Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Roadkill: A Beautiful Mistake


     You're driving down the road and you see a raccoon on the side of the road, as you've seen countless roadkill in the past. You don't think much of it and you continue driving. For Pamela Paquin, founder of Petite Mort (literally meaning little death in French), she saw roadkill and saw a solution to a heated ethical debate: the fur industry. A woman who grew up on a farm and worked towards sustainability, spent some time in Denmark where the fur industry was taking off at the time. She loves animals and thought that the process was extremely wasteful. Along with other critics of the fur industry, she believed that animals should not be raised to be killed for fur. So, her ultimate solution was to use the roadkill that is abundant here in the US. It is estimated that about 1 million animals are killed on our roads per day, so 365 million animals killed per year. She saw this great abundance of fur that would normally just be picked up and thrown away and thought that this could be a solution to the problem of raising animals for their fur.
     She visited a local taxidermist and learned how to skin and scrape animal pelts that people from the highway patrol, animal patrol, hunters and more have brought to her. She collects the roadkill in her home state of Massachusetts and must maintain a trappers' license in order to do so. She is not allowed to travel to other states to retrieve roadkill though. She must make contacts with others who maintain the license in other states so that she may buy the pelts from them.
Once the fur is removed from the animal, it is shipped to a tanner in Idaho that will work with partial pelts. When Ms. Paquin receives the furs back, she will begin to make what her customers are requesting. The price of her products is expensive, but those who are buying the products understand what they are paying for. They also hope to change the fur industry, but to still revel in the luxury of fur. Each piece made has a silver tag on the outside with the company name so that those who see her customers wearing fur are able to see where it came from and know that it was from a more humane business.
     Ms. Paquin saw an answer to the problem of the fur industry in terms of roadkill and when asked if she sees roadkill as inevitable, she answered that as long as we drive cars that it could be. She heavily advocates for wildlife underpasses and even donates a portion of her profits to this cause.

As found in our readings for motivation, Amabile describes one mechanism of synergistic extrinsic motivators that influence creativity called the motivation-work cycle match. This states that when creatives are involved in solving a problem, synergistic extrinsic motivators allow the creative to remain involved with the process through learning and development of skills that extend beyond their domain, but better help them to complete the task at hand. When Ms. Paquin realized that she wanted to make fur coats out of roadkill, she made contact with the taxidermist in Vermont who taught her how to properly skin the animal for its pelt. This was not directly her domain, but she branched out in order to continue to create her solution to the ethical issues of the fur industry.

The ethical treatment of animals has been a long-standing debate, especially within the fur industry where people are raising and killing animals for the luxury of their fur. Ms. Paquin saw the need for an alternative solution to this problem and created an entirely new line of fur involving the use of roadkill. A novel idea, this fur business is taking off fast with many customers loving her invention around the world.

Collins, M. A., & Amabile, T. M. (1999). Motivation and creativity. In Robert J. Sternberg (Ed.) Handbook of Creativity. New York: Cambridge University Press.


  1. This is mind-blowing! I've never heard of this before, and I'm trying to decide if I'm disgusted or amazed. I've never been a big fan of furs or taxidermy, but this is definitely a unique solution. I really liked how you brought in the reading on motivation to enforce your point. I would love to know more about her creative process and how she suddenly jumped to doing this business! How did you first hear of her work?

    1. Honestly, we were talking about animals and ethics in our Honors Capstone class and this woman was mentioned in passing. I haven't decided how I feel about it yet either, but it definitely is a unique solution. She was in Denmark for a time for work and the fur industry was large there at the time. From what I read, she was sitting on and trying to figure out how to carry out this idea for a few years and finally started to get into contact with highway patrols and whatnot in the area because she was really motivated to see a change in the policy. So she jumped into the business and they've been producing furs for customers since then!

  2. This is certainly an example of really innovative problem solving on the part of Paquin. I am also unsure of how I feel about it (as it seems to be ignoring the greater problem of up to a million animals being killed a day by cars), however there is clearly a lot of good in the work that she is doing. She also must have been extremely motivated intrinsically for her to venture outside of her domain (which much have been difficult to gain access to), which may have simply been a passion for the just treatment of animals. Very cool post!

  3. My first comment was "What..." and then "This is kind of gross." Finally I ended with "That's pretty cool." I think it's a classic example of seeing a problem that seems to be a dead end (no pun intended) and then turning it into something better or even beautiful. Not only that but shes advocating for animal rights and trying to save them!

  4. What a cool and unique approach to the issue of fur! While I'm personally against the consumption of most animal products (I'm a vegetarian and don't purchase fur/leather/things that have been tested on animals), I think it's become pretty obvious that fake fur hasn't made a big enough dent in the fur industry to be considered a viable solution, and a lot of animal-rights activists have been limited by their desire for ideological perfection when it comes to finding alternatives. Repurposing fur from animals that have already been killed (and whose deaths will probably be inevitable as long as we use cars) definitely gets around a lot of the ethical issues of the fur industry's practice, and still allows people who would buy fur no matter what to have something authentic. Hopefully this can expand beyond being a niche-market product and lead to the large-scale movement for change the fur industry to desperately needs.


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