CHIMPANZEE meat is being served at weddings in Britain and sold in markets as “bush meat,” a leading primate scientist has said.
There have been calls for the border force agency to bring in DNA testing to identify meat at customs and it has said it intends to invest in new technology to tackle the issue.
Dr Ben Garrod, from the University of East Anglia, has claimed he was told by border officials just a few weeks ago that a ton of bush meat from West Africa had been confiscated on a flight heading to the US.
He claimed it was regularly smuggled into the UK and mainland Europe and could cause the spread of serious diseases such as Ebola because the meat is unsanitary and chimps are very similar genetically to humans.
Dr Garrod told The Telegraph: “It’s rife. It’s there – it’s in all the major cities across Europe and the US.
“We have seen bush meat confiscated in the UK in check points at borders and in
Other chimp experts have also expressed their alarm at the smuggling of chimpanzee meat.
Dr Jane Goodall, who founded primate charity the Jane Goodall institute, told the paper: “The smuggling of bush meat is a very alarming issue.
“As Ben Garrod says, there is danger of disease spreading from the bush meat to humans.”
Dr Garrod said bush meat is still being sold at markets in many British cities, and is often eaten as a delicacy at weddings and christenings.
The meat is thought to be a highly-rated delicacy and can sell up to five times the price of a prime cut of beef.
He said: “From what I know, I can’t imagine why people would want to eat chimpanzee, but most bush meat that comes to the UK is seen as a luxury food – it’s the equivalent of us wanting game.”
Dr Garrod highlighted the health risk to eating the meat, saying the next “big pandemic” could be spread through the illegally traded meat.
He said that primate meat had already been confiscated in the US which had been infected with diseases that can be spread to humans.
During a Trading Standards raid in the West Midlands in 2011 chimpanzee meat was thought to have been detected.
Research carried out on the importation of bush meat in Europe in 2010 found that 270 tonnes had passed through the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris alone.
A Government spokesperson said: “We take the smuggling of any contraband extremely seriously.
“As well as working with enforcement and intelligence partners in the UK and internationally, Border Force continues to invest in training and equipment to ensure that we do all we can to intercept illegal foodstuffs and crack down on smugglers.”
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