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The Government understands its responsibility to control feral boar - Defra Minister

21st May 2019 / By Alistair Driver

Defra Minister Lord Gardiner has stressed that the Government understands its responsibility for controlling feral boar populations, particularly in the context of the African swine fever (ASF) threat.

wild boar 5During a recent House of Lords debate on the UK’s post-Brexit animal and plant health regulatory framework, peers challenged the minister on control of feral boar populations, which are of particular concern in the Forest of Dean. 

After meeting the NPA ahed of the debate, Labour peer Baroness Bakewell described ASF as a ‘really major concern for national pig breeders’.

“There are areas of the land with huge populations of feral pigs, and the disease is a threat to pig farmers as there is little monitoring of the health of the feral pigs. It is important that we protect legitimate pig breeders from ASF," she said. "There does not seem to be any way ​to monitor how the feral pig population is doing and whether or not the pigs are carrying ASF.”

Lord Deben, the former Agriculture Minister John Gummer, also highlighted the ASF risk. “It is not just a question of making sure that there is no spread of invasive ASF at our borders but of making sure that it does not spread inside our borders.”

He said there was a ‘degree of unhappiness about the large and growing number of wild boars in ​this country and the danger that ASF will therefore be very difficult to control’.

“Will the Minister take this opportunity to tell the House what measures we are taking internally to complement the external measures he has outlined?” he asked.

Lord Gardiner stressed that the Forestry Commission and others are ‘absolutely seized of the imperative of managing the wild boar population because much damage is being done to ecosystems’.

“Much damage is also being done to people’s properties, to playing fields and graveyards; there are all sorts of examples where a population that is not managed or properly controlled is causing damage.

“I think that many local residents who so applauded the arrival of the wild boar are now deeply concerned about this. I therefore assure my noble friend Lord Deben that, yes, we see the responsibility for that.

“This would not be just about ASF; can one imagine an outbreak—pray God it does not happen—of foot and mouth in west Gloucestershire? As I said in a previous debate, we need to think maturely about how we deal with that.”

Lord GardinerLord Gardiner said he ‘absolutely understands’ about ASF and its devastating impact in ​central and eastern Europe, Russia and China. “It is a very dangerous and damaging disease, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, is right to say that all pig producers in this country are very worried indeed about it,” he added.

He also highlighted Defra’s work in communicating important biosecurity messages, reflecting recent updates on animal health control measures relating to ASF in certain member states.

“Retaining this EU decision requires the appropriate Minister in the UK to display public information notices regarding the importance of biosecurity measures to prevent this pig disease being brought into the UK; it also prohibits the movement of live feral pigs,” he said.

Defra is raising awareness through newspapers and magazines in many languages for workers from eastern Europe about the importance of not bringing pork products back with them, he said.  

He highlighted the need to further raise awareness of personal biosecurity, referring to reports that outbreaks in the Czech Republic and Belgium were connected to ‘someone discarding a pork product’. “We need to be absolutely clear on that,” he said.

You can read the NPA's briefing on feral boar here