Humans and animals victims of wild meat trade

By Kim Thuy   March 18, 2016 | 08:57 pm PT
Vietnam is considered a hotspot for wildlife trading, with wild animal products consumed in the domestic market and exported to other countries at ever-increasing levels.

It is estimated that between 3,500 and 4,000 tons of wild meat is consumed in Vietnam each year.

This increasing appetite is reportedly driven by an emerging middle class that sees eating game meat as a marker of higher social status.

In rural areas, particularly in remote and marginalized regions, wild meat is an important source of protein and additional income, while in urban areas it is often traded on the black market and is not traditionally regarded as necessary protein source but rather as a luxury item.


Authorities confiscate smuggled wild animals - Photo: VnExpress

The problem was complicated further with the boom in internet trading.

According to a report by the Vietnam-based Wildlife Conservation Society, in 2013, there were 33 websites trading in 108 species, of which almost 18 percent were on the verge of extinction.

A survey of 329 respondents and 20 restaurants conducted in the central province of Thua Thien Hue, where consumption of wild meat has been ever-present, revealed that 85 percent of people claimed to have consumed wild meat at least once in their lifetime.

The findings from restaurant interviews showed that government staff were reported to be the consumers of the product in 81 percent of cases.

The most common reason stated for consuming wild meat was the taste (75 percent), while only a few mentioned health benefits, trying something different or that it was fashionable.

Wild pig was the most frequently ordered dish in restaurants.

The survey was conducted by Milica Sandalj, Anna Treydte and Stefan Ziegler with the support of Hue-based WWF.

Although it is illegal, trading is often carried out publicly, even in the capital city, Hanoi.

A coach driver for Hung Cuc Coach Joint Stock Company told Vietnam Television he had for years been hired to transport wild animals from the central province of Nghe An to Hanoi, and sell it publicly at My Dinh coach station.

He revealed that a wild monkey could fetch a price of about VND2.5 million ($112).

In the northern border province of Lao Cai, the trading of wild animals is conducted publicly in the markets.

About 30 kilometers from Lao Cai city center, local residents, especially men, in Tong Sanh commune of Bat Xat district will spend most of their day hunting wild animals in the forest.

This is their main source of income. They use traps made of bamboo which can kill a number of animals of various sizes. Even children can make a trap themselves in less than 20 minutes.

Despite media reports in recent months showing evidence of rampant wild animal trading, Lao Cai authorities have reported no incidents.

The decline of biodiversity

In 2012 alone, Vietnam authorities investigated more than 1,000 wildlife smuggling cases.

From 2009 to 2011, Vietnam police confiscated more than 18 tonnes of ivory, nearly 100 tonnes of pangolins and 100 kilograms of rhinoceros horn, according to Do Quang Tung, deputy director of the Vietnam Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Management Authority.

Vietnam joined the convention in 1994.

Increasing wild meat consumption in Vietnam’s urban centers poses a major threat to biodiversity and might lead to the extinction of many endangered species, such as gayals and golden-headed langur monkeys.

The number of wild animals in forests or conservation parks all over the country has continued to decline. About 400 wild species are on the verge of extinction in Vietnam, experts have warned.

If the authorities cannot get poaching under control, in the not too distant future, Vietnam’s forests will be stripped of wildlife.

Humans also victims

Earlier this month, Dak Lak market management confiscated about 700 kilograms of rotten wild pig and ostrich meat which was about to served to diners.

Last month, Can Tho authorities seized 800 kilograms of rotten venison, which was being prepared to be marinated with toxic chemicals and sold in restaurants.


Spoiled wild meat seized by authorities - Photo VnExpress


Authorities confiscate rotten wild pig meat- Photo VnExpress

These are just two among hundreds of cases of seized spoiled wild meat or fake wild meat reported all over the country.

Restaurants buy the product from many sources so it is difficult to control the quality.

It is no surprise that the chemicals used to make rotten meat look and taste fresh are harmful to humans. The same chemicals have been linked to increased risks of cancer.

In addition, consumption of wild meat has caused serious diseases, even pandemics, such as SARS.

Even if biodiversity and the environment are not chief among your concerns, at least consider your health before you decide to eat wild meat.

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