If A Deer Dies In The Woods Should Anyone Eat It?
As Rhys Southan reminds us, a cogent objection to eating roadkill is that doing so might incentivize carnivorously-inclined drivers to run over animals on purpose. One envisions a bunch of bubbas hunting big game with old trucks equipped with cattle guards. In fact, the more I contemplate the option, the more I find myself appreciating its likelihood. Recall, this blog hails from the Lone Star State. Plus, one study found that 2 percent of drivers swerve not to avoid turtles, but to crush them. Pitchfork readers: I do not joke.
So, lets’s shift the terms of the hypothesis and ask if it’s ethically problematic to consume animals that have died natural deaths—that is, death without significant human intervention, such as involuntary vehicular homicide. The circumstances of this death could be violent—the losing deer in a fatal rutting match—or it could be peaceful—the death of an old moose whose body simply decided to quit. Despite the perception that nature is brutal—and, of course, it is to a point—a lot of wild animals check out as a result of a natural death. It’s not unusual for deer to live 18 years in the wild, or for pigeons to live for 15.
Why should humans not compete with ants and vultures for this carrion? Scavenging for dead animals might not only be ethically acceptable, but it could have several advantages for animals. If we limited our choice of animal products to what we could forage, there’d be an incentive to preserve wilderness habitats, thereby enhancing biodiversity while ensuring that we could eat increasing amounts of meat. Sourcing more calories from forest fauna would also take pressure off plant-based agriculture, thereby reducing the deaths of animals caught in the onslaught of harvesters and spray guns. We would also eat animals with humility under such circumstances, if for no other reason than the fact that, as foragers, our talents would come nowhere near those of ants and vultures. Finally, the flesh we ate would be healthier than what’s now available—free of antibiotics, vaccines, hormones, and other diseases causes by domestication.
I’m starting to wonder: can one be a vegan and a forager of dead animal flesh?