Saskatchewan

Sask. wild pig expert says pro-pig petition doesn't reflect reality in the province

A wildlife researcher at the University of Saskatchewan says a popular petition to save wild pigs in Saskatchewan from eradication doesn't factor in how these animals actually impact the province’s ecosystem.

Ryan Brook invites messages and comments through the Canadian Wild Pig Research Project Facebook page

Wild boars are being trapped in corrals like this one pictured here. This is one method being used by SCIC to combat boar populations in Saskatchewan. (Submitted by SCIC)

A wildlife researcher at the University of Saskatchewan says a popular petition to save wild pigs in Saskatchewan from eradication doesn't factor in how these animals actually impact the province's ecosystem. 

The petition, which was organized by Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Farmed Animals (CETFA), argues that the province's current strategies for managing the wild pig population are unethical and should be stopped.

"Shooting pregnant wild pigs and females with their offspring in their nests and terrorizing others by chasing them with helicopters, throwing nets on them and killing them constitutes inexcusable cruelty and is completely unacceptable," Olivier Berreville, scientific advisor for CETFA, said in an email. "Our response to these animals should be to learn to co-exist with them rather than seeking to eradicate them."

Ryan Brook has studied wild pigs in Saskatchewan for nearly 11 years. He said the petition — which currently has more than 15,000 signatures — is evocative, but misleading. 

"It was presented as if these pigs are a natural part of the ecosystem — which they absolutely are not — and that they are being abused and mistreated which, again, they are absolutely not," he said. "So it was sort of presented as this evil operation that was run by the province of Saskatchewan, associated with the research that we do at the University of Saskatchewan."

Every person named in the petition — including Brook and his graduate student — receives an email every time somebody signs. While Brook does not believe this format is leading to productive discussions, he said he has more in common with many of the signatories than they may think.

"Growing up on a farm, and now being a full-time researcher, my job has always been to work with animals safely and effectively," he said. "My father would be the first to give me a stern lecture if there was ever any potential for misuse or mistreatment of animals in my work."

He said he thinks everyone can agree that animals shouldn't suffer.

"I think that's probably my most key frustration [with the petition]. It sets it up as though some care and some don't."

Province could have more pigs than humans: Brook

Brook said wild pigs, which were introduced to local farms in the 1980s before establishing themselves throughout the southern half of the province, have become increasingly destructive over the last 40 years.

"They destroy ecosystems, they do crop damage and they're very dangerous," he said. "The largest animal we've handed was 638 pounds. And they eat goslings and ducklings and mice and white-tailed deer fawns." 

Without intervention, Brook projects we are on track to have more wild pigs than people in Saskatchewan in the coming years. He said simply capturing and containing the thousands upon thousands of wild pigs already in the province would be an impractical solution. 

"So it's not simply a black-and-white case of 'just let them be and we'll all be fine,'" he said.  "Many of the comments on the petition are along the lines of 'we need to learn to live together.' And that sounds nice, but in reality, these issues are far more complex and these pigs are spreading like wildfire."

Brook encouraged people to get in touch with him or other scientists directly to discuss the issues, particularly if they have concerns or believe there are better ways of managing the wild pig population in Saskatchewan.

Brook makes a particular point of responding to messages and comments on the Canadian Wild Pig Research Project Facebook page.

"I can't emphasise enough, if you want to talk about the welfare of animals — absolutely," he said. "Call me any day, any time, and we'll have a conversation about the welfare of animals all day long."

He said researchers like him have these conversations all the time.

"How do we do this? How do we refine that? And we're constantly being challenged by our animal care committee to make it better," Brook said.

"But I would like to see more of a conversation and a shared commitment to moving forward, rather than simply yelling at each other from across the aisle."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now