To what extent have we reached that we can consider that when we practice consumption of wildlife we will be able to solve the crisis of food security and thus achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero hunger? To what level does man think that we are actually taking care of all flora and fauna when we decide to ‘utilize’ them by consuming them?
Consumption of wildlife is not a new practice. This has happened before in Kenya and it is still happening in many other African nations. Developed countries also practice this even though not on a wider scale. The American Bison is proof of almost being hunted to extinction and so are many other animal and plant species such as the Dodo which was actually consumed to extinction.
How would we feel when as a country we start eating our wildlife? This is an ethical issues we are not addressing as the Ministry of Wildlife and Tourism through the Consumptive Wildlife Utilization Task Force is considering bringing back the consumptive use of flora and fauna. Ethical issues of, I do not believe you can appreciate something that you kill to eat placing a monetary value on it. For instance, when donkey meat processing became a trend, donkeys have become a prized good that cannot be used today as a carrier animal rather it has become meat. Yet, where does the meat go? Do Kenyans actually go to a butchery and order donkey meat? Who exactly is consuming Kenya’s donkey in Kenya knowingly? Let me let you answer this for yourself. Dogs and recently cats are also not on the safe side. These are pets to many and anyone who owns or has owned them cannot think of having a plate of them for dinner.
The Dominican Mountain Chicken, a frog endemic to The Dominican Republic, is next to extinction. Why? The species is a delicacy and symbolic dish among the Dominicans since, apparently, it tastes like chicken, but over-consumption of the species has led to reduced numbers and is longer a staple protein on the plates of the Dominicans.
Let’s not wander far as Kenya has it’s on history. Several antelope species are nearly threatened or endangered. The Eastern Mountain Bongo, Grevy’s Zebra, Roan Antelope, Sitatunga and the Hirola Antelope are among the species that have been hunted over the years either legally or illegally. The Bongo, for instance, were so few that leopards were killed to prevent further decline of the species. This resulted in a reduced number of both species in the Mount Kenya region.
Why then do we want to reintroduce Consumptive Utilization of Wildlife, especially for species not mentioned in the Tenth Schedule [Section 80(4)] of the Wildlife Management and Conservation Act (WCMA) 2013? This may seem menial to many, especially if you know that there is an entire bush meat enterprise already occurring which is illegal and can lead to a jail term.
Consumptive Wildlife Utilization will not reduce the number of bushmeat cases. See, in most cases, those caught with bush meat are mostly locals. Think of it this way, when a family has gone for days without eating a proper meal, yet they live near protected areas and antelopes and birds, which know no borders, pass through their homestead and neighbourhood, should the breadwinner of the family consider the species and let it pass yet there has been no food on the table for days or should they kill and eat it to see another day? The latter has been happening in these areas. Even if education and awareness were to be increased on this what alternative would you give to the families which depend on bushmeat for their daily protein? When we legalize the consumption of wildlife, bushmeat incidences will definitely increase. How? Consumptive utilisation will include culling, cropping and game ranching which all require a license. The local Kenyan will most definitely not be able to afford this license; thus they will now more intensely continue to hunt what crosses their neighbourhood now with the thought that it is legal but without the knowledge that they need a permit because they actually have a proper meal. A black market may start where they can even begin to sell the meat.
Consumptive Wildlife Utilization may seem focused on animals only and we may not mention plants which offer medicinal value or are herbs. Plants easily regenerate compared to animals. When we mess up with a plant it can easily escape extinction compared to an animal, especially one with a long gestation period. The same however may not apply to trees, especially indigenous trees.
What has been done before and failed cannot be expected to work again even if we think there will be tougher enforced laws and regulations. Human beings will always make mistakes and when push comes to shove we may be aiding extinction of several species. With a rise in population of the human race means more mouths to feed. The number of livestock is clearly higher than wild animals and even to think we can begin game farming just means we are trying to control nature. We may not see it now, and some people may think this will be a good step for Kenya, but first, we have to solve other issues which include proper livestock management and other agricultural practices before we can consider eating wild fauna. This is not the time.
The fact that there are almost 8 billion humans alive today is a sign of our success, not failure. The human species has survived many things since the dawn of time. As a species, we should always remember we are a part of nature and even though our population is higher than nonhuman species, except ants, of course, this does not warrant the license to destroy.
“Humans are adaptive creatures capable of great acts of destruction and creation.” We have survived and in order to continue surviving, we need to recognise we are not alone.