 14.

&#8226 481kg, including live crabs, detained on Oct 7.

&#8226 Cargo declared as vegetables last Dec found to contain 15 dead monkeys, one anteater and tortoise legs. After lab checks, Heathrow Port Health confirm risk of E bola infection to Ciel Logistics.

&#8226 3 Mar 2001 baggage handlers refuse to handle bags, leaking blood and covered in maggots, arriving from Accra, Ghana. Bags found later but contents disappear.

&#8226 Illegal meat and fish arrive from African country on Mar 4.

Source: Ciel Logistics

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