Have you ever seen someone stop and pick up an animal they have just hit on the road? I have!
Growing up in the countryside, I witnessed people collecting roadkill on a fairly regular basis! And it’s also fair to say that under some circumstances, roadkill is perfectly safe to eat.
You would be travelling behind a vehicle or two, and suddenly you’d see a jolt, they would stop and proceed to load whatever the vehicle had just collided with into the boot or the back of the van and drive off!
There are, on average, 1 in 6 animals killed on UK roads every day, which is a vast number of animals considering the enormous amount of animals that live in the UK wild.
PETA, the animal rights campaigners, actually advocate the consumption of roadkill versus the meat that comes from controlled slaughtering.
While the numbers can only be estimated for the number of wild animals and those that are killed daily on our roads, we can determine with a great deal of certainty that there are going to be more and more vehicles on the road; therefore, a higher chance of wild animals getting killed daily.
The most common animals that are killed every day on Britain’s roads are:
- Rabbits and hares
Some of these will obviously be far more consumable than others!
What Do We Class As Roadkill?
The classification of roadkill is the simplest thing to understand in the world, and the clue really is in the title!
Roadkill is any animal that has died due to the injuries it has sustained when in collision with some sort of vehicle on the road.
This is not to say that all animals you find on the road or verge are deceased due to a collision (roadkill).
There could be so many other reasons they are lying there deceased, such as being shot, poisoned, or have simply died of a condition or disease. They may just happen to be at the roadside when their body died.
It is imperative to mention here that the only way to determine if the animal is indeed roadkill is if you have either had the collision with the animal yourself or witnessed the collision firsthand.
Anything beyond that, it’s fair to say that the cause of death is undeterminable, which is incredibly important when it comes to potential consumption.
What To Look Out For In Safe Roadkill
As mentioned, roadkill is only really safe to eat if you have witnessed the collision or you have had the collision yourself, as this is only the real way to tell if the result of the animal dying was indeed the collision.
Obviously, there will be signs to look out for in the Roadkill that points to it being a generally healthy animal before it met its demise. These points below may (not in every case!) indicate that the animal is safe to eat (of course, you will also need to know someone with some butchery skills, too!).
You will need to look for:
Whole Versus Dismembered Animals
While this element of whether the animal remains in a whole condition or not may be beyond your control, it is essential to note that Roadkill will likely suffer internal injuries and broken bones as a direct result of the collision.
Animals that are deformed or dismembered on impact may have a higher risk of tainting the flesh with blood and bone fragments.
Was it a Healthy Animal Before Impact?
Again this can only be determined from some very clever guesswork, as the animal is likely to be unknown to you.
So there are a few roadkill health checks you can carry out visually to determine the animals’ health, such as:
- Is the coat shiny and in good condition?
- Is the animal of healthy weight and size?
- Are the eyes clear?
- Are there any prominent areas of disease or pest infestation?
- Does the animal smell putrid or “gone off”?
The elements above may require you to have a little knowledge about animals to make sure it is safe, but if in doubt, either seek expert advice or leave the animal in a kind and respectful place.
Was there Any Contamination on Impact?
By contamination, we mean was there anything to do with the impact that would render the animal’s flesh useless for consumption?
If you have ever hit an animal of any size, you are probably aware of the damage they can cause to a vehicle, significantly so with larger animals like deer.
It’s important to know whether the animal has been contaminated with elements of the impact (of course, this could be nothing at all!), but it could also be:
- Brake fluid
- Battery fluid
- Broken glass
- Shards of metal or plastic
If there is anything like this that could potentially taint the flesh of the animal, it’s best not to attempt to consume it!
What Is Unsafe Roadkill To Avoid?
Of course, there is always roadkill you may come across that should ordinarily be avoided, and some of these elements are a definite no-no when it comes to consumption.
- Heavy contamination of the animal
- Unrecognisable carcass (squashed into the road)
- You did not witness the accident/incident
- Rigor mortis has set in
- Insect infestation such as maggots and flies
- Cloudy eyes
- Bad smell
- It is hot, and you can’t get back home quickly – hot weather may make the animal perish faster
The basic rule of thumb for roadkill is: “If you don’t witness the cause in which the animal came to be roadkill, it’s really best avoided.”
This is because there can be no guarantees as to the health of the animal either before or after the death.; and even if you do witness it meeting its demise, it is also best to give the animal an educated once-over to make as sure as possible that the animal has potentially been in the best of health.
So, is roadkill safe to eat or not? While roadkill is common wherever there are cars and wild animals (so practically all over the world!), there are so many considerations to be mindful of to ensure that the animal you are considering consuming is of the best health and quality it can be.
Of course, you cannot ordinarily tell if the roadkill had any diseases before the collision that killed it unless it has outward symptoms, such as myxomatosis in the rabbit population – It’s always best to be fully aware that roadkill has no safety guarantees.
However, roadkill can be considered an ethical way to consume meat (for free too!) versus slaughterhouse meat.
With a bit of knowledge and some butchery skills (or a good butcher who knows how to section up an animal safely!), roadkill could potentially be the most ethical route to eating meat.
Collecting roadkill for eating is legal in over 20 states, including Vermont, Washington, Oregon and Pennsylvania. The most recent addition to this list is California; in October, legislators legalized roadkill harvesting from three regions in the state with “high wildlife collisions,” Animals that die from their injuries after being hit by a car can be eaten safely provided you follow some basic precautions, said Nicole Meier, an information and education specialist at the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. That begins with an inspection of the animal to make sure that it wasn’t sick or injured before the impact that killed it, Meier told Live Science.