Customs officials at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport seized more than 100 pounds of deadly “bushmeat” from travelers during the last week of December alone. Despite its potential for “deadly effects” and outbreaks of disease, there will be no consequences for the culprits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bushmeat refers to “raw or minimally processed meat that comes from wild animals in certain regions of the world including Africa” and may pose a risk of communicable disease.
“Bushmeat comes from a variety of wild animals, including bats, nonhuman primates (monkeys), cane rats (grasscutters), and duiker (antelope),” the CDC says.
The meat is often smoked, dried or salted, but these procedures “are not sufficient to render the meat noninfectious.”
“Bushmeat could be infected with germs that can cause sickness in people, including the Ebola virus. Ebola infections in people have been associated with handling and eating infected animals,” the CDC notes.
Ebola is generally not spread by food, but human infections in Africa have been associated with hunting, butchering, and processing meat from infected animals.
Since late December, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have picked up on a trend of people returning from Liberia with bushmeat. They declare only “fish” on their verbal and written declarations, according to a statement from CBP.
In just one week, officials seized more than 104 pounds of bushmeat from several travelers.
“The sheer volume of bushmeat our specialists intercept clearly shows how they play a critical role in preventing diseases from entering the United States,” said LaFonda Sutton-Burke, a CBP field operations director for the Chicago region.
Augustine Moore, an area port director for Minnesota, said agriculture specialists stopped a passenger returning from Liberia with bushmeat earlier this month.
When officers asked if he had any bushmeat, he said he had “parts of a monkey.”
“Turned out it was two primate arms and primate rib material,” Moore said.
Bringing bushmeat into the U.S. typically comes with a $250,000 fine because of its potential for “foreign animal disease introduction.” However, CBP spokesman Steve Bansbach told the Star Tribune that no criminal proceedings have been launched in connection to the seizures.
“They were informed,” he told the outlet. “The biggest thing we want to do is educate the public. The meat was seized and destroyed, and we sent them on their way with the message not to do this the next time.”