The sickening trade in bush meat has been exposed by a Government whistleblower, who says the chimp flesh was identified after it was seized by trading standards officials.
He told the Sunday Mercury: “It is well known this practice is underway in the region but I was shocked to discover the meat that was tested was once a chimpanzee.
“Dubious meat is often tested, and has turned out to be things like rats and vermin in the past – but chimpanzee is unbelievable.”
The chimp meat is understood to have been discovered after raids by trading standards in the Midlands.
The startling claims were last night backed up by British bush meat experts who outlined the shocking scale of the worldwide trade in dead wild animals, which stretches from Africa to the UK.
Dr Marcus Rowcliffe, research fellow at the Zoological Society of London, is an expert on the bush meat trade in Africa.
He recently completed an in-depth study into the smuggling of it through Charles de Gaulle airport in France, the hub of the trade in Europe.
It revealed that about 270 tonnes of illegal bush meat may be passing through the busy airport each year and out into the rest of the continent and UK.
Dr Rowcliffe said: “I’m not at all surprised that bush meat is on sale in the Midlands because we know the trade is going on in the UK and that there is a regular flow of smuggled meat into the country.
“However, it is not often that chimpanzee is found as that is rare even in the markets of Africa, so I am surprised by that.
“When we carried out our study at Charles de Gaulle airport, we estimated that five tonnes a week was coming into Europe and then being distributed across the continent by traders in Paris.
“Obviously I believe less than five tonnes a week makes it into the UK, but there is still a significant amount that is brought in and customs officials are very aware of it.
“What we do not know is exactly how it is distributed once it gets to the UK.
‘‘But from our work in France we discovered that the smugglers do not make much effort to disguise the bush meat, and quite openly take their chances trying to get into the country by bringing it in their suitcases.
“One man we found had nothing in his suitcase other than 50kg of bush meat.
“It is not on par with something like the drugs trade but there is clearly money to be made out of smuggling it and we know that it is associated with other underground activities.”
Bush meat is from wild animals hunted in places such as the tropical forests of West and Central Africa and is a tradition dating back centuries.
According to the Born Free foundation, nearly 7,500 tonnes of illegal meat products enter Britain every year.
Some is bush meat, brought in disguised as other meat products such as beef or lamb.
Once in the UK, more than half of the illegal meat is distributed through wholesalers or sold at local street markets.
The trade in bush meat has become big business and although accurate figures are difficult to come by it is estimated that overall the international trade in wild animal products has a value of more than £2.5 billion.
It has been claimed that a 4kg monkey would cost around £85 from smugglers in France, whereas the price would be as little as £4 in Africa.
But although some hunters target gorillas, chimpanzees and other primate species, great apes constitute less than one per cent of bush meat from all species sold on the market.
Dr Rowcliffe pointed out that the bush meat products were not just imported for consumption but also for medicinal purposes or as status symbols, signifying luxury and wealth.
But he warned that imported meat could be carrying infectious diseases such as foot-and-mouth, anthrax, the Ebola virus, TB or cholera.
The bush meat trade has also had a devastating impact on the numbers of primates living in the wild.
Adina Farmaner, Executive Director of the Jane Goodall Institute UK, said: “It is a reality that bush meat is being sold on the streets of Britain and I am not surprised that is available in the Midlands.
“From my own experience of Brixton market in London all you have to do is ask for some ‘special meat’ for a ‘special ceremony’ and you will get what you are looking for.
“The bush meat trade is a huge problem in certain parts of Africa and is one of the main reasons the population in the wild has been reduced from approximately one million about 50 years ago, to just a few hundred thousand today.”
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