The Ethiopian civets haven’t completely escaped controversy. A boycott remains on civet musk oil, a key ingredient of perfume. The London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals released a 1999 report highlighting “medieval-like” conditions, including tiny cages, for the 3,000 African civets kept in captivity for the harvesting of musk from the animal’s anal glands. It then asked the perfume manufacturers to stop using Ethiopian civet musk, and asked consumers to boycott products or companies suspected of using the musk.
Though wild civets, dining on natural food sources, produce the coffee beans, the treatment of the captive civets was something Dinkin felt must be addressed.
Dinkin was careful to keep the Ethiopian government and regional officials aware of his project. They remain sensitive to complaints about the treatment of captive civets because the WSPA campaign has hurt exports of musk, an expensive ingredient.
Dinkin says his venture will include encouraging the Ethiopian farmers to use more humane methods, including modern cages, in the musk trade.
The Ethiopians seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach.
“We are supportive, once it was clear he wasn’t connected with WSPA, that it wouldn’t be harmful to us,” says Kumara Wakjira, manager with the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization. “Yes, we thought he was a little crazy. But it was also, `Let them try.'”
Marcone returned to Canada armed with vials and bags filled with coffee beans, civet feces and other local samples. He took copious notes on all his observations where the samples were found, local conditions, even measurements showing how far coffee beans fell from the trees. He took 500 photos, some scientific, others for his own memories.
News from Ethyopia, wild civet versus civet farms
Civet is a fantastic odour that works miracles in perfumes lending them a third dimension and conferring them a wild sensuality.
The sheer price of the raw material has taken it out of the perfume market in any relevant manner, specially in mainstream fragrances because not only is it very expensive but also in very limited quantity on earth.
The conditions of captivity in which are held the animals who produce this smelling wonder have caused many informed customers to refuse perfumes that contain it. In consequence Indie perfumers, the only ones who could afford using it have renounced to do so, least to loose image and clients.
In this way an important part of the perfume tradition which they were the only ones to keep alive went lost. In traditional perfumery, animal scents were considered indispensable and Civet was one of the main ones.
There is good news for ethically minded customers and perfumers, but also for the other ones who regret the disappearance of civet in perfumery.
Wild civet paste.
It is gathered from the wild, on the stones and trees where the small animal deposits it.
How can one recognize it? It is much more strong than the farm civet. Just like wild goat meat is much stronger than far goat meat. Its texture is not smooth as the farm one but it contains grains of sand and other impurities. It is also 5 to 10 times more expensive than the farm one.
The farmers in Ethiopia have difficulty finding a market for their production, in such a way the big companies who are the main customers keep the price low and the farmers poor. Finding an alternate market is not possible for them. They are trapped.
I believe that the hundreds of indie perfumers who are working around making better products than corporations could start using it and benefit from using it.
Why were animal scents deemed indispensable until 60 or 70 years ago? Because simply they sell better, they attract more customers. They gather more “I like”.
An ethical and sustainable civet in perfume may become very important for perfumers, for perfumery, for perfume buyers, for Ethiopian people and first of all for the lovely civet “cats”.
If the wild civet musk paste finds a market free civets will become an asset to protect for the owners of the land who can collect it. They would protect their civets and their habitat. Just for personal interest while now they capture them to sell them to farmers who replace those dead in captivity.
Pure wild civet musk is definitely an extreme olfactory experience. It is stronger even that the absolute, It has a wealth of nuances and a fullness that the absolute, made from farm civet musk does not possess.