By Jessica Bell Rizzolo – Science Direct
Many wildlife species are impacted by unsustainable consumption. Wildlife is consumed for such diverse purposes as food, medicine, ornamentation, entertainment, and social status. However, it is still debated whether legalization and wildlife farming can saturate demand and thus reduce poaching, or if these policies increase demand, and subsequently poaching of vulnerable wildlife. This paper used an experimental vignette survey in Mainland China (N = 1002) to explore empirically how legalization, wildlife farming, and possible changes in consumptive acceptability affect demand for wildlife products. Each respondent read a vignette about the consumption of a wildlife product from one of four species (bears, tigers, snakes, or turtles), for one of two uses (medicinal or non-medicinal), in one of three legal situations (product is illegal, product is legal and from farmed animal, or product is legal and from wild animal). All respondents were asked about the acceptability of wildlife consumption, the social stigma around consumption, and the perceived legal consequences of consumption for eight products: bear bile, bear paws, tiger bone, tiger skin, snake bile, snake leather, turtle shells, and turtle meat. Data was analyzed using linear regression models that included interaction effects and controlled for age, gender, education, income, and attitudes towards specific species, towards wildlife consumption, and towards Traditional Chinese Medicine. Wildlife product bans decreased the acceptability and social approval of wildlife consumption and increased estimations of legal punishments. The type of ban that produced these effects depended upon the wildlife product and the measurement of wildlife consumption. The effects of wildlife farming on demand for wildlife products were particularly prominent for mammals. Bear farming increased the acceptability and perceived social approval of bear bile; it also decreased perceived legal sanctions for bear consumption. Tiger farming diminished perceived legal sanctions for tiger consumption and farming tigers for medicinal use increased the acceptability of tiger consumption. Overall, these results indicate that bans on wildlife consumption and decreased wildlife farming of mammals can have conservation benefits.
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