Why not take fur from roadkill?

by on December 4, 2014 at 2:22 pm in Economics, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Permalink

There may be a nascent movement towards reappropriating roadkill as ethical meat, but sustainable fur couture? Paquin was in uncharted territory. No matter: In short order she located a taxidermist in Vermont who schooled her in the nitty-gritty of skinning and — oof — scraping an animal pelt ahead of the tanning process. Her induction came in the form of a deceased raccoon: “We both had a shot of whiskey, I put some peppermint oil under my nose, and we found a branch in the woods to hang this thing from. It was super intense.”

There is more here, from Meaghan Agnew.  I found these estimates interesting though perhaps speculative:

So, how many animals do you think get killed on the streets of this country every year? Whatever your guesstimate, go higher: according to Culture Change, it’s  approximately 1 million a day, or 365 million a year. By comparison, Born Free USA reports that approximately 50 million animals are killed every year for their fur.

For the pointer I thank Hugo Lindgren.

1 Cooper December 4, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Roadkill animals are different than traditional fur animals.

How many minks and chinchillas are killed by cars? (very few)

And how much demand is there for possum or squirrel fur? (very little)

2 So Much for Subtlety December 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm

There is more demand for possum and squirrel than you might think. There is a whole market in ethical fur from New Zealand that is made from released and now problematic possums.

How many minks and chinchillas are killed by cars? I think that depends. If your wife is willing to fork out thousands of dollars for a coat, then the answer is more than you might think. The supply might be a little bit elastic. I mean, it would be tough to hold the little bastards down but I am sure someone would be willing to do it.

However someone has beat the roadkill fans to it. We already have a type of ethical fur:

A Karakul (or Qaraqul) hat (Urdu, Pashto, Persian: قراقلی; also known as a Jinnah Cap in Pakistan for its frequent use by the country’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah) is a hat made from the fur of the Qaraqul breed of sheep, often from the fur of aborted lamb foetuses.

So it is a great way of having an ethically sourced fur hat *and* showing that you are pro-choice. What is not to like?

3 msgkings December 4, 2014 at 6:31 pm

I’m only pro-choice for sheep. Humans should have no reproductive rights.

4 dearieme December 4, 2014 at 9:54 pm

“here is a whole market in ethical fur from New Zealand that is made from released and now problematic possums”: yeah, but they are the Ozzie possum, not the American one.

I must say that NZ sweaters made from possum/merino wool are quite wonderful.

5 prior_approval December 5, 2014 at 1:57 am

The idea of possum fur being worth wearing is a bit strange. But then, possums in person (growing up in Northern Virginia, they are native – and about as clever as raccoons when it comes to getting into your trashcans) do not seem to have desirable fur, including its the less than attractive color.

6 So Much for Subtlety December 5, 2014 at 6:07 am

They are, as dearieme said, feral Australian possums, not American ones.

Their fur is actually quite nice. Not sure it will take off anywhere but New Zealand though.

7 Art Farnsley December 4, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Lafayette, IN, has a “wolf park” where injured or abandoned wolves are relocated. The county animal control and highway patrol people bring them roadkill deer to feed the wolves. They put the number of deer killed by autos annually in one Indiana county in the many-thousands range, so while any nationwide estimates are speculative, I am prepared to believe the number is much higher than most people would think.

8 Sam December 4, 2014 at 9:17 pm

A family friend is a paramedic and once responded to an emergency call from a family who had all suddenly become extremely ill. The head of the household explained they were in a local club that collected and ate roadkill. Turns out they were pull of worms and other parasites. The doctor said they were lucky to be alive.

9 Corvus December 4, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Interesting, but your report has some problems. First of all – it is about 3rd hand reporting. Not exactly what one should consider reliable. Second – the issues you speak of are issues we deal with for ANY meat, regardless of source. The person harvesting the meat must have some knowledge of disease to look for. And, normal cooking routines, at least today, are specifically recommended with bad junk in mind. Pigs can have trichinosis, but it is not common. Rabbits can transmit tularemia. Etc. We don’t eat them raw, and critters that can get trichinosis get the recommendation to COOK the ‘s**t’ out of the meat.

So, let us assume that your reporting is accurate – which I do. When we think about what this case is, do you think, rationally, that road kill is unavoidably risky, or maybe (assuming the scenario you report is true), that the people involved did not take proper caution for handling raw meat?

10 the_botnet December 4, 2014 at 11:52 pm

That’s why you should cook wild game to the proper temperature. I wonder whether the culprit was an improperly cleaned raccoon… Baylisascaris procyonis infection in humans is a pretty terrifying thing, but it is my understanding that this infection occurs by ingesting the parasite egg (leading to the worst-case neural larval migrans in humans).

A good rule of thumb is to properly cook all poop before eaten.

11 Matt H December 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm

This is pretty heavy selection pressure no? Is there any evidence of Raccoon’s and Deer becoming smarter and avoiding roads, or better navigating their dangers?

12 Shane M December 4, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Here’s one study on birds indicating they’re growing shorter wings to become more maneuverable to avoid cars.

13 XVO December 4, 2014 at 5:36 pm

I can report the local squirrel population still hasn’t acquired the ability (evolved or culturally learned) to look both ways. They seem to delight in the thrill of dodging cars by a hair.

14 prior_approval December 5, 2014 at 1:59 am
15 Todd December 4, 2014 at 6:27 pm

There are no true selective pressures on deer. They’ve never had it so good.

16 FC December 4, 2014 at 3:27 pm

And yet when I tried to harvest meat and skin from humans killed by cars they called me mad.

17 Cooper December 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm

It depends on whether or not you were the man driving the car.

18 Spencer December 4, 2014 at 3:39 pm

There are about 3 million miles of highway in the US.

If the estimate of a million animals killed each day is accurate you should see some roadkill every three miles on average.

I seriously double that there is that much roadkill.

19 Nick December 4, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Agreed. Unless they’re including insects, those numbers make no sense.

20 Mark Dione December 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm

I ride a bicycle a lot. I’d estimate I see at least one roadkill per mile (in New England). You do not notice these when driving a car.

21 md2 December 4, 2014 at 4:15 pm

You’re assuming no one comes and takes the carcasses before you see them! I’d bet roadkill happens more between dusk and dawn also, and most are removed or smashed beyond being a carcass by the time the morning commute gets going.

22 msgkings December 4, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Also, roadkill happens plenty on roads other than highways.

23 The Other Jim December 4, 2014 at 4:49 pm

I had no idea that animals limited themselves to highways!

Include squirrels and chipmunks, etc., and you’re easily on track for 365 million a year. If every driver squishes something every 6 months, you’re there. I certainly do my part.

24 Sigivald December 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm

1) They’re not evenly distributed, I’m sure. For instance, downtowns and suburbia will have less than rural areas. (Though note I see plenty of dead squirrels here in Portland…)

2) You’ll never even notice a dead mouse or the like, from a car, and of course carrion-eaters will take care of those rapidly.

3) The estimate might be off a bit, but … it’s actually quite plausible, taking 1 and 2 into account.

25 MikeW December 4, 2014 at 6:21 pm

The estimate may be a reasonable ballpark, but I think it’s off by a factor of 5 or more.

Some quick googling and calculations: U.S. drivers do about 3 trillion vehicle miles per year. 365 million road kills per 3 trillion VM is about 1.2 road kills per 10000 VM. That means on an average year, when I drive 10k miles (mostly city/suburban), I will send 1.2 animals to their maker. Not guilty. I estimate I nab a squirrel or other rodent about once per decade. Somebody has to be making up for me, big time, or I’m just not noticing the thumps underneath my tires.

26 XVO December 4, 2014 at 7:45 pm

You know there are plenty of people out there trying to hit them to make up for people like you who try to avoid them.

27 prior_approval December 5, 2014 at 2:04 am

‘Somebody has to be making up for me, big time’

Why yes, there are freight trucks running 24 hours a day – they are quite big, and their drivers generally don’t care that much about hitting something as small as a deer.

28 rjs December 4, 2014 at 8:15 pm

i can imagine it; a 5 mile stretch of county road thru the wetlands i live in sees at least a couple large road kill a day – coons, possums, woodchucks, etc…no telling how many chipmunks, field mice or others too small to notice…

29 zbicyclist December 5, 2014 at 12:25 am

I’m with Mark Dione. As a bicyclist, I would guess I see roadkill at least every 3 miles on through streets here in the suburbs — and these are suburbs that have enough tax base to clean them off the roads regularly. In a car, you won’t see as much. On our group rides, where you will call out hazards like “hole” or “car left”, the appropriate warning for roadkill is “lunch”.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?”
“To show the possums it could be done.”

30 Bill December 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm

What if you made a profit from the roadkill you killed, and you found you derived pleasure from it? Would that alter the equilibria?

“A study in Ontario, Canada in 1996 found many reptiles killed on portions of the road where vehicle tires don’t usually pass over, which led to the inference that some drivers intentionally run over reptiles.[5]:138 To verify this hypothesis, research in 2007 found that 2.7% of drivers intentionally hit reptile decoys masquerading as snakes and turtles.[5] “Indeed, several drivers were observed speeding up and positioning their vehicles to hit the reptiles”.[5]:142 Male drivers hit the reptile decoys more often than female drivers.[5]:140-141 On a more compassionate note, 3.4% of male drivers and 3% of female drivers stopped to rescue the reptile decoys.[5]:140″ (From wikipedia on the topic of roadkill)

31 Art Deco December 4, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Why not take fur from roadkill?

Because a Bryan Caplan toupee is not a salable item.

32 Dan Weber December 4, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Can we get some blood donations from them, too? And use them to supplement the Red Cross’s supplies?

33 honkie please December 4, 2014 at 4:28 pm

My girlfriend is too snooty to wear fur with tire tracks across the back.

34 lxm December 4, 2014 at 5:52 pm

I see road kill every day: deer, possum, squirrel, rabbit, turtle, skunk, hawk, coon.
But you just have to remember that mankind is just too puny to have any effect on the larger world.

35 Nathan W December 4, 2014 at 6:07 pm

I’m not sure how they will market “roadkill coats”, but fur is fur, and if you get it soon then why not? I think a single pelt might not be worth all that much, and consider a $20 of $50 incentive to drop of a coon if you hit one: is it worth your while? But if someone goes searching for lots of roadkill, is it sufficient that they will go far enough with quality control for older pelts?

Also, I would be concerned that pelts of some endangered species could find their way into the supply if specific measures are not taken, which basically means that pelts, etc. of any protected species should be equally illegal to trade for both roadkill and poached sources, to ensure that there is no incentive for poaching. I can just imagine the number of Chinese drivers running into black bears going through the roof to satisfy bizarre demand to imbibe gonad derivatives to overcome lack of sex drive or impotence, for example.

36 chuck martel December 4, 2014 at 6:26 pm

If God really likes raccoons and squirrels Americans are in big trouble.

37 Brenton December 4, 2014 at 6:37 pm

This would increase a general feeling that it’s okay to use animals for fur, and increase demand for unethical methods of harvesting furs. Should we donate dead human bodies to soup kitchens instead of cremating them?

38 So Much for Subtlety December 4, 2014 at 8:18 pm

It is OK to use animals for fur. There is no consistent moral or logical position that can explain why it isn’t. Not, at least, for someone who isn’t a vegan who eats only hydroponically grown food.

We donate dead bodies to medical schools and extremely creepy German artists. Soup kitchens? Obviously not as people have a right to know what they are eating. But if they do know, and the body is sourced ethically, is there a non-religious objection to eating people?

39 John Smith December 4, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Yes. It is unsafe medically for a human to eat another human. Therefore you shouldn’t do it.

40 Nathan W December 5, 2014 at 3:29 pm

This is not the apocalyspe. We are human and we do not eat our own, most often even to save our lives. You don`t need religion for that.

Morality is not supposed to be based on ‘consistent positions’. It is things which humans can establish in part naturally or over eons of philosophical enquiry as to general ways of doing things that tend to make things better for people. It is not so much an emotional response. Many aspects of morality are shared with other animals, but the part where we learn and transmit sensible practices across generations to build sensible ethical and moral systems is not one in which logical consistency is a strict requirement. Rather, morality serves as a point of reference in precisely the opposite situation, where logical methods don’t get us far enough, and we are ultimately faced with a value judgment, leading us to complement our natural sense of morality with the lessons of moral philosophy as passed down through the ages.

I don’t think you meant it in the “wrong” way, but I think it’s worth laying into you a bit to double up on making the point that morality is not supposed to provide a consistent system, but rather, a method to resolve how to move forward when logic, instinct and pure habit are not enough to guide us forward. Generally speaking, “morality” is quite similar to the main teachings of various sages through history, which assembled and packaged together this knowledge in ways that could be readily transmitted (as proven by the fact that they WERE transmitted).

The only inconsistent morality I am aware of is saying one thing and doing another, or perhaps the inability to consider that “me good, them bad” is an almost reptilian morality, whereas those wise guys I was talking about basically all suggest that things would be a whole lot better if people would concern themselves less with how many hours/days/weeks until the next time they get laid or how to amass wealth and a lot more with whatever allows other people to have a more spiritually satisfying experience of the time they have here on earth (although several also speak of this as a means to a “heaven” or “afterlife”, but I don’t think they could have passed on the amount of common sense that they did without being a whole lot more grounded in reality than that).

41 Steve Sailer December 4, 2014 at 6:46 pm

My late father-in-law, the Chicago Lyric Opera musician, regularly brought home roadkill in winter to eat.

42 Steve Sailer December 4, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Generally, the roadkill piled up in the secondary deep freezer for a couple of years, then got tossed out. But sometimes they went through all the work of eating it.

Here’s a market opportunity. Siberian sable is highly valuable for making fur coats, and most cars in Russia now come with video cameras that are always on when driving. So, some Silicon Valley wizard could put together an app so Siberians could use their dash-cam footage to document that each of the sable pelts they are peddling came from roadkill.

43 RM December 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Some of you might remember a wonderful top gear episode filmed in the south. They hsd road kill for dinner.

44 cfh December 4, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Who the hell wants armadillo fur?

45 So Much for Subtlety December 4, 2014 at 8:20 pm

The world’s smallest merkin?

46 Dan Weber December 4, 2014 at 8:48 pm

+1 against snake bite

47 Asbjorn Johansen December 4, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Keep in mind most fur bearers coats are only really good during certain times of the year (generally winter). Most of the year a raccoon or possum hide would be worth very little

Even most meat animals taste better if they are taken at the right time of the year. (Venison tends to be better fall to early winter).

(Didn’t any of you ever take an hunting safety and trapping course).

48 Ak Mike December 4, 2014 at 8:47 pm

Indispensable guide for this project:


First sentence: “This is a book about animals that, like the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz, are not just merely dead but really most sincerely dead.”

49 Turkey Vulture December 5, 2014 at 8:35 am

Can’t I just eat in peace with the hide still properly attached?

50 TB December 5, 2014 at 9:31 am

As someone who has stopped to pick up furbearer roadkill during the colder months to supplement trapped harvest, it can be worthwhile if the fur market looks to be good that year.

51 John B December 5, 2014 at 9:55 am

In New Hampshire there used to be (and probably still is) an annual auction of all the road-kill which has been picked up by the highway maintenance people. They collect it all year and freeze it.

As for the rate: in rural areas I see lots of road-kill, I also see lots of hard-working crows recycling it in their window of opportunity before the highway maintenance truck shows up. I therefore conclude that I only see recent items and thus raise my estimate of the rate per mile.

52 Turkey Vulture December 5, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Crows are lazy dicks.

53 DaveA[/i][/b][/s] December 5, 2014 at 10:44 am

it’s approximately 1 million a day,

That’s ridiculous, There’s what ~350M people, guess 200M road trips = 1 dead animal every 200 people or every 200 trips or 2 kills/year. I think I’ve hit 1 squirrel and 2 birds in 30+ years of driving.

54 datroof jackson December 6, 2014 at 1:30 am

Oblivious/slow/infrequent driver alert.

55 Ruthi December 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Why not? My immediate reaction was: ugh!

I think that pretty much sums it up.

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