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Eating hunted wild meat instead of livestock reduces greenhouse gas emissions

Eating hunted wild meat instead of livestock reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Wild meat consumption in the African tropics and Amazon, as opposed to eating livestock like beef and chicken, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study. Photo by Cally Lawson/Pixabay

Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Consumption of wild animal meat by communities in the Amazon region and sub-Saharan Africa produces lower greenhouse gas emissions than eating beef or poultry, a study published Thursday by Scientific Reports found.

Wild meat consumption by residents of communities in the Amazon jungle -- primarily Brazil, Ecuador and Peru -- and Afrotropical forest, which covers most of Africa and parts of the Arabian peninsula, would cut up to roughly 78 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, the data showed.

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This is compared to emission levels if these communities relied on meat from livestock sources, including cows and chickens.

Hunting practices in these communities, however, should be carefully monitored to realize any potential benefit in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the researchers.

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The estimates "represent considerable incentives for forest wildlife conservation, as well as potential revenues for local communities," study co-author Carlos Peres said in a press release.

"Our results clearly illustrate the potential value and importance of considering sustainable game hunting ... at both national and international scales," said Peres, a professor of conservation science at the University of East Anglia in England.

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Raising livestock and poultry has been linked with increased carbon dioxide, or CO2, and worsening climate change.

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The findings of this study are based on an analysis of data from 49 studies conducted between 1973 and 2019 and that included roughly 150,000 residents from Amazonian and Afrotropical forest sites, he and his colleagues said.

The researchers estimated each site's annual wild meat consumption, its equivalent if wild meat were replaced with meat from livestock and the quantity of carbon emissions raising that livestock would produce, they said.

If the communities in the included studies ate wild meat, they would potentially spare the equivalent of 78 tons in carbon dioxide, or CO2, emissions per year compared with beef consumption, the data showed.

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Wild meat consumption on the part of these communities would generate about 3.5 tons less in CO2 emissions annually compared with their eating poultry, the researchers said.

In addition, if the 49 Amazonian and Afrotropical forest sites included in the analysis continued their current consumption of wild meat rather than convert to livestock for beef, they could generate the equivalent of $1 to $3 million in carbon credit sales, according to the researchers.

By continuing with wild meat over poultry, they would earn $77,000 to $185,000 in carbon credits, which are measurable savings produced when countries or companies reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions to compensate for their own emissions, the researchers said.

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However, sustainable wild meat hunting and the potential benefits of carbon credit schemes must be weighed up against other factors, such as illegal hunting and disease spread.

Overhunting can create more carbon emissions than it saves by destroying ecosystems, for example, according to the researchers.

Moreover, in communities that consumed wild meat in the study, 43% of residents consumed less than the annual minimum rate of protein required to prevent human malnutrition, they said.

Funds generated from carbon credit schemes could be used to incentivize 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 researchers said.

"Tropical grazeland expansion for ruminant livestock production to feed domestic meat consumption and exports is a double-jeopardy because we both lose the carbon stocks from formerly pristine old-growth forests ... and generate a powerful perennial methane pump," Peres said.

"Subsistence hunting of game animals by local communities, which is pervasive in tropical forests, needs to become a sustainable mechanism of both helping justify and add economic value to otherwise undisturbed forests," he said.

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