Wild boar to blame for only 1% of outbreaks, Chinese learn
PARIS, France––Donald Trump is not the only world leader who has yet to learn that walls don’t work––not if the goal is really to keep a foreign threat out, as opposed to presenting the appearance to a political base of doing something drastic and dramatic.
Seventy-eight years after the Nazi blitzkrieg overran the supposedly impenetrable Maginot Line to conquer France in just a month, the French government again hopes that creating a broad swath of no-man’s-land can stop a foreign invader.
This time, though, the alleged invaders are wild boar, blamed for transmitting African swine fever to factory-farmed pigs. The political base are pig farmers, an influential rural constituency in the nation that ranks third in Europe in pork production.
Pig diseases in factory farms harder to stop than Nazi tanks
As in 1940, though, the likelihood that the French strategy will succeed appears to be slim and none.
Indeed, pig diseases in factory farm environments have long since proved harder to stop than Panzer tanks. Reversing the routes of invaders from Attila the Hun to Genghis Khan, African swine fever has already spread in recent years from central Europe into Mongolia and China, and not because governments have not already attempted wild boar eradication by all available means.
France tries to create “boar-free zone”
“France will cull all wild boar in a zone along the Belgian border to try to avoid [African swine fever] after new cases were discovered nearby in Belgium,” Reuters reported on January 14, 2019.
“The confirmation of two cases of African swine fever January 9, 2019 in Belgium, just a kilometer from the border, leaves our country more exposed than ever to this major risk for pig farming,” the French agriculture ministry said in a prepared statement.
The French strategy, Reuters explained, is to attempt to “create a boar-free zone spanning several kilometers on its side of the border by culling all wild boar in the coming weeks and erecting a perimeter fence in the next few days.”
Repeating old mistakes
Even now, after multiple costly failures of boar extermination schemes, France is not the only European nation trying to stop African swine fever by killing wild boar and building fences, instead of reducing the dense concentrations of domestic pigs that enable diseases transmitted by a single animal to infect tens of thousands overnight.
Denmark, for instance, is both encouraging hunters to kill boar and building a supposedly pig-proof fence along the German border, even though German boar––at least officially––are not yet African swine fever carriers.
Poland, ranking ninth in the world in pork exports, just ahead of France, “is planning to cull 185,000 wild boar across the country,” Reuters said, “drawing protests from hunters that the measure will be excessive.”
No vaccination or treatment
“African swine fever can be carried by wild boars,” Reuters continued, “but experts also stress that human factors such as transport, clothing and food waste can play a role in spreading the disease. No vaccination or treatment exists for the highly contagious virus. Outbreaks often lead to export restrictions on pig meat,” which is the bottom line behind the attempted boar culls.
Yet export restrictions imposed due to African swine fever might mostly be thinly disguised trade protectionism at this point, in view that most of the world’s leading pig producing nations already have the disease, which––until and unless a vaccine is developed––seems likely to become endemic wherever large numbers of pigs are raised in close quarters.
Likely to spread
Major pig-producing nations not yet afflicted include Germany, France, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Ireland, Chile, the U.S. and Canada.
That Germany, France, Spain and South Korea will soon be hit seems inevitable, given that they have land borders often crossed by boar, despite obstacles including, in the case of South Korea, extensive mine fields.
“The authorities in Belgium’s French-speaking region of Wallonia have also stepped up surveillance measures since last week, extending a restriction zone on its side of the French border,” Reuters finished.
Of note, though, is that while Wallonia closed 155,000 acres near the French border to boar hunting in September 2018, both Wallonia and Flanders, the northern and southern halves of Belgium, continue to allow hunters to sell wild boar meat to restaurants.
China bought pigs from Russia due to Trump trade war
China, meanwhile, has culled more than 916,000 pigs since August 2018 to try to stop African swine fever, now occurring in all 23 Chinese provinces.
Wrote Epoch Times correspondent Frank Fang in a December 25, 2018 article tracing the spread of African swine fever through China, “Lai Shiow-suey, emeritus professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Taiwan’s prestigious National Taiwan University, said China could be underreporting the number of outbreak cases, given that there are roughly 430 million pigs in China. According to his estimation, the possible number of pigs infected could be well over 100 million, he told the Liberty Times newspaper on December 22, 2018.
“Lai added that China had made a mistake by buying pork imports from Russia instead of buying from the United States––owing to self-imposed tariffs enacted amid the Sino-U.S. trade war,” initiated by U.S. President Donald Trump in January 2018, when he imposed a 30% tariff on Chinese-made solar panels.
China learned wild boar are not to blame
“Lai explained that the genetic sequence of the virus found in infected pigs in
Shenyang City — the capital of northern China’s Liaoning Province, where China’s 1st case of African swine fever was reported––was nearly identical to those found in Russia and Poland.”
Unlike most other nations fighting African swine fever, China has not blamed free-roaming wild boar for the spread of the disease. Neither has China sought to stop African swine fever with walls or no-man’s-land, even as wild boar run unimpeded through ruined sections of the Great Wall that slowed but did not stop Mongol invasions.
According to a January 11, 2019 update from the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization, “Studies showed that 62% of the first 21 African swine fever events in China were related to swill feeding (feeding garbage, including pork remnants, to pigs). Epidemiological studies of 68 outbreaks revealed three major causes spread African swine fever virus: 46% by vehicles and workers without disinfection, 34% by swill feeding, and 19% by transport of live pigs and their products across regions.”
That leaves boar possibly culpable for about 1% of African swine fever infections.
Boar culls ineffective anyhow
This confirmed a March 2014 warning by the European Food Safety Authority that a Lithuanian plan to cull 90% of the nation’s wild boar population would be ineffective, albeit for a different reason.
“No evidence was found in scientific literature proving that wild boar populations can be drastically reduced by hunting or trapping in Europe,” the European Food Safety Authority said, citing “the adaptive behavior of wild boar, compensatory growth of the population, and the possible influx of wild boar from adjacent areas. Thus,” the European Food Safety Authority emphasized, “drastic hunting is not a tool to reduce the risk for introduction and spread of African swine fever virus in wild boar populations.”
Boar are their own major predators
There is no documented instance of any agency anywhere ever succeeding in even temporarily eradicating 90% of any sort of wild or feral pig population from a mainland habitat.
Many U.S. states have attempted feral pig eradication for decades, yet no state with feral pigs has achieved a net reduction.
Further, since pigs and wild boars are cannibalistic, they are often their own most significant natural predator. Adult male boars frequently kill piglets if finding them unguarded by their mothers. Killing adult male boars in particular is, accordingly, more likely to ensure that more piglets survive to maturity than to lastingly reduce the population.