Environmental writer George Monbiot recently cooked up a squirrel while camping, and tweeted about how good the meat (marinated for a few hours in lemon juice to soften it up) tasted. Twitter went crazy, calling Monbiot a monster, or employing crazy logic to compare cooking up a rodent with eating human flesh.
One correspondent, an habitual meat-eater, told him he should “have respect for the life and feel sorrow it has been killed. Not think skin it and eat it. ” So Monbiot went on TV and cooked up another squirrel to show how it’s done.
Back at the campsite, Monbiot sharpened his axe and gathered the children for a quick anatomy lesson.
“I showed the squirrel to the small tribe of children that had formed in the campsite, girls and boys between the ages of three and nine, and asked them if they’d like to watch me prepare it. As I expected, they clustered round, enthralled. How wrong we are to assume that children will be repelled and horrified by dead animals. On the contrary, they want to see as much as they can. What tends to repel and horrify them is the suffering of live animals. In this respect, they often seem to me to have a keener ethical sense than adults do,” he says.
The heart of Monbiot’s pro-roadkill-dinner argument is that the meat is environmentally neutral. Unlike factory-farmed meat, the animal enjoys its life right up until it is snuffed out by a car radiator grille. “While free-range production tends to be kinder to the animals, its environmental impacts can be much worse,” he says. “Free range chicken and pig farms pollute groundwater and rivers. A friend describes the worst examples as ‘opencast pig mining.'”
By contrast, roadkill, be it squirrel, deer, or pigeon, requires no resources to produce, no environmentally-damaging soy production to feed it, and no antibiotics to protect it against an unnatural environment. The same goes for animals that are hunted to control their numbers. “The animals are killed primarily for pest control and will continue to be killed, like the squirrel on the road, whether or not we eat the meat,” says Monbiot.
So should we all start barbecuing roadkill? Why not? After all, if you find it fresh and still floppy, what’s the difference between a car and a shotgun as a killing method? In fact, roadkill may be better, as you don’t have to pick the lead shot out of the meat.