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Way In

Monkeying around

Easter isn't quite up there with Christmas when it comes to food, but there are still some pretty good pickings. Chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, simnel cake ... monkey brains.

Mamie Manneh, a Liberian living in New York, was arrested some time ago for smuggling steaks of primate - including green monkey and hamadryas baboon - into the USA.

Ordinarily this would be an open and shut suitcase, since such animals are protected and their flesh may also carry diseases such as tuberculosis or ebola. But Manneh's claim that she needed the meat for religious purposes set off a complicated freedom of religion lawsuit that has taken more than two years to resolve.

The defendant argued that she was baptized as a Christian and that she eats the monkey meat at Easter 'because monkey from the wildlife is a very smart animal.' Eating the animals is believed to imbue practionioners with their cunning, agility and spiritual power while also helping them 'get closer to God.'

Seventeen members of Manneh's church declared the importance of bushmeat. 'This is something our forefathers did, it is something we learned as children, and it is a part of our treasured relationship with God as African Christians. We eat bushmeat for our souls.'

The team of defending lawyers argued that the importance was analogous to the bitter herbs with which Jews remember the Exodus.
But last month, despite some heavy duty support from theologians and other scholars from Harvard University, Manneh finally lost the case. She now faces up to five years in prison. This may sound harsh, but it is believed that the sentence will run concurrently with the one she is already serving for deliberately hitting a love rival with her car.