The French army is providing logistical support to hunters tasked with culling wild boars in a border zone next to Belgium to help prevent an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF), said its agriculture minister on Friday.
France has been on alert for the deadly swine disease, ASF, since the virus was confirmed in September among wild boars in neighboring Belgium. The disease, harmless for humans, is deadly for pigs and is disrupting the pork industry in China and eastern Europe.
The ASF virus was discovered in a wild boars in Belgium earlier this month less than a mile from the border. The French government announced plans at that time to cull all wild boar in a high-risk zone by the border and put up fencing in a wider area to avert an ASF outbreak.
“To cull rapidly wild boars in the ‘white zone’ and halt African swine fever, general mobilization of hunters with the logistical support of the army,” Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said.
The minister said there were 500 to 600 wild boars to be culled in the designated white zone and it would take two to three weeks, Reuters reported.
The French army will assist by laying traps or rounding up boars for hunters to shoot, a ministry spokesman said, adding that soldiers would not be firing.
The boar-free zone encompasses 78 square km and will be enclosed by a 1.5 meter-high fence under construction on the French side, in addition to fencing erected by Belgian authorities at the border.
It will cost several million euros to put up the border fence in the northeast, according to the ministry.
The ASF outbreak in wild boar in Belgium marked a sudden westward spread of the virus in Europe, raising concern that it will reach large pork-production countries like Germany, France and Spain.
Although ASF has not been detected on a pig farm in Belgium yet, the country has faced restrictions from importing countries on its pig meat exports.
ASF Nears; France to Cull All Wild Boars at Belgium Border