Big-game hunting with gunmen paying £550 a piece to shoot captive “wild” boar on a country estate is a new development in “sports”...
1. Big-game hunting with gunmen paying £550 a piece to shoot captive “wild” boar on a country estate is a new development in “sports” to vex animal welfarists and environmentalists and challenge the definitions of DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency. Widening of the applications of hunting for game and angling for both food production and “sport” prompts an urgent overhaul of legislation that needs strengthening before the next General Election.
2. The Sunday Times (27 January 2008) reports 2 recent trial drives, at which 20 “hunters” killed a total of 51 wild boar. The owner of the estate now plans to hold regular commercial shoots and enthusiasts predict that “it will become a mainstream sport within the next few years as boar stocks grow”. The proprietor of Britain’s first commercial boar hunt will not advertise it publicly. He relies on word-of-mouth to attract customers.
3. In the 2 trial drives the animals were herded through woodland by men and dogs towards a line of shooters armed with large-calibre rifles: a minimum calibre of 0.270 is recommended. Both drives took place at a secret location in Scotland within the past few weeks. The animals are kept within a 200-acre enclosure with an electric fence. The carcases are sold by the estate for meat. The drive is “not without its dangers”, states one of the organisers. “Often the dogs used will be killed and the people can be badly hurt too”. He describes the “adrenaline high” as “a 16-stone boar charges at you through the undergrowth”.
4. Wild boar became extinct in Britain 300 years ago but the number at large has grown rapidly in recent years, because escaped and released animals from farms have bred and established populations from Kent to well north of the Scottish border. DEFRA will soon announce the results of a review into whether they should be subject to regulation and their killing licensed: Farmers and landowners complain that the animals, which are “omnivores with voracious appetites who destroy meadows and arable crops with their constant rooting and grubbing. They consider them a pest”. (We can think of a vertical omnivorous species that could be described similarly).
5. Charlie Jacoby, who was launch editor of Sporting Rifle magazine, estimated Britain’s populations of wild boar at between 5000 and 10,000. He said: “Wild boar and pheasants are pretty incompatible because the pigs destroy the land and the eggs and nests of the birds”. The species is not classed as indigenous, so landowners can legally kill boar on their property. So far, however, they have been shot only singly or in small numbers by individual hunters working from hides at night. Drives are a common hunting technique in mainland Europe. They can lead to much larger kills. In these drives “the boars often turn and savage the dogs, sometimes killing them. With large males weighing 30 stone or more, armed with sharp tusks up to 6in long, they are dangerous to people too, although they usually attack only when threatened”, reports the Sunday Times. The drives in Scotland took place on 28 December, when 18 boars were killed, and 05 January when 33 were killed, at a secret location in the Dumfries and Galloway region.
6. In the Scottish drives about half a dozen beaters and between 6 and 12 dogs were used. A line of men and dogs drove the boar through the woods to where riflemen were positioned on 4ft “stands” to give them a superior firing line. The biggest boar weighed in at over 25 stone. One of the shooters claimed 10 kills and said he could have had 30 more. The participants were like those involved in many shoots, but “bored with partridge shooting” and “looking for something different”. Further shoots may be organised outside the enclosed shooting area, where there were also “large populations” of boar.
7. Although wild boars are considered pests, “they are fed to keep them from uprooting pasture and to foster the population for shoots”. The Hunting Act 2004 (Scotland) forbids the use of more than 2 dogs to flush out quarry. In the Scottish drives an organiser said that “no more than a couple of dogs were off the leash at any one time. In Germany they put dogs in Kevlar vests to try to protect them from the boars’ tusks, but this is not enough to save them from death”.