Recently, BBC Countryfile included a special feature on African Swine Fever (ASF) and wild boar in the Forest of Dean, showing how important it is not to feed the boar.
The UK’s pig industry is worth £14 billion to the economy. At present, the industry exports £400 million worth of products each year, having taken five years for export levels to recover after Foot and Mouth disease. The Forest of Dean is home to the largest boar population in England and a number of local pig farms. It is therefore vital to raise awareness of this deadly disease.
ASF is fatal to all pigs including wild boar. There is currently no cure, and infection causes death within a period of ten days. While it is not harmful to humans, people can spread the virus to pigs through contaminated clothing and food.
Visitors to areas where wild boar are present should constantly be aware that while feeding them may seem helpful, it is dangerous for their health and spreads diseases such as ASF amongst the boar which can transfer to commercial pigs. There is plenty of food growing naturally in the Forest of Dean, by allowing the boar to forage for their own food, the risk of spreading disease is substantially reduced.
People living within the Forest should also take care when disposing of leftovers, kitchen waste and any food packaging. Boar quickly become accustomed to relying on food within easy access, and will abandon their natural diets to raid bins in local villages and towns; this can raise the risk of infection as well as causing hazards on our roads. Bins should be secured so that boar and other wildlife cannot access them.
A working group, including the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Defra, the National Pig Association, NFU and the Forestry Commission, is working closely together to share the message that visitors play an important part in keeping pigs safe. To that end, I thought it would be useful to remind my constituents with sensible practices being key to preventing ASF entering the UK and damaging our pig industry.