Bushmeat for sale in Toronto

My story about the global and commercial trade in bushmeat was published in Maclean’s Magazine this week. That’s meat from wild and sometimes endangered animals from the forests of West and Central Africa that is sold at underground markets in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, New York and Miami, according to an almost 10 year long research project by an ecologist at Berkeley by the name of Justin Brashares.
This was one of the most fascinating articles I’ve ever worked on–thanks to Brashares’ interesting work. While on the one hand, it is not a shock to learn that you can buy smuggled primate meat where I live in Toronto–what can’t you buy in this global city?–but on the other hand, it is pretty surprising that there’s enough flesh from endangered species smuggled into the country to supply at least 2 secret markets here.
Interestingly, when I called various government agencies and ministries, I was not able to get much information. Canada Border Services refused to talk about bushmeat, despite the fact that I wrote them over a period of many weeks repeatedly requesting some form of comment. Here is one of the emails I received from their media handlers:
Hello Sarah,
We do not maintain statistics on specific types/categories of meat intercepted. As such, we would not be able to provide an interview specific to bushmeat. However, we can look into providing you with an interview about food/meat seizures in general. Can you please let me know if that is something you would be interested in?
Another media officer told me that some other journalist had come calling about a potential story about bushmeat a while back (the French press has reported on seizures there) and that they’d ended up doing a piece about the meats (like salami, I suppose) that people smuggle in. But I wanted to find out what the authorities had to say about Brashares’ explosive findings.
Environment Canada was more forthcoming–they did admit that there exists global smuggling of bushmeat. However, they only reported to me two seizures in Canada since 2009 and would not confirm or deny any specific investigations–such as whether or not they were involved in the investigation of a shipment of 10,000 primate parts that was seized at a US/Canada border point that I mention in the story. Toronto Public Health had never come across any bushmeat in their inspections and hadn’t received any complaints from the public either.
I now look forward to seeing how this story unfolds and is received by the public!