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Applied Anthropology of Game Meat Distribution and Consumption: New perspectives on hunting for a post-industrial world

Research period:2016.10-2019.3

OISHI Takanori


Diversification of hunting practice, food system, market economy


This study aims to examine current hunting practices throughout the world, and in Japan, with a particular emphasis on consumption. Perspectives on hunting in cultural anthropology and Japanese ethnology have often been limited to traditional livelihood practices. Today, however, the increasing demand for gibier (game meat) is leading to commercial hunting and bush meat trade between rural and urban regions. Such changes are leading to the emergence of hunting industries that are interested in international markets. This study endeavors (1) to examine hunting conducted for wildlife damage prevention in recent years, and initiatives surrounding the use of game meat, through primary ethnographic data collection, particularly in Japan; (2) to conduct a comparative analysis of case studies on distribution and consumption of game meat found throughout the world, in order to better contextualize trends found in Japan. In particular, we are interested in how changes in consumption patterns of game meat may be contributing to changes seen in hunting methods (the use of hunting tools, slaughtering), disassembling and distribution methods, the conceptualization of hygiene associated with meat packing processes, how trading institutions are organized, and the public awareness surrounding food and the environment. Furthermore, cross-cultural comparisons will be conducted to deepen our perspectives on the uniqueness of initiatives found and potential problems emerging in Japan.

Research Results

We confirmed that there are cultures that actively eat game meat and those that do not, and that there are considerable regional differences. First of all, the definition of “game meat,” what species are included in the definition, and what parts are considered edible, differ by culture, region, and time period. And the consumers of game meat are not limited to humans; game meat is also often given to domestic animals such as dogs. When thinking about game meat, we need to consider the relationship between people and animals, including what animals and parts are not considered edible today and non-food uses. Moreover, game meat as food is closely related to issues such as class, ethnicity, nationalism, indigenousness, and religion.
Whether game meat is rooted in food culture depends greatly on how it is represented as a product or food in the community and whether it holds symbolic meaning. How what parts of what animals are used or forbidden has been treated as an issue related to culture, as exemplified in food taboo research, but it needs to be dynamically understood within its relationship with programs and policies related to nature conservation, hunting management, and food sanitation.
The following are the knowledge and future challenges of the project, found using Japan as an example, which a relatively large number of presentations dealt with. Before the Meiji Period, many types of wild animals were eaten in Japan, but with the spread of livestock meat, consumption dropped to nearly zero. In rural communities, game meat had been continuously used mainly by the hunters and those around them, but recently it has been commercialized and come to be used by urban consumers under the term gibier (the French term for game). We found that the transformation of game meat into “gibier” has resulted in various changes to food culture and the position of hunting in both urban and rural communities. But there are considerable regional differences in such changes. In order to clarify the diverse ways changes in consumption have affected hunting activities and shed light on their socio-cultural factors, further research is needed that also takes into account processes that have hardly been researched, such as game meat processing plants and urban gibier restaurants.