Sunday, November 10, 2013

Roadkill Political Ecology

This is a small adaption of a comment I left at James McWilliams blog. McWilliams argued for the superiority of eating roadkill to factory farmed flesh. This is what I said in response. 

First, any factory farmed flesh replaced by roadkill is obviously a good thing, and if someone wanted to be a roadkillavore I wouldn’t spend my time haranguing her. However, there does seem to be some issues I would have with a roadkill Tuesday, or the idea that, “Killers are innocent and the meat is incidental to unintended vehicular propulsion.” I think we can, of course, do all sorts of things to decrease roadkill. Alexandra Koelle has, for example, tried to chart the ways that animal overpasses and underpasses can work to decrease roadkill. Moreover, we can do thinks like lower speed limits in certain areas, we can advocate that driveless cars take into consideration animals before we consider them ‘safe’ to be on the roads, we fight for more public transport and bike friendly policies. And of course, many vegans are doing some of these things. But roadkill is not an unavoidable tragedy of contemporary infrastructure. It persists because we don’t care enough about the harm to animals to change that infrastructure. As vegans, we don’t just need to decrease the number of meat eaters (though that is good, and based on the particular evil of the factory farm, I thoroughly support diet shift as a major focus of our vegan movement), but we have a whole speciesist world to eventually transform. Vegan permaculture (which McWilliams featured a guest post about in the past), different wildlife management techniques for non-native species, changes to our infrastructure, transformations to our medical and scientific communities, etc. are all things we have to face and build in constructing a vegan world. Again, eating roadkill is better than the factory farm, or even the so-called family farm. But at the same time, I think we need to demystify the idea that roadkill is just an innocent by-product of our modern life. It, too, is a collective problem that ideas like innocence is not particularly useful for analyzing. To add one thing in addition, this is part of my idea around an ecofeminist constructivism that I am slowing gesturing towards (see here and here). An ecofeminist constructivism would be opposed to the exclusive ethos of political voluntarism that pervades so much animal abolitionist rhetoric (which is not to say that an ecofeminist constructivism would be opposed to abolitionism or voluntarism).