Nearly 300 MPs Call on Government to Stop Endangered Species Being Eaten into Extinction

Monday, July 7, 2003
London, United Kingdom
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) is today joining 297 MPs and world famous primatologist Jane Goodall to urge the government to protect endangered species threatened by the bushmeat crisis.
The MPs, from all parties, signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for urgent international action to address the bushmeat crisis. At current levels, bushmeat hunting could drive our closest animal relatives, Africa’s great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos), to extinction within 15 years, along with other endangered species such as forest elephants. Only three EDMs – out of a total of 1,530 – have received more signatures this parliamentary session.

IFAW will be hosting a parliamentary reception on this issue tonight at the House of Commons. The event will be attended by DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Minister Elliot Morley, DFID (Department for International Development) Minister Hillary Benn, His Excellency Samuel Libock Mbei, the High Commissioner of the Republic of Cameroon, and George Alagiah, the BBC's Africa correspondent for 10 years.

IFAW UK director, Phyllis Campbell-McRae, said, "The huge success of the EDM highlights the deep concern among MPs on this issue. We hope tonight’s reception will now raise greater awareness of the need for further action on the commercial bushmeat trade, which is devastating populations of wild animals in Central Africa.”

Jane Goodall said, “Bushmeat hunting has changed in recent years from a low-level, subsistence activity to a massive commercial trade supplying urban markets where people usually have access to cheaper, farmed meat. Bushmeat is even illegally on sale in the UK.

“This change has happened largely as a result of the timber industry opening up huge areas of previously impenetrable forest. On this scale, it is not just endangered species such as great apes and forest elephants that are at risk. Ultimately, nothing will be able to survive.

“It is vital that the UK government takes stock of this EDM, which reflects deep concern among both MPs and the public. It must do all it can to stop this unsustainable trade before it is too late.”

Campbell-McRae added, "The Department for International Development (DFID) has already accepted the role played by bushmeat in the development equation, and the dependence of poor people on wildlife.

"Now the government must urgently use its influence through both development and conservation work to help ensure the survival of chimpanzees, gorillas, and other endangered animals and to prevent the threat to people’s livelihoods from the loss of an important food source.”

Barry Gardiner MP, chair of the Bushmeat Campaign, of which IFAW is a partner, said, “Nearly half of all MPs have backed the call for urgent international action. One-eighth of the world’s poor are dependent on wildlife for food and income, and they face becoming even poorer as they lose the vital natural resources on which they depend.”

IFAW is calling on the government to help in the following three ways: to tackle the bushmeat crisis internationally, by supporting relevant law enforcement efforts and collaboration between governments, and pushing for sustainable bushmeat management on timber concessions; to ensure that its international development programmes promote responsible management of natural resources and that any projects it funds do not facilitate the unsustainable bushmeat trade, and; to further improve efforts to stop the illegal bushmeat trade into and within the UK. The devastating 2001 outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease is believed to have entered the UK in a consignment of illegal meat. Increased measures against those found to be illegally importing meat could include prosecution or on-the-spot fines.

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