Have a bite of this...
June 18, 2010 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Bushmeat stew: complexities of a shadowy trade. Illegal bushmeat (estimated 270 tons a year) 'rife in Europe' Bushmeat, or wild-animal meat, has been part of the traditional diet of many forest-dwelling African people. It is found to introduce disease and might well be more common than you think. (wiki; related)
posted by adamvasco (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. When I was travelling through South Africa, both urban and rural, a couple of years ago, variations were on all the menus in local restaurants as well in the 'jerky' shops. I wonder if they were farm raised
posted by infini at 9:26 AM on June 18, 2010

As I understand it, the wild animal meat available in SA is from game farms where these animals are raised for meat as well as for hunting ($20,000 US to hunt a water buffalo). So you can get the SA dried meat in many forms (ostrich, impala and so on). In other countries, not so. For example, it's illegal to sell and/or serve wildebeest in Tanzania, although it is available illegally (or so I was told by native Tanzanians).
posted by bluesky43 at 10:17 AM on June 18, 2010

Grasscutter. When I was in Ghana last year, the stuff was going for $35.00 a pound.

It was okay, but I really preferred the Rabbit I'd had back when I was in France.

It all approximates Chicken, anyway.
posted by vhsiv at 10:22 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

bluesky43 - that makes sense because it was so common and didn't sound illegal. my local friend was very blase about the whole thing and pointed out local delicacies - if its illegal in other countries, why isn't it raised as it is in ZA? or am I asking some kind of ignorant question?
posted by infini at 10:29 AM on June 18, 2010

^"The cholesterol is very low. There is no religious barrier. Everybody likes grasscutter, the Muslims don't like pork but they like grasscutter."
posted by vhsiv at 10:32 AM on June 18, 2010

Researchers estimate that the current harvest of bushmeat in Central Africa amounts to more than 1 million tonnes annually—the equivalent of almost four million head of cattle – while bushmeat provides up to 80 percent of the protein intake for rural diets in Central Africa. From wiki In some locations the biomass of mammals in parks has been reduced by 70% since 1967
posted by adamvasco at 10:44 AM on June 18, 2010

Infini - I'm not entirely sure of the politics throughout Africa but I think that SA has a somewhat distinct personality with regards to wildlife -- wildlife as business. Striking about SA is how much of the country is fenced in and the reason it is fenced in is because there are many many game farms, where as I said, wildlife is raised to stock other game farms or sell for meat (bultong, the SA version of beef jerky). Other African countries, to my knowledge (I have been to west Africa, Tanzania and South Africa/Lesotho) don't have quite this developed business model, at least legally. For SA, wildlife is much more an organized business; another example of this is, unlike Serengheti (Tanzania) and parks in Namibia, most National Parks in SA like Kruger are fenced in. This is not to say that wildlife isn't consumed in other African countries, it's just less likely to be available in the mall near the airport.
posted by bluesky43 at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2010

thank you, bluesky43

sounds like it could be historical/political reasons for this being so... and something to look into when I *fingers crossed* get a chance to go to East Africa later this summer
posted by infini at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2010

Black/Grey markets have always interested me. There’s a very weird trust thing going on. People will buy substances they will ingest into their bodies from a stranger they wouldn’t want sitting on their furniture.
When I go into a store I always eye the meat suspiciously. If you’ve gutted an animal yourself, it gives you pause when you get it secondhand. Particularly anonymously. Makes you almost paranoid.
I don't know who you're supposed to be trusting there. I’m not a big giardiasis fan. The meat itself aside, (congo) hemorrhagic fever can be transferred from human to human, what about the hunter? Hey, I always wanted chikungunya, thanks for bringing it back.
Jerky might look safe, but it's not. There's E. Coli for one, especially if its just dried or smoked and not heated to 160 degrees (f).
I’m sure the guy hunting with an AK-47 wearing tuxedo shoes knows all about bovine tuberculosis and won’t just dress it out anyway to sell the meat.

This is scary. What's scarier is the people who think they're getting away with something.
I'm all for sustainable hunting, but I understand that people who are hungry might not be too picky about whether a species goes extinct or not.
But you can't have irresponsible hunters and no game management to make sure meat is dressed out properly if people are going to eat it.
Doesn't matter how rich or poor someone is if they're crapping their guts out. They really need to educate people on why it's illicit.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:03 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Black/Grey markets have always interested me. There’s a very weird trust thing going on.

that's actually one of my main focus areas for research into the informal economy in the 'developing' world and how it works to make the 'world go round' when few systems work, uncertainty is the only certainty and there's little or no formal financial support

trust is key. but what's of interest is how often that's connected to 'trusted referrals' or via extended social networks and relationships

i think that when people buy something that one would consider suspicious (particularly if there are few system to ensure health checks or FDA type regulations) it may be primarily based on who the supplier is rather than what is being supplied

i also suspect this may be true for more than simply bushmeat


People will buy substances they will ingest into their bodies from a stranger they wouldn’t want sitting on their furniture.

I don't think this is true
posted by infini at 2:09 PM on June 18, 2010

posted by gimonca at 2:33 PM on June 18, 2010

(Difference being, that link refers to animals that are not all all endangered, of course.)
posted by gimonca at 2:37 PM on June 18, 2010

There are definitely places in East Africa where, if you're interested, you can get farmed exotic meat. As a vegetarian and someone to whom the idea of eating zebra and giraffe just never appealed ... I never sought it out. One place where you USED to be able to get exotic meat Carnivore, in Nairobi (right by Nairobi National Park and across from Africa's largest slum, Kibera). I believe the only exotic animals you can eat there now are ostrich and, on occasion, crocodile - those are both farmed. Carnivore was a great place for tourists to try rhinoceros, hippopotamus, etc. - all game meat that was presumably "bushmeat" and then sold to the restaurant. Kenya made the sale of game meat illegal pretty recently (I can't remember when, exactly, but I think since 2000) and Carnivore cut back on their menu.

The idea of "wildlife as business" is something that countries across East and Southern Africa do have in common, as far as I understand it. The safari industry in Kenya, for example, is explicitly based on the fact that Kenya has animals that Europeans, Americans and, increasingly, East Asians will pay to see. Wildlife-based tourism is a significant portion of the Kenyan economy - even though a lot of the tour companies aren't owned by Kenyans, tourists stay in fancy hotels, ideally eat at local restaurants, buy overpriced trinkets in local markets and stores, and then maybe go hang out in Mombasa after their safari. Before the post-election violence in 2008, tourism accounted for 10-15% of Kenya's GDP. Afterwards, the country took a HUGE hit in terms of loss of tourism revenue. (As an aside, I was there the summer of 2008 and for most of the time we were in Mombasa, was one of very few wazungu wandering around)

I don't know very much about bushmeat outside of East and Central Africa, though I believe the trade in exotic animals in Asia - both for food and for medicinal use - earns more each year than the trade in Africa. What I can tell you about the bushmeat trade is that its expansion and its devastating effects on primate populations in West and Central Africa is frequently directly linked to the expansion of logging. A logging company builds roads deep into the interior of forests that were previously really difficult for people to get into. They bring a bunch of workers and their families deep into the interior of forests, and it's way cheaper to supply their workers with guns and ammunition than to truck in agricultural products and more "urban" meat like chicken or cow. And then you start a supply chain, where loggers are getting more meat than they need and sending it out with the logging trucks. And, oh hey - there's a truck going through your small town into the forest and you can hop on, kill a few monkeys and a duiker and then bring that back (smoking it in the truck's engine on the way back to your town) and sell it in a fancy urban market for a great price. As logging roads penetrate even further into "virgin" forest, they bring hunters and people with guns who overhunt local primate populations. As well as being bad environmentally for, you know, the monkeys and apes who are getting killed, it also makes life increasingly difficult for groups like the Baka to maintain their livelihoods (both because it's harder to find meat and because they're getting pushed out of forests in the name of conservation).

All in all, the increased commercialization of bushmeat is a really terrible thing for a lot of people and monkeys and other animals. But it's also a booming industry and not very well regulated. CITES can do all they want, but when people are willing to buy a chimpanzee thigh for a premium in a market that's really sort of brushed under the carpet, there's still a demand. I study primate conservation and ecology, but I'm also interested in development and the cultural implications of primate conservation, and frankly... I don't know what to do about the issue. But something needs to be done!
posted by ChuraChura at 3:27 PM on June 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

Eurgh. In all that talking, I forgot to recommend Eating Apes by Dale Peterson, with some incredible (graphic) photographs by Karl Amman. It's a really REALLY good exploration of the trade in primates, and bushmeat in general.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:43 PM on June 18, 2010

People will buy substances they will ingest into their bodies from a stranger they wouldn’t want sitting on their furniture.

I don't think this is true

Yeah, conceded as a general statement. I was being a bit tongue in cheek there. Certainly seems to be true in certain quarters in the U.S.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:03 PM on June 18, 2010

I understand that this is meat, and that this meat comes from the bush, not from a ranch or a forest or wherever else meat might come from, but why is it always called 'bushmeat'? In the states or Europe you can pay someone to go out into the wild and kill an animal for you and bring it back, but that is called 'game' and this is called 'bush meat.'

Maybe I'm being thick, but why is it called game when it is pheasant or wild boar, but not when it is gazelle?
posted by paisley henosis at 8:49 PM on June 18, 2010

Etymological question paisley. The meat obtained by killing an animal in the bush is for survival. It is not meat obtained through killing as sport or a game.
posted by adamvasco at 12:27 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Carnivore in Nairobi (where I'm typing from - the city not the restaurant) doesn't serve anything more exotic than ostrich and crocodile at this point. They stopped about 2.5 years back. There's better meat to be had in Nairobi at Fogo Gaucho (Westlands) and the ostrich philly cheese steak at Prime Cuts in Village Market.

One of my Kenyan co-workers here has a friend of the family who drives transport trucks on the routes from Nairobi and Mombasa to various Congolese destinations. He told me a story of how, after a few times that he and his wife had put said friend up on his way through town, the friend declared that he was going to return next time with a "delicacy from the DRC" for them. He turned up a few weeks later with a long, tubular package wrapped in brown paper. They thought perhaps they were going to be getting some kind of snake, and then they opened it to find a complete gorilla arm, in-tact from just below the shoulder, straight to the finger tips.

In many countries the illegal slaughter of game for bushmeat is still a huge problem here in Africa. The traps typically used are gruesome and sometimes only effective at seriously injuring an animal as it escapes.

Another huge problem for wild game (predatory - i.e. lion, or non - i.e. elephant, etc.) are the conflicts with farmers / shepherds - who will often hunt and / or lay out traps to kill whichever game they may be in conflict with, whether its protecting their flock, their scarce water sources in times of drought, or even crops. Many times poison is also used (i.e. mixing it with some goat meat and leaving it out for the lions to eat).

There are a number of good efforts being undertaken in national parks particularly in some of the eastern Africa countries around anti-poaching efforts, and I've had my vehicle stopped for inspection on more than one occasion by groups of armed rangers, but of course in most cases the response efforts are vastly outweighed by those seeking to kill game illegally.

In South Africa this can apparently even be a problem with coastal wild-life - one night in Gaansbai before our shark-dive the next day, a friend and I drunkenly stumbled out onto the rocky shore with a flashlight and a bottle of wine, and not 3 minutes later were surrounded by a few jeeps making sure we weren't there to kill anything but our brain cells.

The meat obtained by killing an animal in the bush is for survival.

for survival. Sometimes its to enjoy a local delicacy you wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. Almost always, its illegal.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:33 AM on June 19, 2010

adamvasco: Etymological question paisley. The meat obtained by killing an animal in the bush is for survival. It is not meat obtained through killing as sport or a game.

But that really isn't true. Let's say we both wake up tomorrow morning in our small village, each grab our respective rifles, walk into the near-by woods, shoot something, and take it to the city to sell to urbanites who want to eat wild animal. We have, conceptually, done the same thing. But you live in Europe (or the US or whatever) so the meat you sell is called game. I live in Africa, so the meat I sell is called bush meat. It doesn't even matter if we both shoot wild ruminants or wild pigs or something, the labels are different strictly because of the geography.

It's weird.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:43 AM on June 20, 2010

From wiki linked in FPP
Bushmeat (calque from the French viande de brousse) is the term commonly used for meat of terrestrial wild animals, killed for subsistence or commercial purposes throughout the humid tropics of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. However, originally the term was usually used to describe the hunting of wild animals in West and Central Africa. To reflect the global nature of hunting of wild animals Resolution 2.64 of the IUCN General Assembly in Amman (October 2000) referred to wild meat rather than bushmeat. A more worldwide term is game; see that article for a fuller description. The term bushmeat crisis tends to be used to describe unsustainable hunting of (often endangered) wildlife in West and Central Africa or the humid tropics (rainforest), depending on interpretation. African hunting predates recorded history; by the twenty-first century it had become an international issue
posted by adamvasco at 4:32 AM on June 21, 2010

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