To cull or not to cull: that is – once again – the question. This time it’s not badgers, deer, or even goats that are being discussed, but wild boar. Locals in the Forest of Dean have complained that these giant pigs are attacking their dogs, spooking the horses, causing car accidents, and tearing up gardens and football pitches.
The Forestry Commission have estimated that the numbers of boar are doubling almost every year, and they believe there are currently about 800 living in the 43 square miles of woodland. If the Forestry Commission get their way, half of these would be culled. But is that really such a big deal? With no natural predators in the UK, it’s natural that their population will continue to grow, and wild boar culls are common elsewhere, as Prince William can testify.
Culling might seem cruel, but others argue that it’s a necessary evil. In November, the RSPB were criticised for planning a cull of feral goats in Loch Lomond; the charity claimed the goats were damaging the delicate woodland habitat. Meanwhile, badgers dominated the news when trial culls were carried out in a bid to stop the spread of bovine TB, and the Crown Estate got into hot water when Animal Aid revealed that they had culled a total of 7,129 animals in 2013, including mink, moles, parakeets and foxes.
These stories played on people’s perceptions about what an animal charity is for: ‘how can the RSPB defend culling goats, when the RSPCA are against the culling of badgers?’ The problem is that culling isn’t a black and white issue. Sometimes – for example with deer in Scotland – if the animals aren’t culled, then they are likely to starve. Surely, then, it’s kinder to kill the older, or weaker, animals instead of forcing them to suffer? In other cases, the argument is harder to follow. What is more important? Delicate woodland, or feral goats? Farmed pheasants, or invasive mink? And again, cattle (and, therefore, farmers’ incomes), or badgers?
Meanwhile, in the Forest of Dean, some locals have taken matters into their own hands, and are poaching the animals. At least if the culling were organised, locals would be less at risk from stray flying bullets