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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 18:12 GMT
UK bushmeat trader sent to prison
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Africans carrying bushmeat
Bushmeat covers the hunting and eating of wild animals
The first prison sentence in the UK for the sale of bushmeat has been handed down by magistrates in north London.

Paulina Owusu Pepra was jailed for three months, after being convicted by Haringey Magistrates' Court of selling meat unfit for human consumption.

Campaigners against the trade, which is threatening the survival of a number of endangered species, hailed the penalty.

But they fear more prosecutions are not likely, because of the government's perceived failure to fund a crackdown.

The 23 counts on which Pepra was found guilty in December 2003 involved infringements of the Food Safety Act by selling unfit meat, including bushmeat.

More priority urged

Sentencing her, the magistrate said she was guilty of the worst offence of contravening the act to have come before the court, and the sentence was meant as a clear signal such conduct would not be tolerated.

The Bushmeat Campaign is a coalition of the Zoological Society of London, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and a company, Ciel Logistics.

It says: "Bushmeat is the name for wild animals killed for food. Animals can range from highly endangered species such as gorillas and chimpanzees to more common ones like forest antelopes and giant rats."

Adam Matthews, director of the Bushmeat Campaign, welcomed Pepra's conviction, saying: "This is the first time someone has been prosecuted for commercially selling bushmeat in the UK.

"Unfortunately, this prosecution is unlikely to be repeated due to the failure of the Food Standards Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to provide sufficient resources and support to local authorities to crack down on illegal bushmeat traders.

Consumers beware

"This case has been a success due to the dedication of a Haringey environmental health officer who has worked tirelessly to bring the trade in bushmeat in London to the attention of the government and the agency.

"Unfortunately, to date, far too little has been done, and bushmeat continues to enter the UK through airports avoiding all food safety checks."

The sentence follows an extensive investigation by Dr Yunes Teinaz, a senior Haringey environmental health officer. Dr Teinaz, accompanied by police, led the original raid in December 2002 on Pepra's shop.

He said: "I am delighted with the outcome. The trade in bushmeat poses a serious risk to both human and animal health.

"This result will send an important message to those that commercially trade in bushmeat in Haringey that they will be caught and prosecuted. At last courts are handing down sentences that fit these crimes."

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