IFAW supports call for on-the-spot fines to tackle illegal meat imports

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005
London, United Kingdom
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) today welcomed a National Audit Office (NAO) report that examines the effectiveness of Customs' efforts to stop illegal meat imports and recommends further actions to tackle the problem. In particular, IFAW supports the introduction of on-the-spot fines for those found importing meat illegally, as this would provide a strong deterrent and greatly increase passengers’ awareness of the law.
Alarmingly, the NAO report reveals a possible link between bushmeat and organised crime. According to Government figures, in 2001 and 2002 bushmeat made up almost 14% of all illegal meat seizures (1), and the NAO report states that bushmeat constitutes around 2% of seizures of all products of animal origin (including fish and milk products).

“The illegal bushmeat trade means high profits and little chance of detection for those involved”, says Jenny Hawley, wildlife trade campaigner for IFAW UK. “There is an urgent need for better intelligence if we are to change the green light for bushmeat smugglers to red.

“IFAW endorses all of the NAO’s recommendations for on-the-spot fines, heightened public awareness, increased prosecutions and an intelligence-led approach to detection. While we welcome the efforts to date, Customs and Defra need more resources if they are to implement these recommendations effectively”, Jenny Hawley added.

IFAW warned that the threat of illegal meat imports needs to be addressed as a priority to protect public health and animal welfare, as well as ensure to the long-term survival of endangered species threatened by the bushmeat trade.

“IFAW is calling for regular sample testing of bushmeat seizures in the UK to help identify the species involved, because at the moment we are almost completely ignorant of the types of animals being smuggled in - it could be anything from rat to gorilla,” added Jenny Hawley.

“The implications are frightening for both people and animals. Human health is at risk from zoonosis and international and national trade in the meat of endangered species such as great apes and forest elephants could push them towards extinction.”

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