When Food is Dangerous: Bush Meat and Ebola

When Food is Dangerous: Bush Meat and Ebola

At the end of the Vice News video “Monkey Meat and the Ebola Outbreak in Liberia,” the soundtrack turns to a song titled “Ebola in Town,” a tune by Liberian artists Shadow and D12 that has gone viral in West Africa. While it is a catchy dance song, one of the repetitive lyrics, “no eating something dangerous,” reflects a very real public health concern. In a powerful documentation, the Vice video covers the relationship between people and monkeys in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, and the effect that relationship has on public health now and could potentially have in the future.

According the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ebola virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals, and is then spread between humans. Vice chronicles how Ebola may have jumped from animals, particularly monkeys, to humans. In Liberia, monkeys are kept as pets as well as providing a primary source of food along with other kinds of bush meat such as antelope and bats. Living in the deep forest in parts of West Africa makes it very difficult to raise animals, and people have relied on hunting bush meat for protein.

Despite the fact that the governments of West Africa have banned the bush meat trade, a response to the Ebola outbreak that has repercussions on food security, people continue to buy, sell, and eat bush meat as a staple part of their diet. According to Vice, the most dangerous part of consuming bush meat is in the preparation; when raw animal fluids can come into contact with human fluids. Much like consuming other varieties of meat, it is not dangerous after it has been cooked. Neither the ban on bush meat nor the spread of Ebola has stopped people from consuming a food they have been eating forever. And while Ebola is the threat today, the proximity of monkeys and humans leads to concerns for the future. According to Vice, “A new virus could emerge that’s even more lethal. Some human somewhere, likely here in Africa, is going to eat a monkey with a disease that’s never been seen before.”

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