There is a danger of African Swine Fever entering the Netherlands from eastern Europe. The ministry of Agriculture, Food and Nature has agreed with the pig industry that the number of wild boar in Gelderland, North Brabant and Limburg will be drastically reduced in order to halt the spread of the disease. Is there any point in that, we ask Swine Fever expert Willie Loeffen of Wageningen Bioveterinary Research.
What does the government want to achieve by culling wild boar?
‘If you cull wild boar, you do so preventively to stop African Swine Fever being introduced into the Netherlands, or to ensure the virus cannot spread so easily if it does get in anyway. Culling is also one of the main methods of dealing with the virus if there is an outbreak. But let’s be quite clear: African Swine Fever will not enter the Netherlands because wild boar walk here from eastern Europe. We could get Swine Fever among wild boar here if someone brought infected meat from eastern Europe, for example. That could be a truck driver who throws his sandwich with infected salami on the roadside, after which it gets eaten by a wild boar. Humans bring the virus in, not boar.’
But killing the boar will help stop the disease spreading?
‘Yes, the fewer the wild boar, the smaller the chance that the virus gets in here. France has employed the army to kill all wild boar at the Belgian border to prevent the virus from spreading from Belgium. It remains to be seen how that will work out. The Czech republic has successfully combatted African Swine Fever by fencing off a small area and getting police sharpshooters to kill all the boar.’
Who will have to shoot the boar in the Netherlands?
‘Dutch hunters are volunteers with limited resources who want to do some nature management and practise their hobby. They don’t see boar the same way pig farmers do, so can you impose on them the task of preventively shooting as many boar as possible? And do we want to go on killing large numbers of boar for years? I think the focus on Swine Fever is too limited and I would rather see a broader discussion of what we want to do with our wild boar in the Netherlands.’