NPA highlights ASF risk posed by Forest of Dean wild boar

The NPA has warned of the risks to the UK pig herd of African swine fever spreading among the Forest of Dean’s wild boar population.

BBC Radio Gloucestershire ran a feature on the industry’s fears over ASF and the particular risk posed by the growing population of feral pigs in the Forest of Dean. The breakfast show programme interviewed Gloucestershire pig producer and NPA Producer Group member Sophie Hope and NPA chief executive Zoe Davies.

You can listen to the feature here from 1 hour, 38 minutes. 

“African swine fever is a particularly nasty disease for pigs. We have never had it in the UK, but it is spreading at an alarming rate across Europe, staring from Russia heading westwards,” Sophie  said. “It is a nasty disease and if there was an outbreak of ASF on a UK pig farm, all the stock would have to be culled as they were in the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.”

She highlighted the biosecurity measures her farm takes to ensure there is no risk of spread by migrant workers travelling to and from eastern Europe and said she hoped these sorts of measures would be in place across the industry.

Zoe said the NPA has been tracking the disease, which has been spreading despite measures put in place by various European countries. “We are becoming increasingly concerned by that,” she said.

She said most of the jumps being seen in Europe were down to people bringing infected products into new areas and those products ending up in local wild boar populations or pet pigs.

“As an island we are in a better position than most other countries when it comes to protecting ourselves but we have to make sure the Government increases border controls in order for that to happen.”

She added: “It is not the farmers I am worried about. It is more about any workers coming from eastern Europe. Obviously there is a big tie with people wanting to bring products home when they come back to the UK. One of the problems is that the general public don’t understand the risk of bringing those products back with them and therefore don’t treat them as carefully as they perhaps should.”

Zoe also highlighted the need to control the wild boar numbers in the Forest of Dean.

“A particular issue around the Forest of Dean is that the pigs in the forest will be accessing barbecue sites, they will be getting into local bins and we hear stories of how they have been getting into local towns and villages and wrecking people’s bins and gardens. It is the fact that those pigs can access potentially infected meat products in that way.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.