Rachael Pells tucks in to roe deer and squirrel legs
Rachael Pells tucks in to roe deer and squirrel legs

Christmas dinner: Sampling a festive roadkill feast made by a man who would eat a dolphin

Retired entomologist Arthur Boyt insists that he would never harm an animal or buy meat from a shop

Rachael Pells
Tuesday 22 December 2015 22:04
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Arthur Boyt has lived off roadkill since he was a teenager. Now 76, the retired entomologist is an expert on foraged foods, but his interests recently landed him in hot water after he claimed that for Christmas dinner this year he would eat a dolphin that had died and washed up on the shore near his home in Cornwall.

Mr Boyt kindly agreed to treat The Independent to a Christmas meal – but not dolphin. He insists that he would never harm an animal or buy meat from a shop. We wouldn’t be having turkey and all the trimmings – I was initially told that we would be dining on nature’s catch of the day: squirrel legs and badger steak, as organic as it comes.

“But you’re in luck,” says Mr Boyt the next day, “we have a whole roe deer, fresh from the road last night.” I have to admit relief – venison seems more traditional than badger.

“I’d never go out of my way to find carcasses, but I can’t leave a good meal behind,” he says. He admits that he’s not adverse to slamming on the brakes and pulling over to drag a kill off the motorway.

His determination to save and minimise waste is inherent. “I’ve lived as if I was on a higher earning scale because I spend so little,” he says, “and I don’t just pick up food – it’s amazing what people throw out.” Even the jumper he is wearing today was found on the road.

Nothing is off the menu, as long as it’s fresh. “I’ve eaten polecat, stoat and bat,” he says proudly, “as well a few others things I shouldn’t tell you.” He’s been in trouble and received warnings for “all sorts that you wouldn’t believe was illegal”, including owning part of an otter, smuggling animal skulls, and an alleged cat incident, as well as Dolphingate.

I chop leeks, potatoes and onion – all fresh from a recent skip-dive. He clears a large bird wing off the stove and sets about “marinating” carefully cut squirrel’s legs in vinegar. The ingredients go into a pot and for a few moments everything feels domestically calm.

And so the final test. Our deer-in-vinegar casserole was strangely gamey and not to my taste, but squirrel legs I could get on with.

In over 50 years, Mr Boyt says he’s never been ill. And what will he really have on Christmas Day? “It’s a pity, but I’m going to my mother-in-law’s,” he says. “And you? Will you be tempted by something other than turkey?” Nothing personal, Mr Boyt, but I think I might go vegetarian this year.

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