Wild boar hunts in Poland cause public outrage

The African Swine Fever has been on the rise in Poland for the past five years. To tackle the spreading disease the Polish government ordered a series of hunts with the aim of killing the majority of the polish wild boar population. The country’s veterinary officials approved a plan to kill 185 000 animals of the 200 000 polish wild boars within this hunting season. According to the country’s PLZ hunting union 168 000 animals have already been killed since last April.

Scientists worry about the ecological impacts

Protests in Warsaw proved that the Polish people do not agree with the government decision to shoot the majority of the Polish wild boar population. An online petition has already been signed by more than 300 000 Polish citizens. Thousands of Poles furthermore changed their Facebook profile picture to one of a wild boar to show solidarity with the animals. Additionally, hundreds of scientists appeal to the government in an open letter to stop the campaign. The zoologist Andrzej Elzanowski says that the shootings would not lead to positive effects according to numerous experts. He further states:

It is impossible to kill all the wild boar in Poland, so the African Swine Fever will stay in the country. Furthermore, killing such a high number of wild boar will leave a significant gap in nature which would only attract wild boar from neighbouring countries. Consequently, the whole campaign is just pointless and brutal.

Andrzej Elzanowski
Zoologist

Such a campaign might even foster the spreading of the virus to western Poland as the animals fleeing the shootings will try to resettle somewhere else. The biologist and conservationist Mikolaj Golachowski shares this concern. He further adds that reducing the wild boar population so drastically will significantly influence the country’s ecosystem in a negative way. The foraging of wild boars aerates the soil, which is necessary to germinate seeds. The animals furthermore feed on rodents and insect larvae controlling their population sizes.

Controversial decision of the Polish government

According to the government there are currently 200 centres of the epidemic and more than 3 000 animals are infected. Consequently, a controlled shooting would be neccessary in order to prevent further spreading of the disease. The Polish agricultural ministry states that the aim of the campaign is to kill all wild boar in the affected regions. Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski of the agricultural ministry reasons that the ministry demands certain measures from the farmers to protect their pig herds in order to get subsidies. But the farmers would not be able to work effectively as long as the disease is still on the run outside of their farms. The Polish environmental minister Henryk Kowalczyk justifies the government’s decision:

The ministry only recommends that the hunting associations coordinate the shooting of wild boar. If the shooting happens at different locations at different times it would only scare up the animals which would then leave the territory and spread the disease.

Henryl Kowalczyk
Title

Critics from within the government

The scheduled shooting is also criticised by the opposition. And not even the umbrella organisation of the farmer associations agrees with the government’s decision. Particularly, outrage follows the government’s call to also shoot pregnant females. A licensed hunter would get around €150 for such an animal, which is double the usual amount for an individual.
Even the Polish president Andrzej Duda became involved and called on the hunters to at least spare the pregnant females.

EWS - Wolves WWF -00218_.jpg-© Wild Wonders of Europe /Sergey Gorshkov / WWF

Effective prevention measures

The disease is known to also spread by insects and is able to survive for several months in carcasses and meat. It is deadly to wild boar and pigs but does not infect humans. The most effective way to counter the spreading of the African swine fever is, according to numerous experts, to guarantee proper biosecurity measures. This includes special sterilised clothing and mats at the farms as well as high hygiene standards during transport. This has also been proven by a German study.

As Poland is a leading exporter of pork products, the implementation of high standard biosecurity measures should be high priority of the country’s government. However, this prooves to be costly. So, by shooting thousands of innocent animals the polish governments wants to show the farmers that they are tackling the issue. A natural prey-predator relationship between wolves and wild boar would significantly limit the problem.

Public opposes the current Polish environments politics

These protests go together with the reactions that another recent statement of the Polish government triggered. The Polish General Director of the Environmental Protection recently announced the killing of 40 bison within 2019. The killings are reasoned with too large population sizes and some individuals are supposedly carrying diseases. Particularly noteworthy is that this action is taking place in the year of the 90th anniversary of the return of the European bison. Poland’s recent actions and decicions in environmental issues caused several international outcrirs. Last year the EU threatened the country with high fines in case the illegal logging of the protected Bialowieza forest.

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Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.

Motto: SYSTEMIC FOREST ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT INSTEAD OF WOOD FACTORY

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