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I am a social worker, freelance journalist and sub-editor. Most importantly, I'm a single parent to my gorgeous little boy, who I call Chunk. In my spare time I write my own blogs (The Pregnant Pessimist, Confessions of a Single Parent Pessimist and Tall, Curvy Mumma). Within social work, I currently assess foster carers and kinship carers.
 
Currently working on an e-book.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Eating Roadkill: My roadkill feature published!

On page 3 of The Argus newspaper, I had a full page spread on my news feature about a couple who eat roadkill. It has also been uploaded onto their website (but without my name on the website for some reason).

Click here to view it and please come back to the blog and comment- I want to hear your views!

I have also pasted the full article I wrote here for your viewing.

The Road Kill Diet

Road kill is usually the squashed animal splattered on the road that I try to avoid, while gagging at the wheel. But for some people in Sussex it’s dinner. Tim Simpson and girlfriend, Jennifer Lindsey-Clark from Brighton, are just two of the many people who share a penchant for meat à la road.

Tim, a graphic designer, has been eating road kill since around the age of 12. His father used to occasionally bring home a pheasant found on the side of a road on his way home from work. Tim was never shocked by this: “I was fine with it. If your parents do it, you don’t question or worry about it, because you trust them.”

Tim spent his childhood and teenage years foraging for food in his local area, Canterbury, as a hobby and also whilst on camping trips with friends. He recalls enjoying a particular dish they ate around the camp fire, which he calls ‘bunny kebabs’.

These days, Tim, 34, and Jennifer, 29, from Robertson Road, enjoy creating interesting dishes to entice their friends over to enjoy. Jen was previously a chef for restaurant, Terre a Terre before creating her own cake-making business, called She Bakes.

Tim said that with his passion for cooking and Jen’s chef skills, they have created some interesting dishes- his favourite being ‘mixed road kill terrine’. The dish consisted of venison, rabbit, pheasant and wood pigeon, mixed with a pork and chicken liver pate. Tim felt this was the best meal they have created so far and his friends were impressed. He said their mates have come to terms with the road kill delicacy and now visit regularly for it. He said: “Our friends have realised they can eat odd things and they actually taste good. Jen is a chef, so the meals always taste good and no one has turned the food down yet.”

He described how a neighbour was initially hesitant about the idea, but when they tried the food, they loved it. Joss Peach, a 32-year-old musician is a friend of Tim’s and is a vegetarian, but eats Tim’s road kill. Joss became a vegetarian ten years ago when he began practising Buddhism. He said: “I am a vegetarian, but eat road kill because it doesn’t involve taking any life. I don’t believe in taking life to have a meal.” He has been friends with Tim for twenty years and said Tim has always been interested in foraging for food since they were teenagers. It was Tim who converted Joss into a lover of road kill, enabling him to eat meat without going against his beliefs.

So far the couple and their friends have tried a mixture of animals, from pheasant, rabbit and pigeon, to squirrel (which apparently tasted of nuts) and most recently, badger. There are some animals that they will not try though, including fox, because it is a heavily scented animal, which Tim said can affect the taste and quality of the meat.

The couple find it easiest to spot road kill on busy dual carriageways and motorways, and have heard that many can be found in the Ashdown forest. Before picking up road kill, there are laws to be aware of though.

It is illegal to run over an animal and then eat it, because a vehicle cannot be used as a weapon. According to DEFRA, the game animal would belong to the land owner (Highways Agency), but if the car in front hits the animal, then it is fine for you to pick it up and cook.

Daily Telegraph food columnist and road kill connoisseur, Rose Prince, said: "The law is oblique. For instance, if you see an injured deer by the side of the road you are not allowed to put it out of its misery. You must call the police who will call a vet to put it out of its misery. The code of conduct regarding picking up road kill is that if you knock it down, you should leave it for the driver of the next car.”

Tim said their best find so far was a deer, which tasted lovely and produced many meals. He explained that to prepare it, they needed to hang it up for a period of time, and used their 1970’s car ambulance in doing this. This was noticed by someone who reported them to the RSPCA. An inspector visited Tim, and told him there was nothing to worry about because the animal was already dead, so there was no cruelty on their part.

Klare Kennett, RSPCA Press Officer, confirmed the inspector’s words. She said: “Picking up a dead animal from the road and taking it home to eat is not committing any crime, or indeed any cruelty. As long as that animal was killed accidentally in a road traffic accident, then it is no more cruel than buying meat from a supermarket that has been bred and killed for eating.”

Whilst all this sounds positive, is it safe to eat this type of meat? Everyday people who pick up road kill are not necessarily as skilled as a meat inspector would be in detecting dangerous diseases or rotten meat. Grace Money, a spokesperson for the Food Standards Agency, explained the risks of eating road kill. She said a ‘myriad of things can go wrong’ as the animal could contain bugs, parasites or toxins that still may not die when it has been cooked.

She said: “Be aware there is a big risk. You don’t know what the animal has eaten through its life or what it was exposed to when it died. Our advice would be not to do it.” Tim has never had a bad experience with road kill so far, and this may be down to his assessment of the meat before picking it up. He said he can ‘glance at an animal and see if it’s an eater’. He only picks animals that look fresh, and he can tell if they are fresh enough by certain signs. He said if they are still warm and have rigor mortis, this is a good sign of freshness, as is clean fur, because those that have been sitting there for days tend to have dirty fur from the traffic.

Seeing blood still on the road is good, as well as there being no bad smell on the animal. The safest way to pick an animal is if you have seen how it is killed, such as being the driver behind the one that hits it. This is because you know how it died, know how long it has been dead and can get it at its most fresh. Tim avoids squashed animals or ones that have been hit at the back, because their scent glands are likely to have ruined the meat due to the extent of the damage.

At a time when the country is experiencing worrying financial times and increasing food prices, this could be a way of helping us save money on our weekly shopping bills. Tim and Jen still buy supermarket meat, but feel there are great benefits from also having free meat from time to time, including how much better it tastes.

Professional forager, Fergus Drennan, has been featured in many articles and BBC3 programme ‘The RoadKill Chef’ and is a vegetarian who eats road kill. He campaigns about the benefits of picking free meat and vegetables. In an article for Ecologist magazine he said: “It’s been estimated that 10 million birds, 20,000 foxes and 50,000 badgers are killed on the roads every year.” He calculated this as including 2,090,000 potential meals going to waste.

Fergus explains on his blog that he loves wildlife and does not believe in animals being killed for human food which is why he only eats road kill, and feels the public would benefit more from eating road kill compared to supermarket meat. He wrote of the benefits of road kill: “It’s not factory farmed or pumped full of antibiotics. It is fresh, local, seasonal and nutritionally rich.”

At the start of my research for this article, I could not understand how anybody could eat something killed on the side of a road, but by finding out more about it in terms of how common this is and that professional journalists, foragers and chefs such as Rose Prince, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fergus Drennan promote the benefits of eating ‘natural’ meat, I can’t help but feel intrigued.

Tim is aware many people who have not heard of this type of cooking may be disgusted, but he wants to reduce the negative assumption about road kill. He said: “We know it’s a bit odd- we are under no illusions, but people need to cast out of their heads the horrible image of a squashed animal cast on the side of the road. They need to not worry about it so much. It’s the ultimate free-range, fresh food. It’s not been shot or farmed. It’s had its life and died naturally.”

Links:

Fergus Drennan’s site for recipes and more info: http://www.wildmanwildfood.com/

Fergus’s blog: http://wildmanwildfood.blogspot.com/2006/07/roadkill.html

Youtube video of BBC 3’s road kill chef: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zMo1j4G7EM

Information about the bugs/toxins found in meat can be found on http://www.eatwell.gov.uk/


Vox Pop:

“I would not eat it myself unless I was starving to death. Pretty rank, especially when you see it on the side of the road all mashed up." Jasmine, 30, Brighton.

"I used to work as a chef in a restaurant in the New Forest. Locals used to bring in deer that they had struck down, for a sum, and the owners would call up the local butcher who would come in and, again for a sum, chop the whole thing into the stewing meat, prime cuts, stock meats etc. The punters and possibly many more people out there have unwittingly eaten road kill - and enjoyed it!" Adam, 23, Hove.

“There are worse things, if your starving can see why you would do it. The way prices of meat are going up I’m tempted!” Michelle, 48, Brighton.

“I would not eat road kill at all. I have too much taste to do that! It sounds absolutely vile.” Martin, 24, Brighton.

“If it’s fresh I suppose its alright. If somebody bought me a chicken that had been hit I would eat it if the insides were not squashed to pieces, but I would not be able to skin it or prepare it.” Maureen, 58, Portslade.

 “I would only try it if had just been killed and not if it had been lying there for ages.” Tony, 60, Brighton.


Visit
http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/4239387.The_new_Sussex_delicacy_ _ _road_kill/





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