Rat Meat Sold Illegally in London

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Great Cane Rat, Greater Cane Rat (Thryonomys Swinderianus). (Photo By Encyclopaedia Britannica/UIG Via Getty Images)

BBC reporters armed with hidden cameras have discovered large quantities of cane rat meat being sold on the streets of east London.

The video shows butchers at Ridley Road Market hide stacks of rat meat  in their shops and reveal them only when approached by customers hungry for “bushmeat” — wild, often endangered game.

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A cane rat, which looks like a giant opossum, weighs nearly 15 pounds and has a hairless, 10-inch-long tail. Though savored as a delicacy in West Africa, cane rat meat is considered illegal and unsanitary in the United Kingdom. Health officers say they are wary of the sales of the meat because they don’t know how the animal was treated nor how its meat, which is often imported from Ghana, is prepared.

Those shops also reportedly sell “smokies” — illegally produced meat that involves using a blowtorch to char the skin of a goat or sheep. Selling smokies has become a lucrative business in Wales despite being banned in Europe for health and animal safety concerns, according to the Daily Mail.

Compared with other types of bushmeat such as gorillas or chimpanzees, cane rats are not endangered and have in fact been suggested as an alternative to hunting threatened species. They are herbivores that live near marshes. Their meat tastes “succulent, sweet, tender,” according to Stefan Gates, a British food writer, and is low in cholesterol and high in protein. Eating methods include stewing and roasting, accompanied by boiled cassava balls known as fufu.

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The problem with cane rat meat is its way of entry into the United Kingdom: smuggled by air travelers.

“It’s all illegal and hasn’t undergone health control, hasn’t been inspected and may well be contaminated,” one health inspector told BBC. “You’ve got to wonder about the contamination level of this meat that anyone’s bringing into their kitchens.”

MORE: Man bitten by rat or cat contracts bubonic plague

4 comments
LevonTostig
LevonTostig

There would be no problem if the proper licenses were obtained, the fees were paid and the taxes were paid.  But these criminals want nothing to do with that.  Hence, their action is illegal.

Come on, London.  It's not like these criminals are sneaking across your border, making babies, going to your schools, getting welfare and somehow getting the right to vote for more of the same.  If we can look the other way to those rats, why can't you?

David Jordan
David Jordan

Fisrt, the Cane Rat is not a rat, it's distantly related to guinea pig. Farmers who breed them call them the Grasscutter, to make sure people don't mistake them far rats.

The German government agency GTZ has funded Grasscutter breeding programs in several African countries, especially Ghana, since the mid-1980s. Most are now farm reared. Also, the UK government agency DEFRA found that 90% of  "bushmeat" is imported Grasscutter and it poses little risk to human health.

 "The study concluded the risk of food borne illnesses from consumption of

bushmeat appeared to be very low, and the risk of food borne illnesses

from cross-contamination was also minimal."