Call to protect wild pigs a careless disregard for ag

Wild pigs are a threat to people and the environment. This species, when not under the supervision of a farmer, has no business in the Canadian landscape. Yet self-defined environmentalists feel the need to protect these damaging creatures that threaten the prairie environment and can potentially affect a sustainable human food supply.

A petition with 15,000 signatures was recently garnered from people who were presented with a misleading picture of an animal being abused by supposedly heartless rural dwellers, farmers, researchers and governments of all levels.

Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals (CETFA) has apparently decided that feral wild boars and any progeny crosses with escaped pigs must be protected and supported in the Canadian environment.

This group, which changed its name from “food animals” to “farmed animals,” is a non-profit organization created about 30 years ago in opposition to commercially farmed livestock. It opines that “animal farming is linked to environmental degradation and resources depletion” and “if you want to continue consuming meat, dairy and eggs” then consumers should meet with farmers and tour their farms before buying their products.

It is ironic that the group organized to end animal production in part because of perceived environmental damage is trying to protect an environmentally destructive species.

The group used erroneous propaganda in its recent petition such as “pig producers were encouraged (by the federal government) to crossbreed the wild boars with domestic pigs. The resulting hybrid animals, producers were told, would have an extra set of ribs, creating a longer animal with more saleable meat. But when the Canadian public didn’t develop an appetite for the animals’ meat, the producers, seeing no profit from the wild pigs, simply turned the animals out to fend for themselves.”

Alternatives to truth often make more compelling stories.

Canadian farmers have always been encouraged to seek sustainability through diversification and when margins get tight, they look for every angle. Wild boar production was one of those angles, attempted in the late 1980s through to the 1990s. It was successful for a few but a failure for many. Other ideas and better economics took their place.

The pigs’ ability to escape housing was one reason some farmers abandoned this species. It is an urban myth that they then simply released the animals and that the hog industry was encouraged to cross them for hybrid gains.

Small numbers of the escaped and highly adaptive animals thrived in the Canadian environment and have reached levels where the population is set to explode, according to researchers.

The feral pigs out-compete native animals for food, destroy the nests of ground-nesting birds, kill deer and young domestic livestock, destroy crops and pasture, eat native vegetation and tree seedlings, damage wetlands through wallowing and reduce water quality.

They can also carry swine and zoonotic diseases including brucellosis, trichinosis and pseudorabies. Hog cholera and foot-and-mouth disease are also easily spread in wild populations.

One of the greatest potential threats to domestic food production is the role wild feral pigs could have in transmission of African swine fever to farmed swine. That occurrence could devastate the Canadian pork industry for years, affecting a wide range of livelihoods in the sector.

If CETFA’s goal is to end or greatly reduce animal agriculture in Canada, a severe infestation of wild boar would be an effective way to accomplish it. No wonder they seek support to protect this invasive and destructive species.

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen and Mike Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

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