Via IRIN Africa: Bush meat trade roaring again despite Ebola ban. Excerpt:
'Liberia doesn’t have Ebola any more so we should be allowed to eat bush meat again.' 'We’ve been eating it without any problem for generations.' These are common refrains in Liberian markets, where the trade in bush meat, a known source of the Ebola virus, has picked up once again.
As Liberia approaches its two-month mark of being Ebola-free on 9 July, complacency has set in. Monkeys, antelope, raccoons, rodents, bats, and a variety of other animals native to the forests of Liberia, are once again filling market stalls around the country.
Sellers, like 35-year-old James Coleman, are increasingly visible once again on the roadside holding out the carcasses of recently hunted bush animals to tempt hungry travellers.
“This [bush meat] is the market I have been doing for the rock of ages,” Coleman told IRIN, holding out a ground hog to a passing car. “This is what I do to cater to my family and to send my kids to school.”
Coleman used to do a good trade, but then Ebola came and infected bush meat was suspected of being the source.
The Liberian government officially banned the hunting and sale of bush meat in July 2014. The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) said anyone caught with it would be prosecuted and could face time in prison.
For a while, the ban worked. People were too afraid of Ebola to consume bush meat and sales plummeted. But now, that fear is gone and customers and vendors are defying the law with growing confidence.
At Harbel market in Margibi county, 57-year-old Musu Tomas has been selling bush meat since the 1980s. She stopped during the height of the Ebola outbreak, but has since resumed sales, only to have her products confiscated by local authorities.
“Some security officers are still harassing us and taking away our bush meat,” she told IRIN. “They said the ban is still in force. But Ebola is not here, so why are they giving us a hard time?”
The skewed logic that because the last outbreak is over, bush meat – still obviously a potential source of future outbreaks – is suddenly safe again, is proving hard to defeat.
An FDA official, who requested not to be named, said that in addition to market sweeps, agents are now searching people’s bags and vehicles at various checkpoints throughout the country.
“These people are stubborn,” he told IRIN. “We have told them over and over that no one should sell bush meat. We seized it and burned it, but they are still bringing it. That is why we search every car that comes through here.”