Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Is That Steak You’re Eating? Or Could It Be Elephant?

“Bushmeat” refers to meat from a wild animal that is sold commercially. Although this action occurs all over the world, it is particularly problematic in the tropical forests of Central Africa. At a recent meeting of the Society for International Development’s Africa Working Group, Ms. Natalie Bailey of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force explained the environmental impacts of the bushmeat trade. The current practices of commercial, unsustainable, and illegal hunting operations consistently devastate natural habitats across Central Africa, creating a veritable biodiversity “crisis”. According to Ms. Bailey, if we don’t take action soon we may find the once-vibrant African forests ominously silent.

Recent high food prices have created a large demand for inexpensive, nutritious and palatable protein sources. Bushmeat fulfills all of these needs, and also provides a huge profit margin to the hunter. However, hunting wild animals is only a temporary solution to the larger problems of poverty and the global food crisis. Because hunters kill at a faster rate than wild animals can reproduce, the commercial bushmeat trade drastically reduces biodiversity and threatens already endangered species. Furthermore, wild-caught animals can carry a host of deadly diseases, including SARS, Ebola, and Monkeypox.

Instead of answering complex poverty issues with a cheap, unsustainable and dangerous solution, Ms. Bailey stressed the need for investment into alternative sources of protein. Any appropriate alternative solution must:

  • Have a healthy wildlife population
  • Be an economical investment
  • Satisfy demand
  • Not sell wild-caught species
  • Follow health and hygiene regulations

Cooperation from development professionals is essential for the anti-bushmeat movement to succeed. Although conservation is often seen as a separate issue, concerns about the bushmeat trade are intimately related to more traditional development issues of health, hunger and poverty reduction. It is time for development and conservation groups to partner together in order to ensure that humans are not the only animals left in the forest.

Sponsor: Society for International Development – Washington, DC Chapter, The Bushmeat Crisis Task Force
Date: July 1, 2008
Time: 12:30pm – 2:00pm
Representative Attending: Kate Lonergan

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