Because he doesn’t like the way farm animals are being treated, Jonathan McGowan, an English taxidermist from Bournemouth, Dorset has been eating roadkill instead of supermarket meat for the last 30 years.
44-year-old Jonathan McGowan first tasted roadkill at the age of 14, when he cooked a dead adder. It didn’t taste very good, but it did make him curious about how other dead animals might taste like. ‘From a young age I was always interested in natural history and being brought up amongst the farming, hunting and shooting communities of the Dorset countryside meant I was right in the middle of everything. Everywhere I looked there were dead animals; fish that had been caught, pheasants that had been shot and animals that had been run over in the road so naturally I became drawn to nature and how it worked.” He remembers he used to cut up dead animals to see their insides and all he could see was fresh organic meat better than what he saw in any meat shops. That’s why he didn’t see any problem with cooking and eating it. His parents knew he was bringing animals home to stuff, but he didn’t tell them he sometimes ate them too, because he knew they wouldn’t approve.
Although he admits he first started eating roadkill out of his teenage desire to be different, Jonathan McGowan says that even at 14 he realized what he was doing was better than eating supermarket meat because of the ways animals are treated. He remembers growing up close to a broiler production unit where there were always three layers of chickens. The dead, rotting birds at the bottom, the squashed ones in the middle and the chicken who could barely move, at the top. ‘I saw how dirty farm animals were and how unhealthy they were. I was also used to going to the cattle market where the treatment of the animals by the farmers was grotesque. I wasn’t happy about what I saw at all,’ he says.
McGowan, who has been eating roadkill for the last 30 years, has been giving presentations at schools and colleges and throwing roadkill dinner parties for his friends. What’s on the menu, you ask? Rat stir fries and owl curry are very popular, but pigeon au vin and other recipes containing meats like fox, hedgehog, squirrel or wild cat are also said to be very tasty. The taxidermist never kills the animals, he only picks those that have died accidentally on the road and in the surrounding woodland. When they hear about his eating habits, most people believe it’s a brilliant idea, but there are those who think it’s cruel, unhygienic and macabre. Jonathan says his choice “is rooted in respect for the environment” and says that if there was no more roadkill available he would be a vegetarian rather than eating shop meat pumped full of hormones.