Bushmeat hunting is a growing and immediate threat to the future of endangered species in Africa. While bushmeat may be crucial to the diet of indigenous people in rural areas where other food may not be easily available or affordable, the continuation of bushmeat hunting will ultimately lead to the species extinction. Bushmeat hunting has already caused the ecological extinction of multiple large animals and it continues to reduce the biological diversity of forest ecosystems. Decreasing the population of these species at increasing rates is neither beneficial for the ecosystem or for the people whose livelihood depends on the species sustainability. A recent study from the University of California found that consumption of bushmeat is beneficial to children’s nutrition. The researchers predicted that “loss of access to wildlife as a source of food – either through stricter enforcement of conservation laws or depletion of resources – would lead to a 29 percent jump in the number of children suffering from anemia.” The study also revealed that 20 percent of meat consumed by locals was made up of bushmeat, even though the hunting is illegal.
It is exceedingly problematic that the livelihood of people living in these rural areas depends on the consumption of endangered species because no other alternatives are available. Lia Fernald, a University of California, Berkeley associate professor in the School of Public Health, stated that rural households in Madacascar don’t have a choice but to eat endangered animals. She also asserted that in areas “where a diverse range of nutritious food is unavailable, children rely upon animal-sourced food — milk, eggs and meat — for critical nutrients like fats, protein, zinc and iron. What we need for these children are interventions that can provide high-quality food sources that are not endangered.” Prisila Ferai, president of the animal rights group, Friends of Animals, disagrees with Professor Fernald’s solution of alternative animal-sourced food, arguing that the development of a vegan diet would be a better alternative to saving resources and reducing animal abuse. Christopher Golden, PhD, MPH, the leading researcher in the study aforementioned, agrees with Ferai’s viewpoint, however, he finds that it is not practical to provide an adequate diet for people in these areas, who are susceptible to anemia and other micronutrient deficiencies, without “fortification and supplemental programs in place.”
This controversy exemplifies the problem policy makers face when determining how to balance the health concerns of rural human populations with the ecological concerns of conserving wildlife populations. Regardless of which interest policy makers find more critical, the current trend of illegal bushmeat hunting is equally detrimental to both concerns. Unfortunately, there is no bright-line solution on how to deal with this complicated situation. However, this year at the Convention on Biological Diversity, multiple alternatives for the unsustainable use of bushmeat were presented. For example, one of the solutions suggested was Community-based Wildlife Management (CWM). By giving the local people an incentive to protect their natural resources, the goal of this plan is to “maintain wildlife habitats and preservation of species, and improved social and economic well-being of the communities.” With an increase in economic well-being, the local residents will have the ability to obtain food without resorting to bushmeat hunting. Regardless of what management policy is implemented, the government’s main concern should be sustaining wildlife populations. If we continue to allow bushmeat hunting as a justification for feeding the hungry people in rural areas of Africa rather then implementing an alternative solution, we can permanently say goodbye to the wildlife populations and hello to increasing public health concerns.
Filed under: animal ethics, endangered species | Tagged: animal ethics, animal law, bushmeat, endangered species, environmental ethics, environmentalism, international animal law, international wildlife law |