Yesterday, the Chinese city of Shenzen became the first in the People’s Republic to ban wild animal consumption. China is notorious for its consumption of wild animals as part of an exotic cuisine. Like Nigeria, much of this exotic cuisine was introduced into Chinese culture thanks to years of extreme famine and government oppression that forced citizens to consider wild animals as an alternative source of meat and proteins as famine as poverty and famine decimated domesticated livestock. In Nigeria, there was a significant spike in the consumption of wild animals like Deer, Grass cutters and bats during the Nigerian Civil War, where a food siege by the Nigerian government forced many in South Eastern Nigeria to look to wild life for sustenance. Decades later, many of these practices persist in both culture, leading to severe health complications.
The dreaded Ebola virus that ravaged West Africa, like many other virus was a zoonotic illness, an illness caused by a pathogen that was transferred from an animal to a human being and mutations allowed the virus to move from animal to human infections to human to human infections. Many health authorities have long recommended that the consumption of wild animals either be heavily regulated or banned outright.
Domesticated species that are killed for food are often heavily bred to make them immune to many zoonotic bacteria and viruses and are carefully prepared to be fit for human consumption. This isn’t the case for wild animal consumption where the ‘wildness’ of the animal is part of the allure of consumption. With China finally leading the charge for the banning of mass consumption of wild animals, after years of actively resisting any attempts to ban or restrict wild animal consumption in its country, it begs the question when Nigeria will finally follow suit and begin to either restrict or regulate our own wild animal consumption.
We already know from our handling of the Covid-19 crisis that Nigeria is not ready to handle an epidemic of any capacity and if we continue to consume wild animals, it will only be a matter of time before we become the epicentre of a new virus epidemic.