I was extremely dismayed this morning to read an article which highlighted the sad story that elephants are being poached in Thailand. This may not seem to be big news, poaching for ivory is nothing new but the difference this time; they are being killed for the table.
“It is believed that eating these organs can enhance sexual prowess”
Elephants are already on the endangered list and it is feared that continued poaching will result in their eventual extinction. The sexual organs and trunks are the most prized body parts, the remainder is discarded. It is believed that eating these organs can enhance sexual prowess.
The reports mentioned that some of the meat was making it onto the menus of restaurants in Phuket. This has been denied and there is not any evidence proving that any of the meat is being consumed by foreign visitors.
Many consider cultural immersion a huge part of travelling to a foreign destination and experimenting with some of the local cuisine is a large part of the experience.
Several years ago whilst visiting Iceland I met two other travellers in Akureyri, we discussed getting something to eat. They however seemed fixated on finding somewhere serving puffin having already tried whalemeat and auk. This did not really sit well with me and I made my excuses and went looking for Chinese noodles instead.
This is a hypercritical of me as I am certainly not a vegetarian but do refrain from eating certain meat products such as veal due to the way it is produced.
Whilst it is hard to accept the suffering involved in the whaling industry and the effects on the populations of these magnificent creatures I do accept that they are a traditional food source for a number of cultures.
Whales along with a number of endangered species are on the menus of several countries and numerous species were almost hunted to the brink of extinction. These incredible creatures captured the imagination of the World and a global campaign to ban whaling was successful.
World populations of whale species subsequently recovered and ‘scientific’ whaling has been accepted for some time. This meat however usually ends up on the tables of restaurants and part of the travelling experience for many visitors to Iceland, Japan or Norway is trying whalemeat.
I have always loved whales and my personal feeling is one of saddness that whale hunting is being accepted again, especially as there is not any humane method of doing so.
“the illegal and unsustainable killing of animals for food and for resale”
Bushmeat was originally a generic term used to describe the hunting of wild animals primarily in parts of Africa but also Asia and the Americas. Today it usually refers to the illegal and unsustainable killing of animals for food and for resale.
The bushmeat trade has serious repercussions on the populations of apes within Africa. They can provide a good return of investment for a poacher, an adult gorilla will provide a substantial amount of meat for a single round. Orphaned young apes can also be an additional revenue stream; selling them to the exotic pet trade.
Even though the meat is often more expensive than other meat options it is highly prized and many ape populations are being depleted.
Visiting a destinations where it is possible to see a troop of gorillas is many travellers lifetime ambition. It is also probable a number of those same travellers have tried bushmeat and possibly even gorilla meat.
A popular item on the menu in Chinese restaurants is shark-fin soup it results in the killing of an estimated 38 million sharks annually. The fins are the only part of the shark used and the remainder is usually tossed back into the ocean where the shark suffers a slow and unpleasant death.
Sharks are unlikely to be top of many people’s list of favourite animals but numerous species are now endangered. Wiping out sharks, an important link in the ocean food chain for a dish that requires the addition of chicken stock to actually give it some flavour is plain crazy!
“a whole animal classification is in serious danger of disappearing”
Which also means I am crazy, as when younger, a little less well informed and thinking it was cool I tried shark-fin soup. This a huge part of the problem that needs addressing if we are to protect our endangered species. Many are simply ignorant to the potential damage that consuming some local foods can cause.
Many travellers myself included have tried frog’s legs. The United States now imports over twelve percent of the global trade in amphibians. Populations worldwide however are in crisis, many are crashing and amphibians, a whole animal classification is actually in danger of disappearing.
Eating puffins will upset some because they are cute sea birds but more importantly some populations are also under threat. This is not entirely due to them being classified as food in certain destinations; climate change has a part to play too. A puffin’s usual prey is sand eels but due to warming of the seas causing them to move from traditional grounds which has taken them out of the reach of some colonies.
The fact that they are found on the plates of a number of restaurants puts further pressure on these colonies.
Experiencing cultures is a major factor of travelling; cultural immersion is often stated as a primary aim. Experimenting with the local cuisine is an important part of this but it is likely contributing to the demise of many endangered and beloved creatures.
It is a simple rule of supply and demand, if there is not a market for the goods there is not any reason to supply it. Whilst the indigenous people will continue to eat ‘bushmeat’ in its various forms, tourists adding to this demand and being willing to pay high prices to do so compound the problem. This is not responsible tourism.
“Poaching will only cease when the either the demand or the supply runs out.”
Is experiencing the traditional cuisine of a destination worth its effect on the wildlife and ecosystems of our planet? A world without elephants, whales, primates, amphibians and yes cute puffins would deprive travellers of a lot more than an exotic meal. A high price to pay for cutural immersion and the opportunity to smoast!