Should we eat wildlife?

As in Australia, wildlife in Vietnam faces the risk of extinction and population decline caused by habitat loss and fragmentation, introduced species, disease and climate change. However, Australia faces over population problems with some big native mammal species and introduced species, while all big mammal species in Vietnam are declining. One reason for difference comes from different habits and attitudes to consuming from wildlife.

Australia’s biodiversity is under threat due to the population growth of some big mammal species such as kangaroos, rabbits and dear. They destroy native plants, which leads to their extinction and also affect other wildlife populations. Therefore, Australians are encouraged to eat kangaroo and rabbit meat to reduce their population growth. Professor Ross Garnaut from the Australian National University, climate change adviser to Australian former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, suggested that “Australian families should give up beef and eat more kangaroo to eliminate global warming”, and biologists say that Australian should eat more marsupial meat, as monitoring their decline could help save them from extinction. Even studies from Southern Cross University have found kangaroos to be better suited to human stomachs, but there not many Australians keen to eat that meat. There are several reasons why: First, they are used with eating beef, pork, chicken and lamb as they have done since European settlement. Secondly, they have concerns about disease and animal welfare. Thirdly, they do not like flavour and finally, this type of meat is not always available in stock or restaurants. One more reason that Australian should consider eating wildlife is that it is very costly to exclude the kangaroos, rabbits and wild dogs and cats to protect the other native wildlife. For example, 11.5 km fence in Mulloogans Flat which was designed to exclude foxes, cats, rabbits and kangaroos costs over 1 million Australian dollars.
why not eat kangaroo

Figure 1 shows, by percentage, of the main reasons for Australians not eating kangaroo meat (a survey and report for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation).

In contrast, all big mammal species in Vietnam are extinct or indecline, mainly because of illegal hunting and trading caused by human demand. For example, Javan rhinoceros became extinct in Vietnam in 2010, and less than 30 Indochinese tigers, 94 Asian elephants and 53 Cat Ba langur remain in the wild in Vietnam. They all have been hunted for meat consumption and traditional medicine. The Vietnamese habit of consuming wildlife has been influenced by Chinese habits and attitudes. Meat from wildlife has also been historical food source, especially during the war when people depended on wild meats from the forest. One study of Drury (2009) in Hanoi (the population is about 7 million) showed that 50% Hanoi residents consume wildlife products. The reasons they stated for eating wild animals is that they think the meat tastes good (52% of responses), the meat is good for their health (22%) or they were invited to a new taste. People with a high income and education consume wild meat more frequently, while the main reason they stop use it is because it is too expensive. Figure 2 shows the types of wild animals most commonly eaten.
Wild Meat Type
Figure 2: Percentage of Vietnamese respondents (n=951) who reported eating type of wild meat on at least one occasion in last 12 months with 95% confidence intervals (Drury, 2009).

Whether you choose to use or not to use wildlife products depends on where you are from and your personal opinion, however, you should consider the law relating to killing wildlife when making your decision.

animal's skulls
The photo shows after eating the meat from many wild animals, a Vietnamese hunter displays the wild animal’s skulls as he is proud of his hunting successes (photo: Thai Nguyen).

(Thai Van Nguyen – Master of Forestry)


About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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1 Response to Should we eat wildlife?

  1. I know this is a passion for you Thai and thanks for sharing your concerns with us throughout the course. Phil

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