Friday, March 11, 2016
Looks like bush meat has come to London
I was amused to read an article in the Telegraph this morning about a "giant rat" that was found in a park in London. The original article (since amended) seemed to think it was some kind of a mutant variation of a common rat: but it's not, of course.
I'm sure those of my readers who are familiar with Africa (hel-loooo, Lawdog!) will recognize it. It's a cane rat, known as a 'grasscutter' in West Africa. They make good eating: so much so that there are active agricultural extension programs in several African nations to encourage farmers to treat them as a 'food crop', so to speak. Here's a BBC article about one such farm in Ghana.
I'm pretty sure some African immigrant(s) to England have arranged to smuggle in a few cane rats, and are breeding them to sell to fellow immigrants as 'bush meat'. I suspect the dead rat that was found had escaped from such a breeding colony, and either picked up some English disease to which it had no resistance, or died of starvation because it couldn't find enough of its natural food.
Bush meat is becoming an issue in the USA too. There are a couple of African shops in Nashville, TN that I've patronized in the past. In both of them, I was surreptitiously offered 'bush meat', with the assurance that it really was African bush meat - none of this over-refined American stuff! US Customs confiscates 'bush meat' whenever it's found, as it carries a serious risk of disease when it's not fresh and not properly refrigerated. I'm sure what was available in Nashville had been smuggled in from Africa. Some might even have been raised locally for sale. After all, cane rats can be farmed anywhere.
If you see a giant rat (20-25 pounds weight, up to 4 feet long including the tail) running around, it's probably a cane rat. By all means report it; but if you can kill it, I recommend the flavor from personal experience.