Airport survey reveals huge trade in bushmeat

Researchers studying customs seizures at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris have discovered that smuggling of illegal meat is a huge problem.

Up to 270 tons of illegal meat may be coming into Europe from Africa every year. The study made its estimate based on customs searches over a 17 day period involving 134 passengers from 14 African countries. Nine people were caught with bushmeat weighing a total of 188 kilos (414 lbs). The defendants had a variety of dead animals in their bags, including primates, crocodiles, and rodents. Some were protected species.

Bushmeat, the common term for animals hunted in the African countryside for food, makes up to 80% of protein and fat in the diet of rural Africans. Much of the hunting is for rodents and deer that aren’t endangered, but this practice has also led to some species being pushed onto the endangered species list or becoming locally extinct. Importing bushmeat is illegal in Europe, but the taste for exotic foods, or nostalgia for good home cooking, has led to a major trade in wild animals.

While it’s not a headline grabber like discovering a shipment of human heads, officials say bushmeat smuggling poses a health risk and contributes to wildlife extinction.

Photo courtesy Amcaja via Wikimedia Commons.