Zimbabwe Plans to Feed Elephants to Hungry Prisoners

elephant at sunset photo
Photo: alex.coles / cc

Elephants are one of the most intelligent, majestic, and beloved animals on the planet -- and they may soon be filling the stomachs of convicted criminals. For the last four years, inmates housed in Zimbabwe's overcrowded prisons have been served a vegetarian diet, but a new government proposal aims to put meat back on the menu; Pachyderm meat, to be exact.The Zimbabwean prison system is overcrowded and underfunded, making it difficult to feed its 13,000 incarcerated criminals more than the most basic of dishes. According to reports, it's been several years since the inmates have had any meat in their diets. Instead they've subsisted on meals of mainly beans and cabbage -- but that soon may change.

At a recent meeting to discuss the inmates' dietary deficiency, officials from Zimbabwe's Justice Ministry believe they have found a perfect solution for the prisons' bland cafeteria offerings that doesn't drain the nation's monetary wealth -- just its natural ones.

"It was at this meeting that the ministry and the Prison Services Commission considered elephant meat as an option," Deputy Minister of Justice Obert Gutu told The Zimbabwe Independent.

"It was agreed that since experts say that there is an overpopulation of elephants in the country why not get some of the elephants and give them to prisoners as meat, since we don't have the meat neither do we have the money to buy it. It was agreed to say let's get into a deal with relevant authorities and arrange something."

Officials pressing for the slaughter of elephants for food cite claims that there are some 100,000 of the animals in the country -- but conservation specialists believe that number is grossly inflated. Johnny Rodrigues, from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, says there are more likely less than 35,000 elephants there -- and that a state-sponsored cull would be misguided from the start.

"One of the biggest foreign currency earners in the country is tourism. How then can we steal from our own heritage? Why are we selling our future heritage down the drain? We should be looking after these intelligent animals so that they are not killed," Rodrigues told The Independent.

To some Zimbabweans, elephants are considered pests for grazing on farmers' crops in a land where food supplies are often limited -- a fact cited by GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons who faced an outpouring of criticism for gleefully killing one of them on video recently -- though it is only recently that the animals have been considered a source of meat. Over the last decade, however, President Robert Mugabe has tried to popularize elephant meat by serving it to soldiers and at government ceremonies.

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