Copyright 2002 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner

Nothing But Roadkill

   I had this idea several weeks ago, while driving along the back roads on my way to my mother's house.
I'd passed about a dozen dead raccoons along the way, and, even though I always find the sight of roadkill
very depressing, I found myself thinking, "if I knew what to do with the skins, I could have enough for a fur
coat by now!" That got me thinking (still on the same drive) about the fur industry, protesters for animal
rights, and how, if we stopped raising and killing animals just for their skins, we could still wear fur. The
answer was right in front of me (I had to swerve slightly to avoid running over it): make fur coats, but use
nothing but roadkill.

   Since then, the news has had coverage of animal rights protesters disrupting a Victoria's Secret fashion
show filming because one of the models in it has a contract with a fur company, and the character Mimi, on
a Drew Carey Show re-run, was collecting roadkill in order to have an inexpensive fur coat specially
made. Maybe this idea isn't as far-fetched as it seems?

   The highway department has to go around and scrape these unfortunate animals off the pavement
anyway; what difference would it make if, instead of incinerating or burying them whole, they skinned them
first? Raccoons, woodchucks, rabbits, and squirrels are far from endangered species; if anything, they are
probably overpopulated, since we've killed off most of their natural predators. Why else would I see so
many lying dead in the road?

   If a reward of, say, fifty cents each were offered for these furry carcasses, enterprising citizens might
come forward to help the highway department clean-up crews. They tend to concentrate more on the
major roads than the country byroads, even though the country roads probably have a higher
roadkill-to-traffic ratio because the woods and ditches and fields where the animals live are closer to the
pavement. Teenage boys with pick-up trucks could earn a little extra cash while they're out driving around
like they would anyway.

   Someone would have to skin these animals, of course, but there are probably enough mountain-man and
hunter types out there who'd welcome the opportunity to practice their knife skills that whoever was in
charge of the project would have to turn away volunteers. "Go out shopping for the afternoon, honey; me
and the boys are gonna be out in the garage with a few beers, watching the game and having a skinning
party!" With all the historical re-enactments and frontier days festivals we have around here, skinning could
become a competitive event. Historical theme-parks could add olfactory veracity to their trapper's cabin or
village tannery exhibits, too, especially during the summer. And the Boy Scouts could add skinning to their
"woodsmanship skills" category, and give out merit badges for it.

   Fur trappers and traders were some of the first pioneers in this country; even in those unrefrigerated
days, they managed to ship skins back to Europe to be made into clothing, so there must be cheap,
practical ways to store skins while one piles up enough of them to make shipping them to a fur company
worthwhile. The larger recycling centers would be good places for collecting, skinning, and storing roadkill
fur; there, among the soggy newspapers, unwashed milk jugs, and poorly-rinsed cans, who'd notice or
mind a few extra insects and smells?

   I'm not a vegetarian, but I do believe that if you're going to kill something, you should use it all, which is
why the fur industry bothers me; raising something for the sole purpose of killing it for its skin is wasteful.
Trapping wild things for fur is no better, and is probably worse; we destroy enough wildlife and habitats
unintentionally, through ignorance, carelessness, and by our very presence, without needing to go the extra
mile to do so deliberately. If there aren't enough dead animals along the roadside to satisfy the demands of
the fashion industry, maybe we could start using fur from the millions of unwanted dogs and cats that are
destroyed annually because people don't spay or neuter their pets. Is that too creepy? Would it cause
more fur furor, if folks were forced to confront the idea that the trim on their collar might once have had a
name, like "Fluffy" or "Spot," rather than coming from some nameless critter; would that idea, in turn,
reduce the demand for fur? I don't know. Meanwhile, I'd prefer that furs made from inedible animals didn't
come from ones deliberately killed merely for their pelts. Fur is dead, and I'd like to know that the fuzzy
wraps on fashion runways were nothing but roadkill.

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