The bushmeat and food security nexus: A global account of the contributions, conundrums and ethical collisions

  • Cawthorn D
  • Hoffman L
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Wild meat or 'bushmeat' has long served as a principal source of protein and a key contributor to the food security of millions of people across the developing world, most notably in Africa, Latin America and Asia. More recently, however, growing human populations, technological elaborations and the emergence of a booming commercial bushmeat trade have culminated in unprecedented harvest rates and the consequent decline of numerous wildlife populations. Most research efforts aimed at tackling this problem to date have been rooted in the biological disciplines, focused on quantifying the trade and measuring its level of destruction on wildlife and ecosystems. Comparatively little effort, on the other hand, has been expended on illuminating the role of bushmeat in human livelihoods and in providing alternative sources of food and income, as well as the infrastructure to make these feasible. This paper aims to shift the focus to the human dimension, emphasising the true contributions of bushmeat to food security, nutrition and well-being, while balancing this perspective by considering the far-reaching impacts of overexploitation. What emerges from this synthesis is that bushmeat management will ultimately depend on understanding and working with people, with any approaches focused too narrowly on biodiversity preservation running the risk of failure in the long term. If wildlife is to survive and be utilised in the future, there is undoubtedly a need to relax adherence to unswerving biocentric or anthropocentric convictions, to appreciate the necessity for certain trade-offs and to develop integrated and flexible approaches that reconcile the requirements of both the animals and the people.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bushmeat
  • Food security
  • Human livelihoods
  • Nutrition
  • Sustainability
  • Wild meat

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