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Inside the Underground World of Illegal Smokies (2014)
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Inside the Underground World of Illegal Smokies (2014)

The Politics of Food

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In this episode of The Politics of Food, Ben Ferguson investigates the UK’s growing illegal trade in “smokies,” a West African delicacy that has been outlawed in Europe since 1987. Journeying through an underground economy that operates between rural Welsh farmers and urban African communities, he uncovers how black market traders are risking prison to buy and sell blowtorched sheep carcasses.

Ben also meets the sheep farmers and families who are fighting to change the law, as well as the scientists who warn that smokies can kill. At the center of this whole debate is Carmello Gale, a black market gang boss — or a food freedom fighter, depending on who you talk to.

On the face of it, this trade is a remarkable clash of traditions, and one that paints an accurate picture of modern Britain. As the smokie trail winds its way through rural livestock markets to the homes of African expats, we see how the politics of food is shaping our laws and — as some believe — criminalizing certain cultures.