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Bushmeat is an important source of protein and income in Liberia. Liberia is said to have robust, informal bushmeat markets that often sell the meat of protected animals. Although the Liberian government imposed restrictions on the bushmeat trade during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, such restrictions were relaxed and open trading resumed after the outbreak subsided. No regulations governing licensing of such markets were located.

In 2019, Liberia enacted a new law on food quality and safety. Among other things, this Law authorizes the Ministry of Health to issue regulations regulating the hygiene practices of all commercial activities relating to food and feed. No such regulations were located. The law also established the Food Authority of Liberia, an independent agency with a mandate to implement official controls over the food system, including conducting inspections to ensure establishments selling food are properly licensed and follow the proper hygiene protocols.

I. Introduction

Bushmeat is said to be an important source of nutrition, income, and pest control in Liberia. The 2006 National Forestry Policy and Implementation Strategy states that

[T]he harvesting and sale of bushmeat makes a significant contribution to local income and employment, as well as providing a major share of protein in the average Liberian’s diet . . . . Liberians have always been very dependent on bushmeat as a source of protein and, in recent years, it is believed that hunting for bushmeat has accelerated rapidly.[1]

It is difficult to get a clear understanding of the level of consumption of bushmeat in Liberia. According to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2016 report, in the 1990s, bushmeat is said to have accounted for 80% to 90% of meat consumption in the country.[2] The FAO report notes more recent data indicating that consumption of bush meat is substantially down, stating that by 2007 “bushmeat represented up to 23 percent of the value of meat consumption in Liberian rural areas and 7 percent in the capital, Monrovia.”[3] However, another 2008 report emphasized the importance of bushmeat as a source of employment and diet, noting that “[i]n many areas, bushmeat hunting is the most lucrative occupation available to young adult males, and also provides an important component of the diet (three quarters or more of protein consumption is said to be from wild meat, on a national scale).”[4]

Liberia has “robust national and sub national markets for . . . bushmeat” involving multiple actors; the hunters and their households, transporters, security personnel, marketers and restaurants in urban areas.[5] However, “a prevailing characteristic of the bush-meat trade is that it is generally informal and frequently illegal,” involving protected animals.[6] By one estimate, protected species account for 30% of the meat sold in markets.[7]

Calls for the restriction or ban of bushmeat in Liberia are based on two main arguments: Bushmeat consumption endangers biodiversity, and it creates a public health risk.[8] Bushmeat consumption is associated with the possible spread of the Ebola virus, which was the cause of an epidemic that claimed 4,809 lives in Liberia from 2014 through 2016.[9] These two arguments appear to inform the restrictions imposed on bushmeat trade and consumption in the country.

II. Licensing Rules

The approach to dealing with hunting and trade in bushmeat to protect the country’s biodiversity appears measured. The country’s National Forestry Law authorizes the Forest Development Authority to issue regulations to “control the use of Wildlife . . .[,] control Hunting to achieve sustainable harvests[,] . . . control trade in Wildlife[,] . . . establish requirements for the issuance of Hunting and Wildlife trading certificates and licenses.”[10] It also restricts possession of protected animals, stating that “[n]o Person shall possess any Protected Animal, whether live or dead, or any part thereof, without a certificate of legal ownership issued by the Authority. The burden of proving lawful possession of any protected animal or any part thereof shall lie with the Person in possession.”[11] The Law also states that “[N]o person shall hunt, capture, or trade any species identified in the list established and maintained by the [Forestry Development] Authority . . . .”[12] 

No regulation governing the licensing of bushmeat traders was located.

Attempts to ban the bushmeat trade and consumption have failed in the past. A 1988 attempt to prohibit the consumption of bushmeat and a 2003 effort to outlaw its commercial sale were unsuccessful, according to one source.[13] In 2010, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf issued a proclamation prohibiting the export of wild animals and bushmeat from Liberia.[14] More recently, the government reportedly banned the hunting and sale of bushmeat in July 2014, around the time the Ebola outbreak started to spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone from Guinea.[15] Although the ban is said to have initially worked, as the fear of the Ebola epidemic began to subside, the bushmeat trade picked up again.[16] When, in March 2016, the World Health Organization lifted the public health emergency of international concern status on West Africa’s Ebola situation, Liberia began lifting restrictions and markets resumed selling bushmeat openly.[17]

Illegal hunting of protected wildlife and trade in bushmeat appears to be common. In 2019, the Forestry Development Authority reportedly confiscated and burned “a large quantity of bushmeat, including 1,156 pieces,” seized from traders in Grand Bassa County, the Gola National Park, and the Grand Cape Mount County.[18] Following the seizure and burning of the confiscated items, the Authority noted that “it remains firm in confiscating and burning of bush meat as a way of sending a clear caveat to all those who are in the constant habit of destroying the generation of ‘protected animals for their own selfish economic gains.’”[19]

III. Hygiene Rules

In 2019, Liberia enacted a new law on national food quality and safety. This Law establishes “the general principles to ensure safety and quality of food and feed at the national level” and it aims to “institute the structures and mechanisms for Food Safety in the Republic of Liberia.”[20] The Law applies to “all activities and all areas of the safety and quality of foods and feeds affecting the health of consumers [in] . . . all stages of production, processing, and distribution of foods and commodities, which are undertaken in the course of a food business.”[21] The Law authorizes the Ministry of Health to issue regulations, including to secure “the observance of hygienic conditions and practices in connection with the carrying out of commercial [activities] with respect to food and feed.”[22] No such regulations were located.

The Law established the Food Authority of Liberia, an autonomous agency within the Executive Branch that reports directly to the country’s president.[23] The Authority is responsible for the implementation of official controls under the Law. Official control of food is “an inspection by the . . .  [A]uthority of the compliance with provisions of [the Law] followed by measures to ensure that any contraventions are corrected.”[24] It includes one or more of the following:

  • Inspection
  • Sampling and analysis
  • Medical examination and inspection of staff health and hygiene
  • Examination of written and documentary material
  • Examination of records
  • Licensing of establishments.[25]

The Law requires that inspections for official control of the safety of food and feed be carried out regularly in accordance with “priorities determined by risk assessment” and in instances “[w]here noncompliance is suspected.”[26] The Authority may delegate its functions to “any public officer.”[27]

The Law requires hygiene inspection of persons who come into contact with food, stating that “[p]ersons who handle food and feed products or materials which come into contact with them shall be subject to a hygiene inspection, including a periodic medical examination with frequency and content to be prescribed by regulation.”[28] The inspection “shall establish whether such persons comply with regulations concerning health status, personal cleanliness and clothing.”[29] The Authority may take samples of food “for analysis to provide information for the purposes of official control of safety of food and feed.”[30]

The Law also includes a self-policing provision requiring food business operators and establishments to put in place a system to control food safety hazards, “a biological, chemical or physical agent in, or condition of, food or feed with potential to cause an adverse effect on human health.”[31] It states that

22.1 Food business operators and establishments shall implement a system of controls with their operations based on the following principles:

22.1.1 Identification of food safety hazards associated with their products, processes, and identification of critical points in their establishment on the basis of the manufacturing processes used;

22.1.2 Establishing and implementing methods for monitoring and checking such critical points, and for taking corrective actions to prevent or minimize the risk of hazards arising:

22.1.3 Taking samples for analysis for the purpose of checking, cleaning and disinfection methods and for the purpose of checking compliance with the food safety requirements established by this [Law] and regulations made under this [Law].

22.1.4 Keeping a written record or a record register in an indelible fashion of the preceding points with a view to make them available to the competent Authority. The results of the different checks and rest will be kept for a period of at least two years.[32]

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Prepared by Hanibal Goitom
Chief, FCIL I
August 2020

[1] Forestry Dev. Auth., National Forestry Policy and Implementation Strategy 4, 17 (2006),

[2] FAO, Impact of the Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak on Market Chains and Trade of Agriculture Products in West Africa 31 (2016),

[3] Id.

[4] David Brown, Prospects for Community Forestry in Liberia: Implementing the National Forest Policy 16,Sustainable Dev. Inst.(July 2008),

[5] United States Agency for International Development, GAP Analysis of Targeted Domestic Natural Resource Markets in Liberia: Final Report 1, 29 (Mar. 2015),

[6] Joe K. Roberts, Liberia: The Economic Void of the President's Bushmeat Ban, New Democrat (June 30, 2010),; FAO, supra note 2, at 31.

[7] United States Agency for International Development, supra note 5, at 29.

[8] FAO, supra note 2, at 32.

[9] History of Ebola Virus Disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Sept. 18, 2018),; Ebola: Mapping the Outbreak, BBC News (Jan. 14, 2016),

[10] National Forestry Reform Law of 2006, § 9.11 (Oct. 4, 2006),

[11] Id. § 9.12(d).

[12] Id. §§ 1.3,  9.12(b)(i).

[13] Reginald Hoyt, Wild Meat Harvest and Trade in Liberia: Managing Biodiversity, Economic and Social Impacts, ODI Wildlife Pol’y Briefing (Nov. 6, 2004),

[14] Roberts, supra note 5.

[15] Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease), 2014-2016 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa, Ctrs. for Disease Control & Prevention,; Bush Meat Trade Roaring Again Despite Ebola Ban, New Humanitarian (June 24, 2015),  

[16] New Humanitarian, supra note 15.

[17] Hilair Zon & Carley Petesch, Post-Ebola, West Africans Flock Back to Bushmeat, with Risk, Associated Press (Sept. 21, 2016),

[18] Vida Johnson, Seized Bush Meat Burnt at FDA, Daily Observer (Apr. 26, 2019),

[19] Id.

[20] Food Law of Liberia of 2017, § 2.1 (Sept. 17, 2019),; President Weah Signs Several Acts into Law, Including UN Convention Against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotics, Exec. Mansion (Sept. 18, 2018),

[21] Food Law of Liberia of 2017 § 2.2.

[22] Id. § 12.4.

[23] Id. §§ 40.1-4.

[24] Id. § 3.20.

[25] Id. § 25.1.

[26] Id. § 26.1.

[27] Id. § 51.1

[28] Id. § 28.1.

[29] Id. § 28.2.

[30] Id. ch. 29.

[31] Id. §§ 3.17, 22.1.

[32] Id. § 22.1.

Last Updated: 12/31/2020