The Ethiopian civet provides a rare and valuable perfume ingredient. The aromatic paste has been collected from captive civets for hundreds of years by Muslim farmers and its collection is considered an act of piety and devotion. However, many of the traditional methods are outdated and seen in the West as barbaric. This led to a western boycott on Civet products and the collapse of the market for Civet paste and left impoverished farmers in a struggling economy with few resources and little incentive to develop a new and more modern industry. For this reason, little has changed over the past 60 years for the animals and the remaining, reduced number, of captive Civets, experience little improvement in their conditions.
Though much could be done to modernize methods and habitat, resources to implement change have been insufficient and this will not change until there is a market demand for a more animal-centric and modern product. It is a catch 22. Dan has met with Civet farmers and exporters in Ethiopia gaining their support for a new model Civet farm. But without an increased interest in the end product and the development of a healthy Western market demand nothing much will change. We need to engage the problems head-on with our full attention, commitment and resources if we hope to see it change.
Dan Riegler is the author of Apothecary’s Garden Blog, and owner of Apothecary’s Garden Etsy shop. He sources sustainable aromatics and produces perfume, incense, cosmetic and therapeutic products and ingredients for artisans around the world. With a focus on the welfare of the plants, the land and the harvester communities that steward them, Dan often travels and visits collectors, farmers and harvesters in remote areas. One of his ongoing projects is centred around the Ethiopian Civet “cat”.