Cultural attitudes are stronger predictors of bushmeat consumption and preference than economic factors among urban Amazonians from Brazil and Colombia

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Bushmeat consumption persists in urban areas in the Neotropics, yet knowledge of its scale and the relative importance of cultural and economic factors in determining consumption and preference remain elusive. Moreover, the roles of cultural beliefs, social norms, and attitudes in driving urban bushmeat consumption are rarely evaluated. Therefore, we explored in this article the factors that influence consumption and preference for bushmeat in Amazonian towns. Given the availability of other sources of animal protein and the cultural and social importance of bushmeat in the region, we hypothesized that cultural attributes should be better predictors than economic factors of bushmeat consumption and preference. Data analysis involved fitting two-level mixed-effects regressions (random intercepts) to a structured sample of 227 individuals (99 households) from four towns in the Brazilian (Tabatinga and Atalaia do Norte) and Colombian (Leticia and Puerto Nariño) Amazon. The results indicate that a third of the interviewees had consumed bushmeat in the past month, which had primarily been harvested by the family or received as a gift rather than obtained through trade. In general, both economic and cultural factors predicted bushmeat consumption and preference, but the objective proxy for culture, individual origin, was unimportant. Among the tested indicators, the strongest predictor was the importance of bushmeat to social relations. Moreover, informal social norms, such as the greater importance attributed to taboos, tended to decrease the average number of wild species that a person would eat, whereas attitudes toward the illegality of hunting were less important. The two economic indicators, increased income and wealth, tended to decrease preference for bushmeat and the likelihood of consumption. Our findings highlight the importance of human beliefs, attitudes, and social norms to the understanding of bushmeat consumption and preference and may contribute to the design of more effective and locally appropriate conservation and management strategies.

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