Monday, November 26, 2007

New York Confidential: Roadkill Smuggler Goes On Trial

The New York Times reports that a woman of West African origin is currently on trial in federal court in New York on charges of meat smuggling.
But the meat in question was not just any meat-it was euphemistically called bush meat, which is a synonym for anything that falls within reach or, alternatively, roadkill. The picture to the left is not atypical.
12 parcels arrived at JFK Airport for the woman, Mamie Manneh, and the customs declaration said "African dresses and smoked fish".
On opening the packages what the horrified customs inspectors found was skulls, limbs, and torsos of nonhuman primates and the hoof of a small antelope known as a duiker. When customs inspectors tooled over to Staten Island to inverview the woman, her mind suddenly went blank. A monkey arm was found in her house and she opined that it was a gift from God.
As usual, cultural relativity has reared its ugly head and there are the usual attempts to argue that eating the stuff is a religious practice, it's really only a small amount of monkey, the government's picking on little folks again, they're taking a mother away from her children, it's the holidays, and so on.
Under cross examination, Mamie Manneh, who is currently serving a two year sentence for assaulting a woman with a motor vehicle, was laid low by selective amnesia when it came to the question of who filled out the customs declarations. She alleged she couldn't read and write, never attended school, and the forms were most likely filled out by her daughter and husband.
On questioning about a letter from her sister, Mamie said she had 30 siblings and couldn't remember their names. Her daughter Corinthian says she's been eating the stuff and doesn't understand why the government objects to it.
The answers are not particularly hard to understand, even for self professed illiterates like Mamie Manneh. Try ebola zaire for one, and there's also the ever popular HIV virus as well as a host of other diseases. And that's not even touching the issue of endangered species.
And there's that pesky problem of lying to the government on customs declarations, which may be another religious custom in Manneh's homeland but is a practice which we don't generally approve of here.
And that, indeed, is what this case is about.
Photo credit National Geographic


At 7:15 AM, Blogger morganackerly said...

good blog.


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