If you're poor, the Montana Senate has a new program for you. It voted 28-21, mostly along party lines, to pass a bill Thursday that allows residents (with a permit) to harvest for food big game animals like deer, elk and moose killed by...vehicles.
The roadkill salvage bill cleared the House 95-3 in February and now goes to Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, who hasn't said yet whether he'll sign it.
Supporters say the bill would provide the needy with a source of food that would otherwise be destroyed.
"It seems like a waste," said Representative Bill Lavin, the Republican sponsor of the bill, who is also a Montana Highway Patrolman. "This bill ... would allow me to legally call the food bank or allow somebody else who requests it to take it and use it," he said.
No one is in favor of wasted food, but opponents view the idea of feeding the poor possibly rancid meat from the side of the road as potentially dangerous.
"Are highway patrolmen and law enforcement experts in meat inspection?" asked Democratic Senator Kendall Van Dyk. "I have not seen anything in the bill ... that indicates to me that the safety parameters are in place to let me know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a safe food source for those in need, or anyone else for that matter."
Van Dyk also said the Montana Food Bank Network sent him a letter opposing the bill and clarifying the network cannot accept roadkill.
But Lavin doesn't think Big Sky Country needs any "experts in meat inspection" because "we have a lot of common sense...it's pretty easy to tell when meat is rotten."
And even the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) doesn't think the bill's a bad idea, pointing out that “eating roadkill is healthier for the consumer than meat laden with antibiotics, hormones, and growth stimulants, as most meat is today.”