It sounds gross, but roadkill salvage is popular in some parts of the US. Montana is fast-tracking ‘roadkill salvage’ legislation, joining a handful of states where the practice is legal, even encouraged.
Erik Petersen/The Livingston Enterprise/AP/File
Montana is set to license the salvage of roadkill for human consumption, formalizing a practice that is already legal in West Virginia and Illinois, though discouraged in other states, including Texas.
Roadkill salvage and consumption remains a fringe activity, mainly practiced by so-called “freegans” and other culinary subcultures. In Alaska, however, those who utilize soup kitchens are likely to have had a taste, since fresh roadkill is regularly given to charities. Interestingly, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which opposes most forms of hunting, has pushed states to adopt “roadkill salvage” legislation so as not to let animals go to waste.
Roadkill salvage has been occurring at least since the 1920s, when animal casualties began to pile up on America's expanding roadways. Many states today take a hands-off approach to the practice. When Tennessee considered a roadkill bill, the proposal was basically laughed out of committee. But Tennessee authorities said no law officer would likely ever charge anybody with “possession of roadkill with intent to eat.”
The practice also has deep cultural implications, often in the form of negative stereotypes about country folk and rednecks. Yet today, many proponents frame it as a paragon of husbandry ethics that’s tasty and, if carefully inspected, safe.
“If people must eat animal carcasses, roadkill is a superior option to the neatly shrink-wrapped plastic packages of meat in the supermarket,” Vermonter Paul Opel, who has salvaged roadkill for 30 years, told Food Safety News in 2011.
The Montana measure, which passed the state Senate, 33 to 15 vote, Tuesday and will soon head to the governor’s desk, allows law enforcement to issue roadkill salvage permits for elk, deer, antelope, and moose.