“She told us that thirteen automobiles had passed there in the last two years, five in the last forty days; she had already lost two hens and would probably have to begin keeping everything penned up, even the hounds.”
–William Faulkner, The Reviers
Roadkill fascinates me. As the Faulkner quote suggests, it’s been around as long as cars, perhaps earlier. Of course, it’s sad. But not so sad that I stop and deal with the drama as if it were a human corpse splayed on the hardtop. It’s also inevitable–at least as long as humans persist in propelling themselves rapidly through space.
Municipal governments, many of whom nobly construct wildlife passages to minimize roadkill, dispose of it in a weird variety of ways. They incinerate roadkill, feed it to zoo animals, bury it, and toss it in landfills. Some places just leave the animal on the ground to decompose or evolve into vulture fodder. Increasingly, though, some are asking an interesting question: why shouldn’t humans eat it?
“Roadkill cuisine” has a Wikipedia page. There are roadkill cookbooks. Some states—yes, it’s typically states that have the last word on the fate of roadkill—offer “roadkill lists” that people sign up for to receive fresh deliveries after the state has retrieved and butchered the animal. In other states, when drivers hit a deer they’re permitted to take home the carcass and eat the meat. There’s actually such a thing as “roadkill couture”—a fashion forged in fur that’s supplied by animals accidentally run down in darkness or fog. Or by somebody texting.
Can vegans maintain their ethical position and still eat this unintended consequence of mechanized brute-force mobility? Don’t dismiss the question. I realize, of course, that eating roadkill would disqualify one, technically speaking, as a vegan. But definitions are overrated. So, in fact, I do think it’s legitimate to oppose raising animals for food (always) while, at the same time, eating a squirrel burger sourced from local asphalt. Would I eat roadkill? I would, if it’s safety could be guaranteed (and it was prepared in a palatable manner). But would I eat a human run over by a truck? No. Not unless I had to in order to survive.
I’ll admit that this refusal to eat one form of flesh and not the other potentially represents an ethical inconsistency, one that certainly carries more than a whiff of speciesism. I tend to trust my disgust meter as a fair indicator of what’s right and what’s wrong. But in this case it’s letting me down, or at least leaving me confused. Why does it go haywire over humans but not raccoons, given that I believe neither could be ethically raised to eat, but both could be ethically run down (accidentally) and processed into an edible object?