If you’re attending a ritzy event in the U.K., pay attention to the meat being served. Some high-end private events in Britain are offering chimpanzee meat as a “delicacy.”
That’s bizarre, illegal and dangerous, primate experts say.
This isn’t just a U.K. problem, by the way. Customs officials revealed a few weeks ago they found and confiscated 2,000 pounds of “bush meat” on a flight bound for the U.S.
“It’s rife. It’s there — it’s in all the major cities across Europe and the U.S.,” primate scientist Ben Garrod told The Telegraph.
“We have seen bush meat confiscated in the U.K. in check points at borders and in markets.”
Bush meat is meat taken illegally by poachers of wildlife, including chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants, antelopes, pangolins and many others.
Somehow it has become a prized delicacy in Western countries, selling in Britain for five times the price of beef or pork, according to The Telegraph.
Bush meat poses more serious problems than people may realize.
In addition to the fact that bush meat comes from illegally killed endangered animals, it’s also a tremendous threat to human health.
The greatest danger is a doozy: Bush meat can carry the Ebola virus.
In most cases, people get Ebola through contact with an infected animal, such as a fruit bat or nonhuman primate. When an animal infects a human, it’s known as a “spillover event.” Once a human begins showing symptoms, the virus will spread from human to human via direct contact with bodily fluids.
While Ebola is not normally transmitted by food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that “in certain parts of the world, Ebola virus may spread through the handling and consumption of bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food).”
Therein lies the problem. If you eat or handle Ebola-infected bush meat, you’ve begun a potential chain of events that could ultimately infect and kill many innocent people.
“The biggest worry for health authorities at the moment is that a disease that can be passed between humans and animals will be the next big pandemic,” Garrod told The Telegraph. “For example, HIV originally came from primates. We are so similar, so the potential is there for various pathogens and viruses to be transmitted or mutate.”
Renowned primate expert Dr. Jane Goodall agrees with Garrod that bush meat poses a real threat. “Interpol is becoming increasingly involved in animal trafficking and could, perhaps, be persuaded to take a more active role in the bush meat smuggling,” she told The Telegraph.
It’s reportedly quite easy to get bush meat past customs officials because it’s often smoked and blackened first. Bush meat looks like any similar meat that’s been cooked in that way. How are customs officials to know the difference? One way, Garrod suggests, is to begin DNA testing imported meats.
“With advances in DNA analysis and the price of them coming down it’s not unreasonable that we could be checking for these things,” he told The Telegraph.
To avoid the potential for a pandemic, DNA testing seems to be a reasonable recommendation. An even more effective way to eliminate the problem is to eliminate the demand. Educate those who desire bush meat that they’re putting their lives at risk — along with the lives of many others — for the sake of a “delicacy.”
Respect the chimpanzee. Don’t eat it. The same goes for any endangered or vulnerable-status animal. Those who are importing bush meat to the U.S. or U.K. are not people who must eat that kind of meat to survive. They’re self-centered and uninformed — and they’re creating unnecessary risk for the rest of us.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 17 June 2019.