Earth Day Pop Quiz: What Is the 'Most Ethical Meat?'

Earth Day Pop Quiz: What Is the 'Most Ethical Meat?'

Here’s a question to ponder on Earth Day: What, in the environmentalist outlook, is the most ethical type of meat? Organic? Free range? Pampered cattle that get beer and massages? Guess again.

According to a recent post on an environmentalist news site,, it’s… roadkill.

Yes, you read that correctly: roadkill.

Now I’ve seen, in convenience stores, beef jerky with the parody marketing label “Road Kill Jerky.” (Ad slogan: “The tasty treat from the middle of the street.”) But apparently, the green argument for eating real roadkill is no joke.

According to Grist, “some argue that salvaging road kill is actually the most ethical and environmentally responsible way to eat meat.” The piece links to an article at Modern Farmer that claims, “Ethically speaking, we should all be eating roadkill.” Why? “The animal was not raised for meat, it was not killed for meat; it is just simply and accidentally meat – manna from minivans.”

In other words, what makes it “ethical” in this view is that it’s the product of chance; it was killed by a random, unexpected, unwanted mishap. If it were killed as a purposeful act by a person consciously seeking to use it as a source of food, then, from the environmentalist point of view, using it for that purpose would be “murder.”

I don’t think the advocacy of roadkill-as-food is a widespread trend among environmentalists. Even though more states are allowing the practice of salvaging roadkill, it seems to be a fairly small-scale, fringe idea. At least for now.

But the argument for roadkill as “the most ethical meat” is revealing because it’s a logical expression of the core tenets of environmentalism. Environmentalists have advocated a lot of radical changes to our modern way of life. It’s worth paying attention to the nuttier ones because they can tell us something important about what environmentalists really believe.

Environmentalism, at root, is opposed to the idea of people treating nature and its creatures merely as resources to be exploited for human benefit. Environmentalists will block the pumping of water to the parched, dying fields of California farmers for the sake of a three-inch fish. They’ll fight the construction of a new congestion-easing freeway bypass so as not to disturb the dwarf wedge mussel. They’ll even obstruct the development of a solar power plant in the Mojave Desert for fear of impacting the desert tortoise.

So it’s not at all surprising to see some of them promoting roadkill as “the most ethical meat.” Roadkill is “ethical,” from the environmentalist point of view, because it’s accidental, not purposeful. Hunting animals for food, or raising them for meat, are morally objectionable, on this view, because they are deliberate acts of using nature for human gain.

The problem with the environmentalist worldview is that it flies in the face of the basic needs of human life. The deliberate, purposeful, productive use of material resources is precisely how human beings survive and flourish. Ayn Rand explains the point best, in her article “The Anti-Industrial Revolution:”

In order to survive, man has to discover and produce everything he needs, which means that he has to alter his background and adapt it to his needs. Nature has not equipped him for adapting himself to his background in the manner of animals. From the most primitive cultures to the most advanced civilizations, man has had to manufacture things; his well-being depends on his success at production.

In Rand’s view, human life requires that we uphold productive achievement, not the passive reliance on the accidental, as “man’s noblest activity.” In her philosophy, productiveness is a cardinal virtue. It is the recognition that productive work is “a constant process of acquiring knowledge and shaping matter to fit one’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one’s values.”

By this moral standard, what would qualify as an ethical way to obtain meat?

How about exercising one’s intelligence to discover how to hunt, clean, and prepare an animal for food? Or how about raising a herd of animals to maintain a readily available supply? How about discovering how to breed animals to selectively improve their health, size, or the quality of their meat? What about using industrial technology to automate the processes involved in raising animals or processing them for food? What about using the most advanced scientific techniques to bring about very specific and precise genetic modifications, producing even more desirable traits and creating even more efficiencies in food production?

Man’s advancement from primitive hunting and gathering to industrial agriculture represents the progressive application of reason and productiveness on an ever-expanding scale, culminating in the safest, healthiest, most abundant, inexpensive food ever available in human history. Yet, this whole march of progress is what environmentalism rejects in favor of the random and accidental.

The real question to ponder on Earth Day is why anyone should take this anti-human philosophy seriously.


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