Hundreds of Italian farmers have descended on Rome to protest about wild boar wreaking havoc on their land and causing fatal road accidents.
Two million boar are estimated to roam Italy, double the number in 2015, according to Coldiretti, the country’s largest farmers’ association, which claims the government has never taken measures to properly control their population.
Farmers say the animals – distinguished by their coarse hair, sturdy bodies and sharp tusks – are destroying crops, killing livestock and besieging stables.
Wild boar are also responsible for an average of 10,000 road accidents a year, with 13 motorists killed in collisions with the animals between January and September. In one incident, a man died and 10 people were injured when their vehicles crashed into a group of boar crossing a motorway in northern Italy.
There have been cases of people being injured or killed in attacks, and in recent years there has been an increase in sightings of boar rummaging through rubbish in urban areas.
In the first protest of its kind, the farmers, accompanied by mayors and councillors from across Italy, demonstrated outside parliament calling for the government to take action. Placards included “If you like boar, put them in your home”.
Ettore Prandini, the president of Coldiretti, said: “It is no longer just a question of compensation but a matter of personal safety and it must be resolved. Ministries and leaders of regions and municipalities must act in a concerted manner to draw up an extraordinary plan without administrative obstacles, otherwise the problem is destined to get worse.”
Boar can give birth to between six and 14 piglets at a time. The abandonment of acres of farmland over decades has led to an increase in forest cover, creating their perfect habitat. The animals have no natural predators other than wolves, whose population in Italy is also increasing but not enough to reduce boar numbers.
“We have had this problem for years but now the situation is out of control,” said Alberto Vincenzo Pagani, the mayor of Binago, a small town in Lombardy. “They are free to move around as they wish. Boar don’t go into offices or factories, so the only ones penalised by this freedom are farmers.”
Binago said tackling the issue had been impeded by conflicting stances from the environment and agriculture ministries, with environmentalists maintaining that wild animals should be allowed to wander free. “They say their presence preserves the environment. On the contrary,” he said.
Giudo Cardelli, a Coldiretti leader in the province of Rimini, said 21% of agricultural businesses in the area had been forced to close because of damage to land and livestock caused by wild boar. “We have always complained but nothing has ever been done to protect us from this destruction,” he said.
Teresa Bellanova, who was appointed agricultural minister in September, promised the protesters that the government would provide a “structural solution”. She said: “The theme of wild animals is very important and we must take charge of what is happening to you, the agricultural world. We have unblocked a decree for the recognition of damages caused. You can guarantee our total commitment. These are problems that can’t be resolved only by the regions, we must also ask Europe for solutions.”
Meanwhile, hunting wild boar is a popular pastime in Italy, and the meat is a staple of Tuscan and Umbrian cuisine. Some hunters have been killed while on an expedition, either by a boar or mistakenly by fellow hunters. In September a 55-year-old man was accidentally shot dead by his adult son during a hunting trip in Campania.