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In Ghana, bushmeat consumption and trade has a long history that goes back centuries. Although it was historically governed under traditional and religious rites, in 1989 Ghana amended the subsidiary legislation to the Wild Animals Preservation Act of 1961, the Wildlife Conservation Regulations, requiring licensing for trade in bushmeat. Violation of the licensing rules is an offense punishable by a fine, custodial sentence, or both. Similarly, hygiene rules criminalize, among other matters, the sale of food that is contaminated, unhygienic, or otherwise unfit for human consumption.

However, the licensing rules do not appear to be strictly enforced. Similarly, hygiene rules that apply to the processing and sale of most food items are either inapplicable to bushmeat or overlooked.

I. Introduction

Bushmeat trade in Ghana is an old practice. According to one source, “[a]s long ago as the fifteenth century, De Marees recorded smoked game and snails being traded over long distances in Ghana . . .  In 1856, Daniell listed various commodities traded in Accra, including ‘smoked deer’.”[1] At that time, the trade was regulated under customary and religious rites. One source describes the practice as follows:

Bushmeat hunting has a long pedigree dating back to ancient times when hunting was done on subsistent basis and regulated by socio-cultural practices, i.e. norms, sanctions and taboos. Most of the various animal species were considered sacred, or totems and their exploitation restrained by taboos. Other animals were regarded as unclean and abhorred because of some misfortune in the past associated with those species or religious restrictions. Some animals were used as sacrificial or ceremonial animals for religious, cultural and festivals of some communities. Such animals or species were strictly protected by the various customary rites and practices.[2]

The importance of bushmeat as a source of food and income in Ghana today is undisputed. A source described the contribution of bushmeat to the lives and livelihoods of large segments of the Ghanaian society as “one of the most valuable tropical forest products after timber. It is an important source of protein, widely consumed in both rural and urban areas . . .  It can also make a significant contribution to households living in extreme poverty (daily per capita income less than US$1), particularly as a source of cash income but also as a key food during the lean agricultural season.”[3] Another source notes that “[i]n parts of Ghana, bushmeat is the freshest protein available. Farmers who would otherwise be struggling during the dry season can feed their families and bring in some extra income.”[4]

However, the size of the bushmeat market appears difficult to assess. One source estimated the annual consumption of bushmeat within the range of 225,000 pounds─385 tons and its value at US$205-350 million.[5] The same source noted that around 270,000 self-employed hunters supply bushmeat to the various markets in the country.[6] The bushmeat trade in Ghana is valued at over US$130 million, according to another source.[7] Another source puts it in the range of US$42–205 million.[8]

II. Licensing

Trade in bushmeat requires a license. A 1989 amendment to the 1971 Wildlife Conservation Regulations, a subsidiary legislation to the Wild Animals Preservation Act of 1961,[9] added a provision banning trade in bushmeat without a license, stating as follows:

(1)    No person sell trade in bushmeat unless he is the holder of a licence granted to him for that purpose.

(2)    An application for a licence under this regulation shall be made to the Chief Game and Wilde Officer or his representative in the District of the residence of the applicant and shall be accompanied by such fees as the Chief Game and Wildlife Officer shall determine.

(3)    Eighty percent of all fees collected for licence under this regulation shall be paid into the account of the relevant District Assembly and the remaining twenty percent shall be paid into central government account.[10]

Violation of the licensing requirement is a crime punishable on conviction by a fine not exceeding Ghanaian Cedi ₵100,000 (about US$17,373) or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both.[11]

The licensing laws do not appear to be strictly enforced. For instance, a 2005 study, which surveyed 34 bushmeat traders and hunters regarding hunting and trading rules, found that only 53% (18) of the subjects were aware that hunting and trading in bushmeat required a license, and among them only three were properly licensed.[12]

III. Hygiene Rules and Enforcement

Part five of the Public Health Act, dealing with environmental sanitation, bars the sale of unwholesome food. It states that “[a] person commits an offence if that person sells, serves or offers for sale food that is unwholesome or unfit for human or animal consumption and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than one thousand penalty units (₵20 million (about US$ 3,474,788) or to a term of imprisonment of not more than four years or to both.”[13] In addition, it prohibits sale of food under insanitary conditions and food that is unfit for human consumption, violations of which are subject to similar penalties.[14]

Part seven of the Public Health Act of 2012, entitled food and drugs, established the Food and Drug Authority (the Authority), including two divisions: the Food Division and the Drugs, Cosmetics, Medical Devices and Household Chemical Substances Division.[15] One of the objectives of the Authority is “to provide and enforce standards for the sale of food.”[16] To this end, it is mandated to “ensure adequate and effective standards for food . . . ” and “monitor through the District Assemblies and any other agency of State compliance with the provisions of this Part.”[17] The part bars the sale or supply of food not registered by the Authority.[18] It makes it a crime to sell food that

(a)    has in or on it a poisonous or harmful substance;

(b)    is unwholesome or unfit for human or animal consumption;

(c)    consists in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, rotten,

(d)   decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance;

(e)    is adulterated;

(f)     is injurious to health; or

(g)    is not of the nature, substance, quality or prescribed standards.[19]

This part of the Act, like the part dealing with environmental sanitation, also bars the sale of food under insanitary conditions and food that is unfit for human consumption.[20] It defines the term food as including “a substance or a thing of a kind used, capable of being used or represented as being for use, for humans or animal consumption whether it is live, raw, prepared or partly prepared.”[21]

A charge under part seven of the Act is punishable on conviction by a fine, a custodial sentence within the range of four to fifteen years, or both.[22]

Prior to the enactment of the 2012 legislation, the Food and Drugs Act of 1992, repealed in 2012, provided similar rules.[23]

The sanitation rules are said to be either inapplicable or, as is the case with licensing rules, overlooked with regard to bushmeat markets. According one source, “[w]hile there may be standards set to ensure domestic meat hygiene, these either do not seem to apply to bushmeat or are totally ignored when it comes to bushmeat marketing and processing.”[24]

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Prepared by Hanibal Goitom
Chief, FCIL I
August 2020

[1] Samantha Mendelson et al., Anatomy of a Bushmeat Commodity Chain in Takoradi, Ghana, J. Peasants Stud. 73, 76 (Aug. 5, 2006).

[2] Conservation International Ghana, Assessment of Bushmeat Trade during the Annual Closed Season on Hunting in Ghana (1st Aug. – 1st Dec. 2001) 4 (Feb. 2002),

[3] Mendelson et al., supra note 1, at 74.

[4] Yepoka Yeebo, Inside Ghana’s Biggest Bushmeat Market, Mosaic (Sept. 26, 2016),   

[5] Jan Van Raamsdonk et al., Ghana: A Country Study Within the Framework of the Evaluation of the Netherlands Government’s Policy on Tropical Rainforests 32 (Jan. 2008),  

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Mendelson et al., supra note 1, at 74.

[9] A recent report indicated that Ghana is on the verge of enacting a new wildlife conservation law to replace the 1961 Wild Animals Preservation Act. Ghana to Pass New Law for Wildlife Conservation, Xinhua (Mar. 3, 2020), It is unclear if this law has been enacted and, if so, what the immediate implications are for the subsidiary legislation to the Wild Animals Preservation.

[10] Wildlife Conservation (Amendment) Regulations, 1989, L.I. 1452, § 6A (Aug. 11, 1989),  

[11] Id. § 6(B)(6); Fines (Penalty Units) Act (Act 572 of 2000), § 3, 4 Laws of Ghana (rev. ed. 2004).

[12] John Swensson, Bushmeat Trade in Techiman, Ghana, West Africa 15 & 20 (Mar. 2005) (unpublished undergraduate thesis, Uppsala University),

[13] Public Health Act (Act 851 of 2012), § 51 (Oct. 9, 2012),; Fines (Penalty Units) Act, § 3.

[14] Public Health Act §§ 52 & 53.

[15] Id. §§ 80 & 91.

[16] Id. § 81.

[17] Id. § 82.

[18] Id. § 97.

[19] Id. § 100.

[20] Id.

[21] Id. § 149.

[22] Id. § 110.

[23] Id. § 175; Foods and Drugs Act, 1992 (as amended in 1996),

[24] Conservation International Ghana, supra note 2, at 15.

Last Updated: 12/31/2020