It seems that the German hunters are on course with the wild boar. Again.
They shot almost 840,000 wild boar two years ago, in the 2017/2018 season. And apparently they are just about to repeat the record result. "We are currently at a similarly high level," says Torsten Reinwald, spokesman for the German Hunting Association (DJV). "In doing so, we are fulfilling our social mission." This job was done from the top and quickly summarized: Because there seem to be more wild boars in the forest than ever before, more should be shot than ever. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture is planning to "drastically reduce wild boar density" in certain areas, and this is in turn due to African swine fever. In the border area between Germany and Poland not only fences are to be built to prevent the migration of infected animals to Germany – the domestic stocks are also decimated by an "effective preventive measure": shooting down.
Which raises the question of what about social responsibility among consumers. How could they effectively participate in population control, do their social responsibility justice? The answer that hunters, game traders and scientists give is simple: the people in Germany only have to eat the many wild boars. But don't do it.
Demand has been lagging behind supply for a long time. Now that the holidays are over, the situation seems particularly dramatic. "The hunters kill us with wild boar," is how Anna Gerken-Stamm, a Hamburg-based game dealer, puts it. "But shortly after Christmas, hardly anyone wanted it again." Some of the hunters can no longer get rid of their meat. Or they get prizes that don't even cover the cost of hunting.
"There are areas in Germany, in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, for example," says Reinwald, "because the traders are currently paying 20 to 30 cents for a kilo." Defectors, for example – growing animals that are no longer young – weigh up to 80 kilos. For such an animal, hunters sometimes only get around 20 euros today. A cartridge of hunting ammunition, on the other hand, already costs four to five euros. The Trichinenschau, the mandatory examination of the animal body for tiny parasite worms by the veterinarian, again ten to 25 euros. "If I were to think purely economically, I would have to throw every wild boar I shoot into the next thicket," said Wolfgang Kornder, chairman of the Ecological Hunting Association Bavaria, last year. And the lower price limit was still 50 cents per kilo.
But why do Germans buy so little wild boar? After all, it has a lot to offer consumers with a guilty conscience: it is a natural product, because game is not usually bred in Germany, but grows in the forest on its own, without any antibiotics. It is not fed with soy either, but takes care of its own nutrition. After that, because it is mostly marketed regionally, there are short transport routes and a good ecological balance. In addition, a reliably large amount of this meat will almost certainly be there in the coming years.
Most politicians are convinced that far too many wild boars live in German forests. Nobody has exact numbers. However, it is certain that German stocks have increased significantly in recent decades – as in many European countries. This suggests that the number of game accidents has always set new records in recent years. For 2017, the car insurers reported 750 accidents – per day. All over Germany, farmers complain about unprecedented damage caused by wild boar in their fields.
But above all that African swine fever (ASP) determines the debate. According to information from the Friedrich Loeffler Institute for Animal Health, it arrived in western Poland at the end of 2019 and could soon spread to Germany. If the disease was detected in just one pig in this country, all other animals in the same farm would also have to be killed: with industrial fattening, that would be thousands of animals.
Because of ASP, methods are now used in hunting that were considered taboo for a long time. In Bavaria, wild boar hunters have been permitted to use military night target technology since 2016 with a special permit. In Brandenburg, Bavaria and Lower Saxony have already used so-called drinking catches: enclosure traps into which wild boars are lured overnight and in which they are shot in the morning from a short distance. In Brandenburg, the reintroduction of hunting with bows and arrows was even discussed in 2019 – in order to be able to shoot wild boars near the city. As of 2018, there have been no seasons like those for deer, rabbits, pheasants and almost all other wild animals. However, brooks, i.e. mother animals, with striped youngsters at their side, may not be shot.