One of the many benefits of London's ever growing multiculturalism is
that you can now—if you know how, where, when etc.—buy gorilla, rat,
chimpanzee, and water buffalo meat smuggled illegally from Africa and Asia in a
number of London boroughs. This wonderful gastronomic news is slightly
tainted by the rumour that this meat could carry some of the most
repulsive diseases that the African continent (market leader in scary
diseases) has yet to throw up over here. Diseases like Ebola, the one where you bleed out of
your eyes. We asked Jenny Morris of the Chartered Institute
of Environmental Health whether we should be worried about dying a horrible death
because someone wants to eat illegal monkey steak.
Vice: How does this bushmeat get here?
Jenny Morris: A lot of it in the past has tended to come in through the airports. It's hard to tell how much comes in due to the illegal nature of the trade but customs seizures over the last 3 years have increased. We still get reports that it is on sale in markets in London, especially in markets that serve ethnic communities.
Is there an ascending price list?
I guess the harder a product is to get, the more expensive it will be. So a monkey is likely to be much more expensive than a smokie (smoked rat). There were quotes of £300 for monkey.
How much monkey do I get for £300?
I am not sure if it was a whole monkey or a slice of monkey.
Why would you want to pay £300 for some meat that has been smuggled into the country in someone's wash bag?
It is a speciality product. I'm not sure whether its just about the taste – I guess we pay a lot for fois gras, lobster, etc just because it has a nice taste. These things have speciality markets and fetch high prices.
How serious are the threats to public health? Am I going to get Ebola? Or is it just shit like ecoli, salmonella and stuff? You know, minors.
There has been an awful lot of debate about this. In African countries there are serious health problems and infections that are transmitted by the consumption of infected meat. There is evidence that Ebola can be transferred from animals to humans this way. But, all the evidence available shows that it is extremely unlikely that these infections would survive transportation. What is far more likely is that these products will have a much higher loading of standard bacteria, like salmonella.
Do health inspectors have to try it? Like when Denzel Washington in 'Training Day' says that to be a good undercover policeman you have to know and use drugs? Do inspectors have to know and eat bushmeat?
I don't think that they have to actually eat it. Recognition is an issue. If it was a whole monkey or rat then you could spot them. The difficulty comes when it is cut up. But we use lab testing rather than taste testing.
Any good recipes you have heard of?
No. That's outside my area of expertise.