Consumption of meat from wild animals by Amazonian and Afrotropical communities can result in lower greenhouse gas emissions than if wild meat was replaced with beef or poultry, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. However, hunting practices in these communities should be carefully managed to be of any potential benefit in the management of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the authors.
André Valle Nunes and colleagues reviewed 49 studies conducted between 1973 and 2019 and involving around 150,000 residents from Amazonian and Afrotropical forest sites. The authors estimated each site's annual wild meat consumption, its equivalent if wild meat were replaced with meat from livestock and how much carbon emissions raising that livestock would produce. They found that communities consuming wild meat may spare the equivalent of 71 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year compared to if wild meat was replaced with beef, or three metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year if replaced with poultry.
The authors also estimated the value of carbon credits that could be generated by supporting continued wild meat consumption. Carbon credits are measurable carbon savings generated when countries or companies invest in projects that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions to compensate for their own emissions. The authors calculated that if all 49 Amazonian and Afrotropical forest sites continued their current consumption of wild meat rather than convert to livestock for beef or poultry, this could generate the equivalent of one to three million US dollars and $77,000 to $185,000 in carbon credit sales, respectively.
The authors argue that sustainable wild meat hunting and the potential benefits of carbon credit schemes must be weighed up against other factors, such as the risk of illegal hunting and disease spread. Overhunting can create more carbon emissions than it saves by destroying ecosystems and should be monitored, according to the authors. They suggest that the funds generated from carbon credit schemes could be used to incentivise the conservation of tropical forest resources, educate hunters to monitor animal health and ensure that hunting is sustainable and that the wild meat trade is hygienic.
The authors further highlight that in the communities that consumed wild meat in the study, 43% of individuals consumed below the annual minimum rate of protein required to prevent human malnutrition. Improved wildlife management may be necessary to ensure food security and adequate nutrition.
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