F-X. de Donnea à la One World One Health Conference on wildlife trade

Ces 3 et 4 décembre 2019 se tenait à Bruxelles la ‘One World One Health Conference on wildlife trade’.

Organisée conjointement par le Service public fédéral Santé publique, Sécurité de la chaîne alimentaire et Environnement et la Plate-forme belge pour la biodiversité, cette conférence s’est penchée sur les impacts du commerce des espèces sauvages aux niveaux mondial et local.

Compte tenu de l’ampleur du problème, la conférence s’est concentrée sur deux domaines spécifiques en Belgique:
– le commerce de la viande de brousse
– le commerce des reptiles exotiques et des amphibiens.

Francois-Xavier de Donnea a ouvert les débats par ces mots :

François-Xavier de DONNEA
Minister of State
Chairman of the Federal Council for Sustainable Development,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Several recent articles in the press and on Internet emphasize that the poaching of animals to produce bushmeat is exploding in Africa because of the growing demand for bushmeat in African cities and in Europe.

Bushmeat has always been an important source of proteins for the people living in and around the forests. For millennia the hunt for bushmeat was sustainable and didn’t threaten the survival of any species.
This is no longer true today. The hunt and trade of bushmeat have become commercial to supply the fast growing African cities and European consumers looking for exotic « delicatessen ».
According to Center for International Forestry Research or CIFOR, in the Congo Basin alone the produced bushmeat could amount to more than 10 million tons per year. This is more than the total production of bovine meat in Europe ! Of course this figure is an order of magnitude. It is difficult to quantify informal and largely illegal trade flows.

If the current trend goes on, the forests of the Congo Basin will be empty of their animals within a few decennia.

This is a very frightening perspective, as well for the food security of forest peoples, as for the dynamism of the forest ecosystems.
The illegal domestic and international bushmeat trade is extremely profitable. It amounts to hundreds of millions of euros each year. Hence the fight against it is a very difficult task.
Nevertheless, the international Community shoud intensify its fight against this deadly trade. Belgium should make a particular effort to reduce the traffic of illegal bushmeat passing through Brussels Airport.

Being a Belgian citizen, I am ashamed when I read that up to 120 tons of bushmeat might pass through our airport every year.

This is a big shame. It affects the credibility of my country concerning its dedication in the fight for saving the biodiversity.
Our government should require the airlines serving Brussels from Africa to check the freight and luggages they carry to detect illegal meat. This could easily be done by using dogs. Upon arrival in Brussels, a second check should also be performed by our customs officers using the same method. I think that in particular Brussels Airlines should make a special effort to check the freight and luggages for bushmeat. As far as I know it does not exert any such control for the time being at its African destinations. Other airlines, such as Ethiopian Airlines and Rwandair should be submitted to the same requirement.
But the Belgian municipalities hosting restaurants and shops likely to sell bushmeat should also regularly control them. Illegally imported bushmeat may spread deseases. Their sellers pose a threat to the public salubrity. The mayors have the power to close unhealthy shops and restaurants for a maximum of three months. Closing shops guilty of selling illegal bushmeat would give a strong signal to all parties involved in its trafficking. Penal sanctions for convicted traffickers and sellers should also be increased.

Ladies ans Gentlemen,

This conference comes just in time. I congratulate its organizers. Its programme addresses all the major issues of the supply and demand of bushmeat and of its illegal domestic and international trade. I am sure that your work will help strengthen the fight against a traffic that threatens the food security of millions in Africa, the health of many consumers in Europe and the survival of important forest ecosystems. This fight should be merciless.
I wish you a very fruitful conference
Thank you for your attention