Polish wild boars sentenced to death

On January 12, Polish hunters started to cull almost the entire wild boar population of the country. This misguided cruelty is the government’s response to the epidemic of the African Swine Fever which has spanned Europe over past years.

Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko NewsMavens, Poland
Polish wild boars sentenced to death - NewsMavens
Wild boar, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The disease is a threat to one of Poland’s top industries -- pork production. Fearing an embargo which would deal a painful blow to the powerful lobby, the government decided to undertake drastic measures. However, the strategy chosen is not only brutal but also counterproductive.

So far, the most effective measure of fighting the spread of ASF has been bolstering biosecurity by strictly isolating domestic pigs from wild boars, disposing of the sick cadaver and rigorously disinfecting hunters and the pig farms’ staff. Because as long as the wild boars do not come into contact with domestic pigs, the disease will not threaten the pork industry.

From this aspect, Polish farms have been far from exemplary. According to the Supreme Audit Office (NIK), 74% of Polish farms fail to obey even the most basic measures of biosecurity, while the veterinary supervision leaves much to be desired. Moreover, although the first case of ASF was reported in Poland in 2014, there has been no effort to find and collect the carcasses of sick animals where the virus thrives.

This is why 300 top scientists of the country signed an open letter decrying the policy. Environmental organisations are also sounding the alarm bells. Some experts suggest that the large-scale hunts will not stop ASF but, on the contrary, will help the spread of the virus, since frightened animals will start escaping to Western Poland.

This unnecessary massacre is emblematic of the government's environmental policy, which could be summed up as “destruction in the name of protection”.

When two years ago, lumberjacks entered one of Europe’s last remaining primary forest, the Białowieża Forest, and started logging, the official PR line was that the forest had to be protected from the European spruce bark beetle.

This time, the government would rather exterminate 180,000 wild boars than pressurize the pork production lobby to implement biosecurity measures.

Whether it is colonization of other nations or species, humans always find a noble excuse. We come in the name of religion, peace, security -- you name it. But whatever we call it, in the end, it’s just business.

Details from the story:

  • It is difficult to determine the exact number of wild boars living in Poland, but the population is estimated to number 200,000-250,000.
  • The aim of the cull is to leave about 10% of that population alive.  
  • As of today, African Swine Fever is incurable. However, it only affects animals from the pig family (domestic pig and wild boar).
  • Hunters are not only allowed to shoot boars -- they are being enticed with financial incentives. They will receive 600 zł (150 euros) for each pregnant sow and 300 zloty (70 euros) for a male boar.
  • Poland is the 6th biggest producer of pork in Europe. Its neighbour Germany is the biggest one.
  • Although wild boars have been the target of anti-ASF hunts since 2014 (on a smaller scale), the disease is spreading. Recently, it crossed the line of Vistula river and reached the outskirts of Warsaw. This shows that unless hunters maintain impeccable biosecurity measures, the cull will be pointless.
  • Over the past weekend, “Gazeta Wyborcza” reported that in many places, the hygiene regulations were ignored.
  • Scientists warn that such a wide-scale cull will unbalance the forests’ ecosystems. Wild boars are an important source of food for wolves. Moreover, by digging the ground in search of grubs to eat, wild boars enable the germination of sprouts.
  • Despite this, the European Commission approved of Poland’s anti-ASF strategy.
  • Across Poland, people took to the streets to protest the cull.
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