(M)eat the Bush.

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I have no idea what is written about bush meat, only that some is, because when I reflected upon my experiences with illegal meat from the forest in the Amazon with my philosophy supervisor back in the also well rained (you may substitute reigned if you like, sorry?!) North West England, he made some references that gave it a name for me: bush meat.

That’s what we have on the plate in this blog entry: meat from the rain forest. The great thing about blogging and independent media in general is that although you have no idea what the canon states about a topic, theme or perennial problem you can just write on – no need to tilt and turn your imagination, persuade your reason and lullaby your critical faculties by reading what the rich, famous and CamOxHarYaMIT educated had to say and thereby wanted us to think about something. Open Mic, init!?!

That said, of course, it must be stressed that knowledge and wisdom (not that I possess either) is to be found inter-subjectively and even inter-generationally, certainly inter-culturally and of course inter-racially as well as inter-speciously (is that word?).

It is, in other words, it is a good thing to calibrate your expressions in relation to what other people have thought or do think about something; that way communication widens and, potentially, our knowledge (about ourselves) does too.

It’s just that academic writing is so stiff, so up its own arse – and this is not even taking into consideration the little things that academics do, which drives me mad, “That was a very interesting presentation, thank you”, so begins a performance question, and continues: “and it made me think about this and that, which leads me to my own work,” (which does not even really have to be related to the presentation), “where I do this, this, and that, and I just published it there.” By which point you know you have to get out of the room, well, really, out of the institution. It’s them or your mind! Save the trees and the bees, eat an academic?

Here I can loudly declare my ignorance – state the incredible: I know nothing about what the elite has written about bush meat, –and I cannot find out right now either, which I would normally have, because I have no internet access as I am writing this. The antenna from the hill in the “distance” is not feeding us our usual microwave radiation. But I know what I think and I have a little puzzle for you – well, it isn’t much of a puzzle. It does consist of pieces, but I have laid them for you; there is (almost something like) an argument. I didn’t spend the last seven years of my life in the institution lamented above for nothing: I will tell you what to think!

Bush meat is meat from the bush (hehe). It is called so to contrast it with the meat of the civilized world (with all the humane, animal right observing slaughterhouses, medicinal farming practices and other chemical boosts that give us today our daily meat). Bush meat is not legal, in fact it is illegal. It would be very tempting to here digress into a discussion about the work of Giorgio Agamben, the state of exception, bare life and all that jazz about the included excluded (or is it vice versa, or perhaps both ways?), but we will have to leave that for later. Back to the bone we were picking.

There are rules for handling, storing and vending meat in most places, followed more or less. These are rules that can be somewhat sensible for when it comes to restaurants and so on, since it could be harmful to people if not a minimum of hygienic standards were observed – on the other hand, why not just stick your head out in the kitchen and see for yourself? In general, these kind of regulations are not something with which I would particular bother: they wouldn’t make me change my practices, I feel responsible enough (ha!).

The kind of law that makes bush meat interestingly problematic is the protection afforded to endangered species. The other day I ate some bush meat – not that I really wanted to, I must say, admitting that I am quite conservative when it comes to meat and inners, but it was served in a context where my social standing, my social relations to people with whom I am circumstantially related for a while, was at stake. I had to eat it and thank heaven that it was just a pig like creature -far better option than the big fat once squiggling now BBQ’ed maggot I had the other night at the French girl’s leaving do.

The pig-like creature is called a peccary in English – it comes in two varieties in Ecuador: Collared and White-lipped. The name peccary is derived from the Carib Pakira, I cannot remember at the moment what the Kichwa people in the Ecuadorian Amazon call it, can I get back to you on that please? The Latin name is, for the collared: Tayassu tajacu (body length: 90cm); and the white-lipped is called Tayassu pecari (body length: 1m). See the buggers here.

Peccaries [in case anyone feels like they need to get to the bottom of this] and deer are the two Neo-tropical representatives of the Order Artiodactyla, the globally distributed hoofed mammals (ungulates) with even numbers of toes on each foot. Other artiodactyls are pigs, hippos, giraffes, antelope, bison, buffalo, cattle, gazelles, goats, and sheep. In general, the group is specialized to feed on leaves, grass, and fallen fruit.” (So the fallen fruit had its revenge?) This is a quote from the well-written and at times humorous “Travellers’ Wildlife Guides: Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands” by David L. Pearson and Les Beletsky.

I am not sure whether it was a collared or a white-lipped, I didn’t kiss it and it had undressed long before I arrived on the scene. It was toast, ma’n! So I ate it – that’s the least respect you can show a being that died to land on your plate.

The peccary is well known in this part of the world and is an interesting animal that hunts for food in herds, the White-Lipped with hundred or more others,while the collared ones stick to smaller family groups. The former is becoming more rare, and you can see why: a hundred hungry hogs traversing the forest for food is an easy target. I hope I ate one that was dispensable. Probably not. And this brings us to the problem of bush meat eating: some of these animals are threatened and therefore there are conservation laws to protect them.

So, it is a bad thing to eat them? Well, maybe; but what is good for you might not be good for me – or for someone else. “It’s the relative thing, stupid!”

Two things have to be taken into account. Firstly, the eating of bush meat is a traditional practice and has been going on around here for longer than western civilization (and if, as we may hope, western civilization withers bush meating will continue as well) – as such it is a constitutional element of indigenous peoples’ identity: they are the ones who eat the meat from the bush. Secondly, it is not the indigenous peoples’ practices that primarily threaten the forest and its animals and people and plants. The eating of bush meat is not a problem until you add (the white man and) capitalism.

With more and more of the forest destroyed every day there is obviously less space for the animals and the humans – and so all have to suffer. Animals die, sometimes become extinct, and humans do too, many tribes have kicked the bucket, but unlike most other mammals of the forest they can urbanise; and so they do, for better and worse.

But indigeous people want, like most others, to maintain some of their original identity, which is embedded, in part, in a range of practices, one of which is – yes you guessed it: bush meat eating.

And so the problem of bush meat takes on a whole new meaning, another layer is added: the market. Many indigenous people have been urbanised for generations and so they might have a finca (an allotment type plot) or go for visits every now and then to relatives still living in the (rim of the) forest, but they don’t go hunting (very much, if at all). Instead they buy meat from the forest on the market.

Hence we have a positive feedback loop, business as usual: the more indigenous people who live in towns with an income sufficient to buy bush meat, the more there is sold and the more the prices go up, since bush meat is difficult to get hold of, and, of course, the more threatened the animals become, the more valuable they are.

This leads to the old familiar class division: the well off indigenous people can maintain their identity, they can afford to be indigenous – and those who cannot afford to buy expensive meat in the market –the many indigenous people who live in slums, in make-shift houses along the often flooding rivers and so on–, they cannot afford to be indigenous. The great freedoms of the market has bought them out, sold their souls. They are unable to themselves for economic reasons. All the while the rich get richer and the poor stay poor, the environment collapses – sounds familiar? Or is this is a phenomenon isolated to here?

The peccary is dead meat, and although I’d rather meet a dead Bush, then dead bush meat, for sure, there is no reason to apportion too much blame to the indigenous people – they were fine until we came.

Lyrics from Roy Harper’s “I Hate the White Man”.

 

“Far across the ocean
In the land of look and see
There once was a time
For you and me

Where the winds blow sweetly
And the easy seas flow still
And where the barefoot dream of life
Can laugh and cry its fill

 

Where slot machine confusions
And the plastic universe
Are objects of amusement
In the fiction of their curse

 

And where the crazy whiteman
And his teargas happiness
Lies dead and long since buried
By his own fantastic mess.”

For I hate the whiteman
And his plastic excuse
For I hate the whiteman
And the man who turned him loose…

 

And the reins of coloured thunder
Of the stallion of the dawn
Ride the coalfire morning
On the beach where all is born

 

Where the emperor of meaning
Is burning up his forts
And sits to warm his toes around
A fire made up of useless thoughts

 

And when the children tempt him
With the riddles of their trance
He flings the flames of solstice
Casting laughs into their dance

 

And while a crazy whiteman
In the desert of his bones
Lies as bleached as the paradise
He likes to think he owns

 

And I hate the whiteman
In his evergreen excuse
Oh I hate the whiteman
And the man who turned him loose…

 

And far across the reaches
Of the drifting yellow sands
The living carpet wilderness
Forever joins its hands

 

With heaven hell’s attainment
In a surging crest of fire
Where more than all is thrown upon
The ever lasting pyre

 

And through the countless canticles
Of Jason’s charcoal fleece
Are sung the songs of nothing
In the timeless masterpiece

 

And there stood in the middle
Guess who?
It’s the everlasting burst
Built by god’s very own whiteman
As he tries to rule the dust

 

And I hate the whiteman
In his doctrinaire abuse
Oh I hate the whiteman
And the man who turned you all loose…

 

And the bowels of his city
Have been locked into a safe
Where the spew stains on the sidewalks
Are defenders of his faith

 

While back inside his kitchen
The bowler hatted, long haired saint
Cleans with soap and water
But it’s really just white paint

 

While his golden headed scandal sheets
Present their daily bite
To give their righteous news-bleeders
Drugs to keep them white

 

While outside in the whitewash
Where the guns are always, always right
A shooting star has summoned
Its dark angel from his night

 

And I hate the whiteman
And his evergreen excuse
Oh I hate the whiteman
And the man who turned you all loose
And the man who turned him loose…”

!!Hasta la victoria siempre.

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4 thoughts on “(M)eat the Bush.

    yucca said:
    Wednesday, November 29, 2006 at 14:57 (664)

    i disagree with ‘dispensable’ ’cause i think that animals are individuals, and that therefore whether the species is in danger or not does not make a difference to the individual animal’s right to life. but im not gonna argue for it, for the very reasons that you gave

    colono responded:
    Wednesday, November 29, 2006 at 17:44 (781)

    A right to life sounds good, but the general idea of extending the liberal, paternal conception of rights to animals, indeed to any human group, is much more problematic than usually, in the mainstream of philosophy (which is a series of apologies for the status quo of the White Man’s rule over the world), taken into consideration.

    Community groups, social movements, in my opinion, have to articulate their own right – right, if they are to mean anything sensible (and contain a radical political moment) and not simply act as a legitimisation of the powers that be.

    Therefore it makes no sense to talk about the right of an individual animal – since animals can only ever be treated paternally in (human) legal language – as this is a realm/domain from which they are naturally excluded, having no skills to communicate with constitutional lawyers (who have no skills to communicate with anyone but themselves, of course).

    Hence, we either need to talk about rights in a different manner, or we have find another term, another way, another framework with which to protect animals – and I think they do deserve protection. But if we are to extend the concept of human rights in the wrong direction, the paternal direction, then we are eliminating the emancipatory potential of the human rights language and movements – and giving into liberal, paternal rule of the few over the many, who are treated, indeed, like animals: subjects of control, regulation and government from the top down.

    Instead we need to move in the opposite direction and reclaim the radical potential of rights – self-legislation, self-determination and autonomy being the key words, from a political philosophy perspective, to deploy in order to affect such a reorientation to rights language and action. In “The End of Human Rights” by Costas Dounzinas there are some relevant ruminations to this effect, notwithstanding his otherwise problematic flirtations with postmodern theory (particularly in “Postmodern Jurisprudence – more on that later), which takes him straight back to square one.

    In any case, all living things deserve respect and some degree of protection and animals are no more deserving of that than any carrot or tree, without which none of us can survive.

    yucca said:
    Saturday, December 2, 2006 at 09:07 (422)

    wait wait, our respect for animals has nothing to do (ought to have nothing to do is not necessary here, because it is already in the concept of ‘respect’) with our survival… it is not, as i think they call it, a question of instrumental value… so i would actually like to know why carrots deserve respect – im quite main stream: human and non-human animals who suffer deserve respect, the rest, which does not suffer, does not.

    on rights and self-determination, i quite like what you say. only a couple of things: the expression of pain might be the non-human animal’s self-determination and voice – and it speaks very clearly, and it aint true that we dont understand that. and so it is not true that they can’t communicate.

    the other thing is that by violating an individual that ought not to be violated you are violating yourself too, and your points dont apply to one’s relationship to oneself. so that might be a consideration against mis-treating animals… but i guess its a quite egocentric one…

    Reebok Dumbbells Adjustable said:
    Saturday, September 27, 2014 at 01:30 (104)

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