It’s been more than five years since I first posted on Roger Beattie’s felicitous “Eat them to save them” campaign. And I still am not allowed to buy a weka for dinner.
Roger is one of New Zealand’s great enviropreneurs: the National Farming Review called him an Eco Anarchist. He loves the environment and sees the best way of saving it as ensuring that it’s profitable to save it. Weka are endangered, but they’re easily farmed and tasty. Why aren’t we raising them for the restaurant trade and conserving an endangered species in the process? The Department of Conservation says no. They say no incredibly incoherently. But their “No” is what matters.
Roger features in Vice’s “Munchies” column this week. Here’s an excerpt.
How do you think we should be protecting endangered species?We need to change the legislation. We wonder why we’re losing 6 percent of our kiwi population per year. The Department is right in identifying the problem, but have the wrong solutions. A market solution is necessary. If private individuals want to do conservationist things, there should be no impediment. We farm native paua, plenty of people are propagating native trees—but certain native species can’t be farmed. No species that have ever been farmed have ever died out. Since man has been in New Zealand, we’ve lost 44 bird species because they were protected. If you’ve got the choice between something being protected and dying, and something being farmed and thriving, that’s not much of a choice.What species do you want to farm first?In terms of sustainable farming, you have to have a species that is friendly and tasty. What I do know about is weka. Weka grow fast, they can be farmed with only a relatively small amount of capital, they eat a variety of food, and are cheap to grow and keep. We’ve bred hundreds of them and given them away. You’re not allowed to sell them without a permit. You’d end up in jail.
I’d love to see work on the economics of allowing the breeding and sale of jewelled geckos, or tuatara, for the pet trade.