Eating exotic meats while travelling: acceptable or not?
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Photo: Chloe ConnollyThe kudu is an antelope that lives in southern and eastern Africa, and the first time I ever saw one was also the day I first saw kudu steak on a menu, making me question whether it was morally acceptable for an animal born free in Namibian woodland to be killed and consumed by humans. Some people argue that it is a violation of an animal’s rights, and a violation of an animal’s most basic interest - to continue living. There is also the argument that the human interest in eating meat is trivial, because we don’t need meat to stay alive, and we are being selfish eating these wild animals for our own pleasure and experiences.
Yet, these initial thoughts didn’t prevent me trying a selection of Namibian meats. These were notably game animals that are plentiful in the country, such as gemsbok, warthog, springbok and wildebeest, and nothing endangered.
Photo: Chloe Connolly
Despite my initial guilt about eating meat from these beautiful creatures, many that I had only ever encountered in Namibia, I became more willing to do so after chatting with other gourmands, and the locals. Here are my reasons why.Environmentally friendly. Eating game meat from the country you’re in means a lower carbon foot print. By eating local game while travelling, you are likely reducing the distance from “farm to fork”, meaning fewer greenhouse gases are being released, compared to the high quantities released from livestock farming and transportation. It also means that you are supporting food derived from natural landscapes, and not from land cleared for farming, which destroys an unimaginable quantity of trees, vegetation and habitats. Reduced animal cruelty and suffering.
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Photo: Chloe ConnollyA healthier option. Exotic meats are generally known to be better for you than traditional, farmed meats, because they are typically lower in fat, cholesterol and calories. As game meat has not undergone selective breeding to increase fat content, unlike many farm animals, it is leaner than your usual meaty options. For example, ostrich is the leanest and most popular alternative to beef in Namibia, and one of the most nutritious meats out there: it is crammed with B-vitamins, aiding a healthy metabolism. Substituting beef with it could also reduce the risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Game meat is also free from the pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics, which are linked to the development of certain cancers, and antibiotic resistance. So, considering that wild game is free to roam basically where it likes in Namibia, eating natural vegetation, it is safe to say that game is the best organic meat out there. Eating meat, and being open to try exotic meats, is the easier option. With Namibia being such a carnivorous country, eating exotic meat (and meat in general) is quite simply the easier option, especially if you want to eat local. This said, typical meats like beef are readily available, but on several occasions, I was presented with no other choice than exotic game meat. What’s more, locally grown fruit and vegetables are not so common, with many being imported from Africa, so meat dishes are often the go-to. Of course, no one will force you to eat meat, but vegetarians may find it difficult to come across restaurants with more than a couple of meat-free dishes on the menu. It is easy to understand why someone may be against eating exotic meat. Yet, this opinion has often been generalised to the consumption of meat from endangered animals, such as pangolins or elephants, which cannot be tolerated if they are simply eaten for the “experience”. But, as I see it, it is perfectly acceptable to try common exotic meats - notably game meat - while in the countries where the meats are not actually considered exotic, because it is their normality. There is no harm in opening your mind to how others in the world survive.