Why would a vegetarian refuse to eat an animal that dies of a natural death (such as Kapelin, the suicide fish that throws itself upon the bays of Newfoundland two weeks of a given month of a given season)? After all, these animals are dead, nobody knows why they died, and only a respectable scientist could discover how to make them live longer or avoid committing suicide.

Two reasons I could think of, are, so as to not get used to having the flesh of such animals, so as to not get used to consuming more of those fish or animal products, and also, they may think it can somehow be avoided in the future and want to avoid animal exploitation in general, besides those vegetarians viewing meat (and fish) bad for the diet and thus avoiding them for that reason. Another reason may be to leave it as food to protect scavengers in the wild and their dietary needs.

These may be good enough, but I am looking for more reasons.

  • 1
    As a side note: To clarify, capelin don't exactly "commit suicide". The males are semelparous animals that come onto land to spawn, sometimes spawning multiple times. The goal is to maximize reproduction, allowing for future generations, but yes, even at the cost of their own lives. In a way, it's like a father standing in front of his child to take a bullet in order to save his child.
    – SquidInc.
    Apr 27, 2018 at 22:37
  • 2
    See also: Why don't humans use animals after they die naturally?
    – unor
    Mar 11, 2019 at 10:27

5 Answers 5


Another factor is disgust.

When you are used to not eating animals, it becomes difficult to see animals as food, even if you did eat them at some previous time. I do not even walk in the "meat" aisle if I go to the supermarket, because it makes me feel sick.

My parents became vegetarian 2.5 and 1.5 years ago, and they now feel the same total revulsion at the idea of eating dead bodies. There is something intensely disturbing about it that is difficult to communicate, and probably very difficult for omnivores to understand.

My culture (I am from the UK) distinguishes between the ethical and the aesthetic. But I think they meet deep in our emotions.

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    Agree 100%. Disgust factor for me is no different than what the survivors of the Andes plane crash expressed about their forced cannibalism.
    – M.Mat
    Apr 7, 2018 at 20:02
  • This is a good answer, though it should be noted that this answer is not a justification for not eating roadkill, but rather, a explanation for why some vegetarians might not eat roadkill. (In other words, this is a descriptive answer, not a normative answer.) In general, disgust is a pretty lousy measure for whether something is justified. Jan 4, 2019 at 15:09
  • @Bridgeburners you are right - it is not intended as a justification and I doubt it would be interpreted that way (this site is not intended to serve as a platform for advocacy). Are you suggesting that it should be edited?
    – Zanna
    Jan 4, 2019 at 15:18
  • Well, as I said, it's a good answer as an explanation. Though both suggestions provided by the OP seemed to be justifications, rather than explanations. I guess the OP didn't explicitly say what sort of answer they're looking for, so either they should clarify, or we should assume both are fine. Jan 4, 2019 at 15:23

I am an “ethical vegan”; consequently I don’t eat animals or animal products, the same way one wouldn’t eat a person who had committed suicide or died of natural causes. You wouldn’t leave them to be scavenged by others; you would perform whatever Death Rites are appropriate.

Ultimately, it’s about respect for all life and each creature's inherent value.


I've never encountered this question before as meat is so readily available in the UK, and the meat that is available is due to slaughter and not the natural death of the animal or suicide, and for me I have ethical reasons and feelings of disgust for not eating the meat.

Though you're now asking would I eat the meat if the animals life was not ended early by human intervention? The answer would still be no, as discussed by another answer this would be because I would feel disgusted at eating something is dead, whether they will killed, died naturally or committed suicide.

For many (not necessarily all) vegetarians, we view meat as a corpse, so no matter the cause of death to the animal, the meat is still a corpse. Most people are disgusted at the idea of eating the corpse of a person, no matter their cause of death, it's just the case the some vegetarians view any dead animal as a corpse not just a human - I'm not trying to say that non-vegetarians don't recognise that a dead animal is essentially a corpse, just perhaps they are able to disassociate this when eating meat.

It is important to note that my explanation here as to why a vegetarian would not eat meat from an animal that died via natural death or suicide may not be the same reason as another vegetarian. People become vegetarian for different reasons, hence their reasons for not being comfortable with the situation you rose can differ.

I'd like to politely point out that there probably are people out there who only eat meat where the animal died by natural causes or suicide and will not eat meat where the animal was killed by us, though this does not make them vegetarian. This is because a vegetarian does not eat any product that is made with animal product where an animals death had to occur to obtain the ingredient.


In addition to the disgust factor mentioned in a couple other answers (which I completely get and agree with), there is a very practical reason for why people shouldn't eat animals that died of 'natural causes'. That being that unless you take the corpse to a veterinarian for autopsy, you cannot be certain what they died from. You might assume it was suicide (which the example you give is actually not) or old age when they actually were suffering from some sort of infection or the like that could harm whomever consumes the corpse.

  • Why do you say the capelin example is not an example of suicide? Dec 28, 2018 at 10:24
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    Because they aren't jumping on land with the intention of killing themselves. They do it to spawn their young somewhere where they'll have a better chance of survival. Most of the adults die during this process, but its just a sad side effect; it isn't their goal. Suicide is doing something with the goal of ending one's life.
    – user61524
    Dec 29, 2018 at 22:34
  • But their young would die on the sand or stones out of the water if they spawned there. Why don't they all stay in the water if it were so? Dec 30, 2018 at 11:48

I have no objection in principle to eating roadkill. I just haven't happened upon any roadkill that I would want, nor have the time to eat. But if I saw, say, a dead deer in the middle of the wild, I wouldn't see any problem with taking the time to prepare it and eating it.

The only reason I can think of, from a purely consequentialist point of view, is if you think someone else, who readily buys meat, is likely to eat it. Suppose somebody who readily buys meat at the grocery store, had they happened upon the dead deer, would have picked up the deer and prepared and eaten it. However, you got to it before they did. In that case, the meat-buyer would likely buy more meat than they would have, had they taken the deer. Thus, you indirectly caused more meat to be bought in the grocery store. If you're a consequentialist, like I am, then that's just as bad as buying the meat yourself. In other words, you might be paying the opportunity cost of somebody else buying less meat.

However, assuming that this isn't the case (for example, if you're in the middle of nowhere and you know that it's extremely unlikely for someone else to find the carcass), there is no problem. Unlike with buying meat at the store, eating the random carcass would not contribute demand to any industry of killing animals, and would not cause more to be killed.

The fear of getting used to meat does not sound compelling to me. First of all, will we invoke that when lab-grown meat comes to the market? And secondly, it does not offer a reason for why the act is bad in and of itself, only that it might compel you to do bad things later. (It is of a similar nature to judgments of killing in simulated environments such as video games. Whether they would make you more compelled to kill in real life says nothing about the actual morality of the act of killing in simulations.)

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