Culture Clash over Monkey Meat Ends up in Court

September 16, 2007


Source: Staten Island Live

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Monkeys are sacred to a Liberian native who emigrated to West Brighton more than two decades ago. Mamie Manneh and members of her church say eating primate parts -- known as bushmeat -- conforms with their religious beliefs and imbues them with the cunning and agile animal's spiritual power while also helping them "get closer to God." Federal prosecutors look at it another way.

They contend Ms. Manneh, 39, broke federal law and an international wildlife treaty by illegally importing 65 pieces of smoked bushmeat, including primate parts, into the country early last year. The protected wildlife parts carry the risk of "numerous" infectious diseases including tuberculosis and Ebola, prosecutors allege. The clash of cultures -- and the potentially precedent-setting case -- continues to play out in Brooklyn federal court almost two years later with a pretrial hearing on motions to dismiss scheduled for Thursday. The case is so hotly contested that both sides have enlisted a small posse of experts and together are expected to spend tens of thousands of dollars before a resolution is reached.