Some 150 farmers protested on Wednesday outside the Office of Wallonia’s Minister of Agriculture, Rene Collin, to press a demand for the region’s boar population to be slashed by 80%. The protest, organised by the Walloon Agricultural Federation (FWA), was held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On Tuesday, Minister Collin announced that Wallonia’s goal was to reduce the boar population by 50% by April 2020. A meeting was held to enable each party to lay out its position, and the Wallonia Inter-Environment Federation as well as representatives of the region’s forestry sector participated.
The farmers are afraid of the consequences that African swine fever can have for their livestock. They also say boars cause much damage to their operations, leading to considerable losses. “We’re sitting on a health-related time bomb,” said FWA Secretary-General Yvan Hayez. “The general overpopulation of boars increases the risk of contamination for pig farms. Stronger measures are needed.”
In addition to raising the number of boars each hunter can kill, the FWA is calling for new resources for reaching the boars and keeping them in check.
In the present situation, the Federation finds a 50% cull impossible to achieve, especially since some hunters do not respect the rules, yet the FWA wants the ceiling raised to 80% and, for that, it is asking for a total ban on feeding the animals outside of the African swine fever plan.
For Inter-Environnement Wallonia, the proliferation of wild boars has a marked impact on biodiversity. Forestry companies are also concerned since the animals cause damage on their lands. Moreover, those bordering the infected area are now off limits.
For the Agriculture Minister, the 50% target is in fact ambitious. “I would love to have announced 80% but we have to remain realistic,” he said. “We’ve already taken new measures and we’ll continue to take them.”
Every area concerned by the proliferation of the board is to have three days of collective hunting in January and February. The organisation of collective hunts will also be simplified.
Further, Minister Collin has asked his administration to do a continuous monitoring of kill counts and an assessment of the wild pigs’ reproductive rates in 20 representative locations. Other planned measures include night hunting and a ban on keeping maize plants after their harvesting dates.
Regarding a total ban on feeding, Minister Collin said he was open to discussion on the issue after the current hunting period. He also recalled that feeding the boars enables one to bring them together more quickly and thus, to cull them.
“The problem of the boars’ overpopulation should not cause any controversy,” he said. “It’s a sustainable, collective effort that will enable us to achieve our objectives.”