Animal rights activists slam "heinous" plan.
The Lazio region around Rome has approved measures to drastically reduce its numbers of wild boar in response to the risk of African swine fever (ASF) for pig farms.
Under the plan, the number of wild boar permitted to be shot during the hunting season in Lazio will be raised to 50,000 - double the amount from last year's hunting season - state broadcaster RAI reports.
The emergency measures are being taken "for the management, control and eradication of African swine fever in farmed pigs" and the areas identified at greatest risk - in terms of density of wild boar and potential for spread of swine fever - are the provinces of Viterbo, Rieti and Rome.
About 30 per cent of the 75,000 wild boar population in the Lazio region was killed during the 2021/22 hunting season, according to Corriere della Sera.
The new hunting plan specifies that there is no cure "or vaccine for the swine fever virus, therefore it is difficult to contain its spread, capable of causing very serious effects on the fauna, livestock and meat processing sector", reports La Stampa.
Swine fever, a highly contagious viral disease, is fatal to pigs and wild boar but is not transmitted to humans.
"The reduction in the number of wild boars is an issue of public health, safety in the food chain, urban decorum and traffic safety", said Lazio health councillor Alessio D'Amato.
The video that everyone is talking about in #Rome this week: a dozen wild boar walking calmly through traffic on Via Trionfale. #cinghiali pic.twitter.com/ZrLfK49lOZ— Wanted in Rome (@wantedinrome) September 22, 2021
In early May the virus was detected in wild boar in Rome's Insugherata nature reserve, prompting a ban on picnics and the sealing off of bins - a ready source of food for the animals - in a large "red zone" in north and north-west areas of the capital.
Last week health authorities detected swine fever in two pigs on a farm in Rome, leading to the slaughter of all pigs within a 10-km radius of the site, an estimated 1,000 animals.
Plans to double the cull in this year's regional hunting season have been slammed as "heinous and short-sighted" by Rita Corboli from the Rome branch of the International Organization for the Protection of Animals (OIPA).
"Shooting living beings without even listening to science" - Corboli is quoted by Corriere della Sera - "An expert opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states: "hunting is not an effective tool to reduce the size of the wild boar population in Europe."
Italian farmers have long called for the culling of wild boar, which can be extremely dangerous if approached when in the presence of their young, as concerns grow for Italy's €8 billion pork sector.
The tusked animals, called cinghiali in Italian, have become a frequent sight around north Rome, with one boar making it as far south as Castel S. Angelo in recent days, just down the street from the Vatican.
The site was sealed off and the animal was trapped and killed by authorities, according to media reports.