Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On the Ethics of Eating Roadkills

Some of you may recall an earlier post, in which we acquired one accidentally-killed deer's worth of meat. At first I thought I might eat it, but decided against it. Richard Dawkins must have heard my dilemma, for he questions ethicist, animal rights advocate, and Australian Peter Singer on the ethics of eating roadkills, both non-human and human.

Singer agrees with Dawkins that there should be no ethical objection to either. Although, as my comrade Ken often says, dead animals aren't food. By trying to find exceptions to the rule, one normalizes the eating of dead animals. A truly accomplished vegetarian realizes that refraining from eating dead animals isn't a burden, as eating dead animals is entirely undesirable. Like punching a baby in the face. Conceivably, there could be a situation that warranted, or even required, baby face punching, but we don't seek out these situations to satisfy our latent baby punching desires. (Don't ask me to concoct such a scenario, I'm just saying it is logically possible.)

Once Ken and I walked by a trash can and saw a leather briefcase being thrown out. It had a tear that made in unacceptable as a vessel for fine legal briefs, or whatever it was it transported in its course of service. "Say, Ken," I asked, "we could take the leather off that briefcase and turn it into moccasins." "Or," Ken suggested, "we give it a proper burial."

(Want to hear an overly technical argument against second-hand leather? Let's say A types will only buy new leather and B types will buy new or used leather. C types will only buy used leather, thinking it is more ethical. However, as C types buy up the stock of used leather, this leads to B types buying more new leather, as used leather becomes scarce. A second effect is that it drives up the price of used leather, making new leather a better investment. "Sure", and A type might think, "that's a lot for that leather trench coat, but I know I will be able to recoup most of the price when I sell it on the second-hand market.")

I think the only situation that could warrant dead animal eating is survival situations, such as being stranded in the mountains in a snow storm and eating porcupine.

Mountain lore says that you never kill porcupines, except in survival situations. Being covered in spines, they lack defenses to skull-crushing blows with tree branches. This makes them easy targets. Mountain lore singles out porcupines, however, as they are high in fat. Eating only rabbits, the story goes, will actually kill you, through a process known as "rabbit starvation." Apparently, if you don't enough fat your body kills you. This is not the case with porcupine. Therefore, a wise mountain dweller lets the porcupine live so that it will be there when you need it.

This started out as an excuse to post the Dawkins/Singer video, and I seem to have gone on for a while. Some say this is what talking with me in real life is like.