Calls for culls of boar and deer EU

By Andrew Burnyeat

- Last updated on GMT

EU - game management to "receive more attention"
EU - game management to "receive more attention"

Related tags: Wild boar, European union, Livestock

A senior meat industry official has backed calls for the sustainable culling of wild boar and red deer in Europe, made at a meeting of the European Union (EU) Council of Ministers.

Czech agriculture minister Marian Jurečka said he and other EU ministers shared farmers’ concerns that soaring populations of boar and deer were spreading disease to farm animals and wanted them culled.

The Czech Republic has already passed laws making its wild boar hunting season an all-year-round event – previously it ran during the months of November, December and January only. But the impact of such animals is also felt in areas including Germany, Poland, Scotland and parts of western England, said the Czech government in a document submitted to the Agriculture Council (last Monday 16/11).

The document stated: "The overpopulation of hoofed game in Europe, particularly wild boar and red deer, has not only significant repercussions on the EU livestock sector and trade, but every year it also causes significant damage to agricultural crops and European forests and entails a high risk of epidemic and the spread of diseases, such as the African swine fever and tuberculosis."

Culling is 'important' 

Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association, agreed, adding that culling could help boost the health of standard livestock, as well increasing the supply of game: "Appropriate culling is important because some species can be reservoirs of diseases that are transmissible to farmed species and for the good of the game population itself."

Recent mild winters have allowed wild boar to flourish to numbers of around 300,000 in the Czech Republic alone. Its agriculture ministry estimates the damage caused to crops and farm animals by boars at €115.7 million.

In Italy, national farmers’ confederation Coldiretti estimates €100m in damage is caused to agriculture by wild boar alone. The figure includes damage to vineyards as the animals raid them for grapes. It is asking for changes in legislation to liberalise Italian hunting rules, but this is opposed by environmental groups such as Legambiente, which argues that hunting is an ineffective means of controlling populations.

There have also been calls for a Europe-wide approach, however. The Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the European Union (FACE) called on the European Commission (EC) to issue guidelines on hunting. "This is to avoid disagreement about competition and would harmonise national rules,"​ said a spokesperson.

EU decision pending​ 

The EU council meeting (of agriculture ministers) on 16 November made no decision on culling or, indeed, any policy regarding game, but it did call for greater co-operation between member states on the issue.

EU ministers will continue to discuss practical solutions to the problem with a view to adopting one common policy. A statement reported to Monday’s meeting read: "Game management should receive more attention on a national and international level as it is closely related to agriculture and other fields."​ It added: "The situation calls for a shift from a piecemeal ‘salami slicing’ approach to a thorough consideration of the situation in a holistic manner."

FACE attended a meeting of EU directors of hunting and game management in September. At that meeting, delegates said wild animal populations spread diseases such as African swine fever and tuberculosis. Boars feed on maize and invade farmers’ fields to get to it, causing significant physical damage.

FACE supports hunting partly because the high-quality meat that comes from it can be sold to local traders. It is unclear, however, whether large-scale markets for culled meat will emerge from any EU-wide policy.

One partial solution, discussed at the meeting, which may prove popular with farmers, is a simple compensation system, to run alongside hunting liberalisation.

Related topics: Meat

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