Like any other Saturday, 41-year-old Roy Nangka patiently waits for customers at his stall at the Beriman Market in Tomohon, North Sulawesi, a market notorious for selling wild animal meat, from snakes to rats, bats and other critters.
In spite of recent studies linking wild meat consumption with the transmission of Covid-19 to humans, exotic animal meat-based cuisine remains a large part of Minahasan culture.
But as countries wrestle with the loss of life and economic instability caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the knock-on effects are felt even at Tomohon’s markets.
Roy said he used to sell up to 200 kilograms of paniki (bat meat) every week, priced at around Rp 100,000 (S$10) per kilogram. But now he said he was lucky to sell 20 kilograms, for Rp 40,000 per animal.
“Locals eat paniki almost every day, but lately the number of consumers has been decreasing. Not because they fear the coronavirus, but because there is not much money
“I didn’t used to think about the health risks, unlike now. Maybe because every day we hear about people getting sick and dying from the coronavirus,” he said.
Meanwhile, many local administrations have already tried to discourage residents from eating wild animal meat.
The Tomohon city administration has tried to put a cap on the trade of wild meat by limiting the supply of bats and snakes from outside North Sulawesi, while also urging vendors to sell more common farmed meats such as pork, chicken and beef.
“We have activated two posts to stop the shipment of bat meat from outside North Sulawesi to Tomohon Market,” city secretary Harold Lolowang said. He noted that some 90 per cent of wild meat in Tomohon came from other parts of Sulawesi.
Meanwhile, Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi “Rudy” Rudyatmo said that although his administration could not forcibly close down wild meat vendors, they would be supervised and persuaded to change products.
“We promote healthy living, so if consumers are aware
However, the means for stopping people from consuming wild animals are scarce.
Some 919 wild species of animals and plants are protected by law, according to Environmental and Forestry Ministerial Regulation No. 20/2018.
However, the hunting and selling of wild animals not included on the protected species list is not illegal, although one might argue that consuming such animals could upset nature’s balance.
Nasi said it was a bad idea and called for more awareness campaigns on proper sanitary methods for processing wild meat to be run in rural areas.
“Wild meat is neither more dangerous nor more unsafe than improperly processed domestic meat,” he said.
“The main issue is that very often the processing of carcasses and the markets where the meat is sold have very low standards of hygiene and cleanliness.”
And even if wild animal consumption can be curtailed, other exploits by mankind can still upset the ecological balance of nature and lead to a zoonotic disease outbreak, said John E. Fa, a researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“It is not good to blame a particular species of wild meat and people. It is more to do with how we disrupt nature and do away with the balance of nature that creates new conditions for viruses and pathogens to jump,” the CIFOR senior associate said in a recent online discussion.
This article was first published in Asia One . All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.