Tucking into steaming bowls of wild boar stew, Italian farmers staged an unprecedented protest outside parliament in Rome against the country’s rapidly increasing population of wild boars.
Around 1,000 farmers from across the country said they faced a “national emergency”, with an estimated two million boar now rampaging through crops, devouring grapes in vineyards and digging up fields. The population has doubled in a decade.
Landowners called for the drastic culling of boars and the creation of a national management plan.
They held up placards which read “Our land is being destroyed by boars”, “We are becoming an endangered species” and “The only good boar is one you find in a bowl of polenta”.
A makeshift kitchen opposite parliament served up chunks of wild boar salami and bowls of hot casserole.
Farmers said the animals can be seen in herds of up to 100 individuals, which can devastate a field of maize in a night.
With the hairy hogs weighing up to 150kg or even more, they are also a menace for drivers.
Wild boar cause around 10,000 road accidents a year, with 13 fatalities so far this year. Last year 11 people died in traffic accidents involving the wild pigs. The number of traffic accidents caused by the animals has risen by 81 per cent in the last decade.
There is also a growing number of boar attacks against people. “Just the other day a farmer in the region of Lazio was bitten on the leg by a large boar,” a spokesman for Coldiretti, the national farmers’ organisation, told The Telegraph. “He’s still in hospital and had to undergo two operations.”
Farmers held up placards pasted with newspaper stories documenting recent boar attacks.
One recounted the story of an 85-year-old man who was attacked in his garden near Bologna by a boar that reportedly weighed 200kg.
“The boar eat everything,” said Massimo Rizzo, a farmer from near Ravenna on the Adriatic coast. “They root through the soil and when it rains it turns into a swamp.”
Wild boar have flourished, in part, because vast swathes of agricultural land have been abandoned as farming became unprofitable, especially in upland areas.
And the number of hunters in Italy is dwindling as rural areas are depopulated.
Research conducted in 2014 and published in the journal Pest Management Science attributed the growth in boar numbers to a decline in the number of hunters, mild winters, reforestation and the intensification of crop production, which gives the animals more to eat.
“We need local, regional and national authorities to come together with a coordinated action plan,” said a spokesman for Coldiretti. “We need more culling, carried out by hunters and the national forestry corps. This has become a problem for the whole of the country, from Puglia in the south to the Alps in the north. Farmers are totally exasperated.”
“It’s no longer just a problem for us in the countryside,” said Nicola Grementieri, a Coldiretti representative from the northern region of Emilia-Romagna.
“The boars are moving into the cities to feed on uncollected rubbish and they are a menace to people on the roads. We need to reduce the numbers drastically. The situation is no longer tolerable.”
Boar are now frequently seen in suburbs on the outskirts of Rome. A large boar was recently photographed standing up on its hind legs to reach into a wheelie bin for refuse.
A farmer from Umbria said: “You can put up electric fences, but it is very expensive, and in any case a herd of 150kg boar will just plough through it.”
The boars’ only natural predator is the wolf, of which there are about 1,500 in Italy – far too few to make much of a difference to the boar population.