Scavenging During A Crisis


Alright, so here is the presented scenario.
‘A large crisis breaks out (let’s just a zombie crisis), and about 95% of the world population is wiped out. You are on the move, and going into abandoned stores.
In these stores, you take what you need, and move on to the next, taking what you need also, and grabbing some stuff for the future.
Now, with each store, you are either confident that, or 100% sure that the owner is either dead or never coming back to this place.’

Would this be morally acceptable if you are either confident that, or 100% sure that the owner is either dead or never coming back to the place?
(Note: I’m just curious because I’ve been watching the Walking Dead, and they scavenge stores where the owner is usually found dead, or where there isn’t a person in sight. Just curious!)


I don’t get zombies. My son gets zombies. He is on the cusp of turning 12. I am in my late 50s. And I’ve even seen Plan 9 From Outer Space :alien: I must be missing something here.

Anyway… in such dire circumstances, wouldn’t the common good prevail over any notions of private property? Something from Aquinas about all goods being owned in common in a crisis? (I can’t find the quote, sorry.)


I see. Would such goods be owned, though if the previous owner was dead or never coming back? I am also curious on that matter. I mean, your response does answer my question, thank you.


Not to practice law here (as I haven’t the credentials), but if the owner is dead, his goods would go to his estate. If he is never coming back, the goods could be considered as abandoned.


@HomeschoolDad Estate meaning their heirs? Or (from Merriam Webster) “: the assets and liabilities left by a person at death.”?


177. Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute and untouchable : “On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone”[372]. The principle of the universal destination of goods is an affirmation both of God’s full and perennial lordship over every reality and of the requirement that the goods of creation remain ever destined to the development of the whole person and of all humanity[373]. This principle is not opposed to the right to private property[374] but indicates the need to regulate it. Private property, in fact, regardless of the concrete forms of the regulations and juridical norms relative to it, is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods ; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means [375].


As @HomeschoolDad said, the goods would likely be considered abandoned. Few corporations would have the resources to secure all their goods across the entire country.

Personally, while everyone is outside killing each other in the Supermarket, I’ll be heading over to GNC and getting vitamins and protein bars. Few people consider the consequences of poor nutrition. It’s NOT pretty.


Most moral theologians would say it is perfectly acceptable to take necessities in a crisis.

Pillaging during a crisis for material gain is malevolent and sinful.


A “zombie” pandemic that cripples the global supply chain for an extended period of time would be sufficient extenuating circumstances to just scavenging.

Scavenging after a local crisis is less clear. Ideally, one stocked up before hand. Many stores will inform local law enforcement that they are abandonning any remaining stock, so that first responders can distribute it orderly. Much of it would have to be disposed of anyways due to failed refrigeration or water damage.


As someone with a deep interest in survivalism I sure hope it’s morally acceptable.


I like that you distinguished against a temporary local issue vs a large scale meltdown of government and society. As the two are different.

The last thing you should need during either, however, is a large screen TV.


Adding onto this (we seemed to say it’s acceptable in cases if the owner is dead/gone), however what if it’s the same situation of society collapsing and you are with your entire family (or say a group of survivors) hungry and cold and you stumble upon a single store owner hoarding his resources.

Is it still morally acceptable to take his resources without him knowing? Is it morally acceptable to take his resources by force?

I’d wager no but I didn’t know about the teachings that property is supposed to be communal and for the common good that someone mentioned above, so I’m wondering if it changes things.



Disaster preparedness can be dramatically less from country to country. Grabbing a bunch of food when a person isn’t actually concerned when their next meal will be is just taking advantage of the chaos and that isn’t okay but there are situations where people can be in turmoil for days or weeks on end.


Hello @RHIC12 , and welcome .I don’t like zombie films :wink: , but I like these quotes , though they make uncomfortable reading , of St John Chrysostom and St Basil the Great and St Ambrose , as well as St Gregory the Great who said , “When we administer necessaries of any kind to the poor, we do not bestow our own, but render them what is theirs. We rather pay a debt of justice than accomplish works of mercy.”- - - - - - - -

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