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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

A project that investigates current options for managing feral pigs in Australia and assesses the need for the development of more effective and humane techniques and strategies.

Stage 3 Report: Review the humaneness of the options identified in stage 1; identify and prioritise gaps in the existing knowledge concerning the humaneness of the options and provide recommendations for future research activity.
Brendan Cowled and Cheryl O’Connor
Pest Animal Control Cooperative Research Centre, November 2004


Stage 3 Report: Review the humaneness of the options identified in stage 1; identify and prioritise gaps in the existing knowledge concerning the humaneness of the options and provide recommendations for future research activity.

Executive Summary

  1. Feral pig control is ethically justified due to the impacts of feral pigs on conservation, agriculture, human welfare and animal welfare. The peak animal welfare body, the RSPCA recognises that feral animals may need to be reduced or eliminated in certain situations but states that the methods used should be humane.
  2. Generally, consideration of a number of factors may allow an assessment of the potential impact of a control method on the welfare of a feral pig.
  3. An assessment of the welfare of a control method can occur using these factors in the method established by Littin & O’Connor (2002). This method uses the following five steps to assess the humaneness of a control method.
    1. Consider the capacity of the species to suffer,
    2. Anticipate the likely effects of the poison,
    3. Determine the type, intensity and duration of effects, and the percentage of feral pigs affected,
    4. Determine the degree of welfare compromise caused by each effect,
    5. Assess the humaneness of the poison.
  4. This assessment considers the effect of a control method on an individual feral pig and does not consider the effect that control methods can have on the welfare of other animals affected by feral pigs, the welfare of feral pig populations or the welfare of non-target populations.
  5. Research data that could be used to conduct a humaneness review, for example using the five step process is incomplete. No control tool could be assessed completely during this review. All control methods could be assessed to step 2 and many could be partially assessed to step 3.
  6. The conclusions that could be made in this review indicate the possible or likely impacts of a control method on an individual feral pig’s welfare. Further research is needed to confirm these incomplete conclusions.
  7. Some conclusions were made.
    1. Some control methods may produce a minor, moderate or marked welfare compromise to feral pigs. These methods are;
      1. Snaring*,
      2. Habitat modification (large scale habitat modification* where pig populations are suddenly excluded from water and shelter leaving feral pigs exposed to water deprivation etc). Moderate habitat modifications where excess watering points are gradually removed are not included in this list.
      3. Yellow phosphorus baiting (CSSP)*,
      4. Cholecalciferol baiting (no efficacy testing has occurred in feral pigs)*.
      5. Zinc phosphide baiting,
      6. Hunting with dogs*.
      7. Biological control would probably lead to reduced welfare in feral and domestic pigs. Other considerations will prevent its use in Australia (pork industry,
      8. Judas pig technique,
      9. Warfarin ground baiting*,
      10. 1080,
      11. Aerial baiting with 1080. * In the authors opinion, these control method cause a marked welfare compromise on feral pigs.
    2. Some control methods may produce minimal welfare compromises. These methods are;
      1. Ground shooting,
      2. Trapping,
      3. Habitat modification,
      4. Aerial shooting,
      5. Cyanide or other ultra-fast acting toxins (although these are not an effective control method yet),
      6. Exclusion fencing. A full welfare assessment has not been conducted.
  8. Future research should be conducted to provide data to complete the assessment of the humaneness of effective, commonly used feral pig control tools and improve their humaneness where needed. Some of the most commonly used or effective methods include;
    1. 1080 ground poisoning,
    2. Warfarin ground poisoning,
    3. Aerial baiting,
    4. Aerial shooting,
    5. Trapping,
    6. Hunting and harvesting,
    7. Additional baiting strategies to reduce potential non-target risks and improve the welfare of existing methods where needed,
  9. Future research should be conducted to provide data to investigate the humaneness of additional feral pig control tools. This may include;
    1. Ultra-short acting toxins such as cyanide,
    2. Additional target specific, humane and effective toxins,
    3. Fertility control,
    4. Improved trapping technology.

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