The ABA Journal (November 2013) reported that Montana has legalized the consumption of roadkill. According to Leslie A. Gordon, the article's author, starting in time for Thanksgiving, anyone who comes across a dead animal in Montana now can legally toss the roadkill on the grill or stick it on the freezer for later provided a free permit from state peace officer is obtained within 24 hours of finding the carcass.
An earlier version of the law would have allowed consumption of fur-bearing animals such as bobcats, sheep and bears, as well as upland game and migratory birds. However, this notion was scrapped after concerns were raised that Montanans might just run after these animals in their trucks, track them down, and kill them, rather than merely scrape the already-deceased carcasses off the roadway.
Even so, not everyone is overjoyed with some of the restrictions in the new legislation. For example, lawmakers insist that the whole carcass has to be taken, not just the choice bits with the rest left on the roadway for scavengers. Worse, a carcass cannot be taken for bait; it must be used for human consumption. And, to the dismay of serial strikers, one permit per animal is required.
In an overt slap to grocery store owners in Big Sky Country, proponents of the act argue that roadkill is fresher than meat at their local markets. But there is no "fresh until" date on a dead deer you find lying on the side of the road and there is just no means of determining when that deer last had a heart beat. This has some public health advocates concerned.
According to Fred Pritzker, a food safety lawyer, "Eating an animal killed by blunt-force trauma, with no information about its pre-existing health or provenance and with no information about how long its been dead or the conditions in which its been held since death, is a prescription for danger" due to the presence of ubiquitous pathogens including e-coli, listeria and salmonella. Prtizer urges that the law is discriminatory to the poor because it is likely that people dependent on food banks and soup kitchens are at the greatest risk.
Despite such health concerns, Montanans' love affair with edible hoofed hood ornaments will likely only serve to challenge local chefs to greater heights. Reportedly, Bozeman diners will soon be treated to new entrees such as "Long Gone Fawn Found Dead on Your Lawn", "Beer-basted Steer Hit From the Rear", "Too Slow Doe Had One Lane to Go", "Pavement Possum" and the classic "No-Luck Buck Just Can't Duck a Truck".
An article in the Lawrence Journal-World reported on the Roadkill Cafe in Greenville, ME that "makes no bones about cooking what gets left behind". If the Roadkill Cafe in Maine is any indication, culinary treats that may soon be available from Missoula to Bozeman will also include, "Chicken That Didn't Make It Across the Road" and your basic "Bye-Bye Bambi Burger". The menu boasts "You Kill It.....We Grill It'.
Montana's new law will give fresh meaning to the "I Brake for Animals" bumper sticker.
By William A. Ruskin
For more cutting edge commentary on developing issues, visit Toxic Tort Litigation Blog by William A. Ruskin of Epstein Becker & Green.
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