Game animals can be defined as land mammals and birds, either in the wild or farmed, which are not normally considered to be domestic animals, but are usually hunted for food. Examples of these animals include apes, such as chimpanzees and gorillas, as well as crocodiles, antelopes and scaly ant eaters. In Nigeria, game animals are commonly referred to as “Bush meat”.
Thousands of wild animals get caught in snares across Africa to feed the huge appetite for bush meat.
However, eating bush meat has its merits and demerits with regards to health implications. The advantage of eating game animals cannot be over-emphasized. Game meat has less saturated fat, which makes it healthier than other fatty meats. They are also low in calories when compared with beef and pork.
Secondly, wild game meat is high in Eicosapentaenoic acid, an essential omega -3 fatty acid that has several health benefits.
Thirdly, wild game grows in a natural environment. This makes their meat rich in vitamins and minerals, and free from growth hormones which are used in domestic meat and poultry production.
Thus, game meat is a good source of organic meat.
However, despite these benefits, great caution should be taken when eating game meat because of the following reasons.
Lack of proper meat inspection procedures
Consumption of game meat may be particularly dangerous because most of these animals are caught in traps, shot at by hunters, and in some cases, found dead in the bush and sold into the market straight away, without any meat inspection procedures carried out on the carcass by a professional to examine and guarantee that their flesh and organs, are free of disease and any food- borne contaminant or pathogen. In fact, experts say ape meat pose particular risks, with the HIV virus widely believed to have originated from chimpanzees. Apes also host diseases such as ebola, anthrax and yellow fever.
Ingestion of lead bullet fragments
A majority of game animals are usually shot by hunters using bullets made of lead. Fragments of these bullets can be seen when you examine the tissues of these animals. In some cases, while chewing on the meat, you can feel like there is some grit or small stone in it.
The implication of ingesting this lead pellets is that overtime, it will result in unsafe levels of lead in the body and this can interfere with a variety of metabolic activities in our bodies. Lead can also be toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, reproductive and nervous systems.
Smoking process contaminates meat
Most game meat is usually preserved by smoking and evidence suggests that smoked foods may contain carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue). This is because, the smoking process contaminates food with some compounds known as polycystic hydrocarbons and nitrosamines, which are commonly found in smoke. These compounds are known carcinogens. In fact, some scientific studies have found a positive statistical correlation between intestinal tract cancer and frequent intake of smoked food. As much as game meat is an irresistible delicacy in many cultures all over Nigeria and the world at large, great caution should be taken when handling or before the consumption of these animals. Here are a few steps that should be put into consideration to reduce the chances of contact with pathogens that may be present on and in the game animals.
First, wash your hands thoroughly with antiseptic soap or solution after handling the carcass of any game meat.
Second, do not cut the meat into large chunks. It is better to cut into small chunks so that the heat from boiling can easily penetrate the meat. If the chunks are too large, the centre may not be properly cooked because the heat may not be able to penetrate.
Also, after cutting, rinse properly until all traces of blood is removed.
Finally, you must ensure that you cook game meat properly. Never eat it raw. This is because they may contain a alot of micro organisms and parasites that can severely harm you.
An example is a case study of a 13 year old boy named Weijie from the Zhejiang province in Shanghai, China. He was diagnosed with Pentastomiasis (a zoonotic parasitic disease caused by blood sucking worms known as pentastomes) after eating the raw gall bladder of a snake. Hundreds of parasites were found in Weijie’s lung, liver, intestines and kidneys at the Fudan University’s Children Hospital.
The snake’s gall bladder was given to him by his parents because they thought it would keep their son healthy and improve his eye sight. Sounds funny though, but this is a Chinese myth.
Meng Silang, vice-secretary general of the Shanghai Traditional Medicine Association, says “Snake gall bladder is good for eyesight and clearing inner heat. The appropriate way is to parch the gall bladder and make it into a powder.”