"Shocking quantities" of "potentially unsafe" rat meat are being sold illegally in London marketplaces, BBC reports.
An undercover investigation conducted by the news service in one of London's busiest food markets, Ridley Road Market, has revealed that massive quantities of bushmeat, including rat, goat and sheep, are being sold illegally the public.
The news organization discovered that Ridley vendors were not only selling "smokies" (blow-torched goat and sheep meat that is illegal under UK and European food laws), but also rat meat. Grasscutter rats, also known as cane rats (cat-sized rodents found throughout sub-Saharan Africa), were sold to undercover reporters by several butchers.
The discovery at Ridley Road Market is not the first time evidence of an illegal meat trade has been found in England. In fact, the BBC writes that the bushmeat trade is "a persistent problem for the UK authorities."
In 2009, for example, The Independent reported that 10 tonnes of illegal bushmeat from Africa was being imported in London markets every day. At the time, consumers were warned of the risk of contracting viruses such as Ebola and foot-and-mouth disease from the illegal meat.
The U.S. has not been immune to the allure of a meat black market, either.
"The United States is one of the world's largest, if not the largest, consuming nations for wildlife products. This includes wildlife used for food, whether for cultural reasons or luxury markets," Leigh Henry, a senior policy officer for the World Wildlife Fund and the international wildlife-trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, told AlterNet. "Since the demand continues, so does the trafficking."
Last May, for instance, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at Newark, New Jersey's Liberty International Airport, reportedly caught more than 19 pounds of antelope and cane rat meat from a passenger arriving from Uganda, AlterNet details.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post cited a report from The Independent claiming that consumers face the risk of contracting AIDS from bushmeat. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is not transmittable by food. We have removed this reference and regret the error.