An upcoming paper by ecologist Martin Nunez and others to be published in Conservation Letters, the journal of the Society of Conservation Biology, encourages skepticism to this approach. In the paper, they argue that encouraging people to eat invasives may have unintended consequences. There’s a real risk, the authors argue, that people will start actually liking said invasives.
Entrepreneurs could develop markets for them; hunters could enjoy pursuing them. Invasives could become a part of the local culture. As a review in Conservation Magazine points out, native Hawaiians often oppose eradication measures for non-native pigs because pig hunting and eating is so clearly linked to their culture.
I can relate: On a recent weekend, my friends and organic gardeners Clay and Josie Erskine asked me to their farm to hunt the non-native (in Idaho) wild turkeys that had begun raiding their gardens. As we looked across their farm, ring-necked pheasants ran from the kale patch. Valley quail called from literally every corner of the property.
“Every one of them is a non-native species,” Josie sighed. “And they’re all absolutely devastating to vegetable farmers like us.”
Non-native quail, pheasants and turkeys have a constituency, though. Membership organizations advocate for their conservation. Landowners can receive government funding for practices that largely benefit these birds.
I reluctantly admit, as a non-native gamebird hunter, I would oppose any effort to eliminate these species.
Could campaigns to eat kudzu or camels or carp actually have the reverse effect? Could such campaigns lead to people protecting or spreading them?
It bears serious thought.