Investigating the risks of removing wild meat from global food systems

Investigating the risks of removing wild meat from global food systems

Hollie Booth1, Michael Clark2, E.J. Milner-Gulland1, Kofi Amponsah-Mensah3, André Pinassi Antunes4, Stephanie Brittain1, Luciana C. Castilho5, João Vitor Campos-Silva6, Pedro de Araujo Lima Constantino7, et al.

1 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford

Oxford Martin School and Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford

3 Centre for African Wetlands, University of Ghana

4 Department of Ecology, National Institute of Amazonian Research, Brazil

5 Ethnoconservation and Protected Areas Laboratory, State University of Santa Cruz, Ilhéus, Bahia, Brazil

6 Faculty of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

7 RedeFauna—Rede de Pesquisa em Diversidade, Conservação e Uso da Fauna da Amazônia, Brazil


birds 4945927

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought humanity’s strained relationship with nature into sharp focus, with calls for cessation of wild meat trade and consumption, to protect public health and biodiversity. However, the importance of wild meat for human nutrition, and its tele-couplings to other food production systems, mean that the complete removal of wild meat from diets and markets would represent a shock to global food systems. The negative consequences of this shock deserve consideration in policy responses to COVID-19. We demonstrate that the sudden policy-induced loss of wild meat from food systems could have negative consequences for people and nature. Loss of wild meat from diets could lead to food insecurity, due to reduced protein and nutrition, and/or drive land-use change to replace lost nutrients with animal agriculture, which could increase biodiversity loss and emerging infectious disease risk. We estimate the magnitude of these consequences for 83 countries, and qualitatively explore how prohibitions might play out in 10 case study places. Results indicate that risks are greatest for food-insecure developing nations, where feasible, sustainable, and socially desirable wild meat alternatives are limited. Some developed nations would also face shocks, and while high-capacity food systems could more easily adapt, certain places and people would be disproportionately impacted. We urge decision-makers to consider potential unintended consequences of policy-induced shocks amidst COVID-19; and take holistic approach to wildlife trade interventions, which acknowledge the interconnectivity of global food systems and nature, and include safeguards for vulnerable people.


Publication details

Booth, H., Clark, M. Milner-Gulland, E.J. et al. 2021. Investigating the risks of removing wild meat from global food systems. Current Biology 31, 1–10