A badger killer confesses

How I did it, and how I suffered for it

29 December 2012

I killed a badger the other day. I was driving at 40 at 6 a.m. on my way to hospital. I had been told I was first on their operations list. Two black lines divided by a white one dived at me from the dark and went under my left front wheel — bump! — and then almost instantly under the rear one — bump!

I glanced in the rearview mirror. Something badger-shaped lay still at the roadside. I thought about stopping, but by then I was into the roundabout leading onto the motorway. I thought of the badger, then the surgical team waiting for me. I drove on from the slip road into A3(M). Why does a badger have to choose this of all moments to commit hara-kiri under my car?

Is it really dead? Do I go back and check to make sure? No, a team of highly skilled surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre technicians are waiting for a 6.30 a.m. check-in.

Too late now. What are a badger’s rights set against those people after me on the operations list whose lives and health I would be disrupting by turning up late? What is the point of going back to check if it’s really dead? What’s the point of going back to find out if it is just alive? What can anyone do with a just-alive run-over badger but run over it again?

And how far should the rights of a half-dead badger interfere with the expertise of a hospital team dedicated to sustaining human life? And what right does a wild badger have over my rights to a longer life?


I’d been waiting for this operation for over a year and, blow it, a badger wasn’t going to come between me and my operation, certainly not a dead one.

But its death played on my mind. The surgical team, all wearing headbands and soft red tunics, manoeuvred me into the crouched position on the operating table, chin on chest, hands grasping my own elbows waiting for the anaesthetist’s needle.

They sought conservational subjects to soothe me — ‘Hi, I’m Kelly, I hear you’ve got a Jack Russell’ — said the anaesthetist. We talk of dogs, and another team member tells me about her cat and a book, unknown to me, telling the tale of an old neglected cat somewhere in Scotland that dies unloved. Do I see tears about to break?

And then I said: ‘I couldn’t help it, but I killed a badger on the way here.’ At least six faces register moods between the semi-shocked, the nonplussed and a mixture of condolences for me and horror for the badger. Insertions were made into my spinal nervous system, shocks forced my ankle to kick involuntarily. Someone, I think the cat lady, inserted a catheter into my private parts.

Nothing hurt but I slowly faded away into oblivion like a falling snowflake. Just after that the surgeon must have done his hacking, easing the blood flow in my left femoral artery.

I was only there for a day. The artery he had attacked didn’t hurt at all at first as, leg frozen, I was wheeled off into a recovery ward that resembled an airport apron with patients parked like Boeing 747s awaiting their next mission. More people in red nursed me back into the world of feeling.

When my wound began to sting it was not especially painful. Painkillers kept the worst at bay. Every two hours someone came and inspected it. Only the discomfort of the catheter grew.

The next morning I was given permission to get out of bed. Two physiotherapists assessed my walking and whether I could be trusted back in the real world.

At last a nurse called Liz came to remove my catheter. ‘Ooh,’ said Liz, ‘hasn’t this gone in a long way? Oh dear, I’ve never seen one in this far before.’ I glance down. At least eight inches of catheter is coming out and there’s still more to come. ‘Must have been right up in your bladder,’ said Liz. ‘It does hurt,’ I said. It did, too. And didn’t my first pee sting like mad?

No, I refuse to think anything but good of the surgical team. But if I have any cautionary advice to my fellow men, it is never to mention to someone who’s just about to insert a catheter into your penis — one who might shed tears over a dead cat 400 miles away in Scotland — that you’ve just killed a badger on the road and didn’t stop.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • belbylafarge

    You got all of the pain you deserved.

  • jasonjapanwhite

    In the dark, wild animals tend to panic in the headlights and run in the wrong direction. Still remember pulling a good 90 on a downhill section: Couple of pheasants flew up and took out one of the spots. Tempted to stop, but on a rally you don’t. Even after 50 years you still remember some things.

    • Guest

      At the TT Race, perhaps? More fantasy!

  • Karla

    Two words — Bovine T.B.. The bleeding hearts of the trendy animal-rights brigade of nazis (who believe that all animals should have the same rights as humans) however would probably say something different.

    • Kaya Sophia

      Toby – the badgers are being used as a political scapegoat for bovine TB. They are no more to blame than you or I. Please educate yourself before making ignorant comments like these. I’m afraid the increase in bTB over recent years is, on the whole, due to the very “untrendy” increase in overcrowding, poor cattle management, poor adherence to infection control policies, and poor bio-security. bTB exists in badger families, yes. But look at the data, look at the evidence. There are only 250,000 estimated badgers in the entire UK of which 10% are estimated to carry bTB. Humans are farming a whopping 10,000,000 cattle at any one time. Cattle markets have been exposed this year as not adhering to the most basic infection control policies, like washing down stalls in-between bTB and non-bTB infected herds. Humans are to blame for this rise in bTB – the cattle and dairy industries have become greedy, overcrowded and by putting the blame onto Britain’s wildlife we are ignoring the bigger and long-term issue of intensive farming. Some figures from Defra: 5,094 badgers were to be shot in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset; if this is “successful”, another 95,000 are to be killed in 40 other areas over four years; 28,000 cattle with TB were destroyed in England last year; the culls are expected to reduce the incidence of TB by 16%. If 16% of all TB in the country is eliminated that would be 3,800 cows. That is 26 dead badgers for each animal saved from TB. Is that a worthwhile result?

  • Mad Scientist.

    You drove 40 miles/ hr on the A3?! It could have been me driving into you.
    Anything can happen. It’s just life. You grieved for the badger. That’s all u need to do.
    It was its time. End of.

  • brossen99
  • AndrewMelville

    It would be worth stopping if you’d hit a deer – venison is a fine feast.

    • SirMortimerPosh

      Only if you are prepared to slit its throat, hang it head down and bleed it out. This is not for most people, I’d suggest. Eating meat that hasn’t been bled like this is not great. No meat produced for human consumption aside from fish is left un-bled.

      • AndrewMelville

        …well as with most people, I do that for fun to my weekend guests anyway – so why not with a roadkill deer?

  • Terence Hale

    A badger killer confesses. It a matter of law. How do you know you have killed a bagger and not a person? To report such to the police is important.

    • SirMortimerPosh

      Yes – it is a legal requirement to stop for ‘baggers’, and to report their demise to the police. Badger’s on the other hand can be left unreported like any other wild animal that happens to burst out of the undergrowth and die under your car. Terrence; you are an idiot.

      • pjkkerr

        When I lived in Nortway I learned that it was a legal obligation to inform the police if you hit any sort of deer or, heaven forbid, an elk. They would then call out, at any time of the day or night, a registered hunter with a tracking dog to track down the injured animal and shoot it. As for Badgers, if one was a nuisance and digging up your lawn, the local authority would lend you a badger trap, and when you’d trapped it, they’d send round a friendly man to “off life” (avlive) it for you.

  • roger

    Driving too fast to stop or too close to the curb, either way bad driving at night, sorry.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here