Criminal Gangs Are Smuggling ‘Illegal Meat’ Into The UK

New border rules make it easier for criminals to bypass checks


2 Minutes Read

Trucks unloading from ferry at Port of Dover Criminals are using vehicles registered in England to avoid border checks - Media Credit: Simon Turner / Alamy Stock Photo

Large amounts of “illegal and diseased meat” is being smuggled into the UK by criminal gangs, according to a new report.

The gangs are bringing the meat into the country to sell to fast food restaurants, pubs, and “unscrupulous” manufacturers. Border officials shared the information with meat industry representatives in an online meeting on May 17, Farmers Weekly reports.

Read more: Investigation: Brits Unknowingly Bought 482 Illegal ‘Rescue’ Dogs From Spain

The gangs reportedly buy coaches and vans registered to England to smuggle in the meat. This is because they know they are less likely to be stopped upon entry at the Port of Dover than if they drove vehicles with foreign license plates.

As part of changes following Brexit, the government recently decided to end physical checks of imported meat at Dover. From this May, vehicles carrying meat now get sent to a new inland checking facility 22 miles away. Back in February, border officials warned this would lead to Dover becoming a “hotspot” for smugglers wanting to bypass border checks.

Disease fears

Farmed pigs
Antonello – Illegally imported pig meat could spread African Swine Fever to the UK

Since September 2022, 90 tonnes of illegal pork have been seized through checks at Dover, Farmers Weekly reports. More than 5,000kg of illegal meat was seized in February this year alone. But border authorities think this is only a fraction of what might be getting into the UK.

One of the major concerns around the import of illegal meat is that it will introduce African Swine Fever (ASF) to the UK.

Read more: Rescued Pigs Killed By Authorities At Italian Sanctuary

ASF is a highly contagious disease in farmed and wild pigs, though humans can’t catch it. It can survive for long periods in pig meat and in the environment. It’s a serious problem in many parts of the world, including Europe, but it has so far not made it to the UK. It first spread from Africa, where it originally infected wild pigs through tick bites, to Europe through domesticated pigs being fed infected imported pig meat.

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