The decision to allow wild boars to be hunted by bow and arrow in the Vaucluse is prompting debate, with hunting experts in favour of the move, but local welfare groups launching a petition against it.
The town of Montfavet, near Avignon, has authorised the hunting of wild boars until February 2020. Hunters must be experienced, must use bow and arrows, and must shoot to kill (rather than merely injure).
The hunters may also only operate at night – when the boar come out to search for food – and must be accompanied by a team of archery experts and a wolf protection officer.
Bow and arrows are permitted as the devices do not make any noise, compared to shotguns or pistols – an important factor when hunting boar in woodland near urban and residential areas, advocates say.
The hunting authorisation comes in the wake of rising numbers of incidents in the town involving boars, and their frequent wandering around urban centres.
This has been blamed partially on the recent hot weather and drought conditions, which has damaged the boars’ usual source of food, and prompted the animals to seek out other sustenance.
Christian Rocci, animal protection manager for the city of Avignon, said: “We have seen a rise in the number of boars over the past two years, and they have become more and more visible. We have had road accidents, farmers who are complaining, and gardens and fences that have been badly damaged.
“The necessary hunting takes place at night. A gunshot at night makes a lot more noise than an arrow.”
The hunters will be required to shoot to kill, to avoid problems of injured boars escaping or running off.
Christel Savelli, director of departmental hunting group la Fédération Départementale des Chasseurs du Vaucluse, said: “Hunters never intend to only injure the animal. It is distressing to have to pick them up a few kilometres away, even with dogs trained especially to find injured animals.”
Anti-hunting petition launched
But animal welfare groups, including SPA du Vaucluse and Sentinelles-Ethique Animale (SEA), have raised the alarm in response to the move.
The SEA has now launched a petition calling for the practice to be stopped, and claim that the hunting practice is “cruel”, will condemn hunted boars “to a slow agony”, and cause newborn boars to die from lack of food and maternal care.
Catherine Aubert, from the Collectif des Animaux d’Avignon, who co-started the petition, said: “Boars do not die straight away, and can run several kilometres with an arrow [in their body] before collapsing.”
Yet, the city of Avignon has also announced funding of €300,000 to help repair and improve the conditions of currently-abandoned wasteland in the town, in a bid to deter boars from settling on the land and coming into urban centres in the first place.
The decision to allow hunting is purely about “containment” of wild boar numbers, Ms Savelli explained.
She said: “The city of Avignon is afraid of overpopulation [of boars]. We have to use our common sense; this is a question of traffic safety. There are many wild boars on the road network.”