EFSA probes wild boar hunting as swine fever control method

By Keith Nuthall

- Last updated on GMT

EFSA probes wild boar hunting as swine fever control method

Related tags Wild boar European union Lithuania Livestock Pork

The European Commission and the Lithuanian government are considering backing significant hunting and trapping campaigns to reduce wild boar numbers in regions where these animals have contracted African Swine Fever.

They have asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to investigate the idea, with Lithuania also asking for advice on using fencing and organised feeding to control boar movements.

The probe comes as Russia continues to maintain its import ban of European Union (EU) pigmeat after wild boars in Lithuania and Poland were infected with African swine fever (ASF), for which there is no cure or vaccine. The Lithuanian government fears these infections occurred because of movements of boar into the EU from neighbouring non-member state Belarus. There is also concern that infected boars could carry the disease into the EU from Ukraine, and – ironically – Russia.

A letter to EFSA from the Lithuania state food and veterinary service noted that wild boars roamed across the borders linking non-EU Belarus with member states Poland and Lithuania. Also, boars from Ukraine sometimes enter Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. And Russia-based boars can enter Latvia and Lithuania. "Infections can spread between larger regions… where there is continuity in the geographical distribution of the wild boar,"​ it added.

A note from the European Commission to EFSA said this cross-border movement of boars "is going to represent a threat to the EU livestock and a challenge for animal health risk managers".

So Brussels wants EFSA’s advice on whether it is "feasible to drastically reduce the wild boar population by hunting or the use of traps,"​ and for how long such action should continue to stabilise boar numbers. It asked: "Could increased hunting pressure be a proper disease management tool in disease-free areas? Would hunting significantly reduce the risk of African Swine Fever and its spread?"

The Lithuanian paper said: "In certain areas in Lithuania, the density of wild boars is very high."​ It asked whether hunting, fences or controlling boar feeding would be effective control techniques. It added: "Data shows that where wild boar are absent or natural/artificial barriers prevent direct contact between infected and susceptible populations, infections usually fade out spontaneously."

EFSA will try to release scientific advice by 14 March.

European Commission health spokesperson Frédéric Vincent told globalmeatnews.com: "It’s part of our work to reassure our trade partners, in particular Russia."

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