Construire le mur!
Okay, there probably aren’t any crowds chanting “Build the wall” in French through the streets of Marseille, hoping to keep out throngs of migrants and Islamic terrorists. But it turns out that the French actually are putting up a wall (or at least a fence) along the border with Belgium. This has nothing to do with a breakdown in diplomacy between Paris and Brussels, however, but rather an attempt to keep out an invading army of swine. Wild boars infected with a deadly (to pigs) form of African swine fever have been discovered in the woods along the border and the French are hoping to keep the disease from spreading through their own domestic pig populations.
France will start putting up fencing along part of its border with Belgium this weekend to prevent wild boars spreading African swine fever, a virulent livestock disease that could disrupt Europe’s large pig industry.
France has been on alert for African swine fever since Belgium detected the virus last month among wild boars a few kilometers from the French border.
Belgium decided to slaughter several thousand pigs in its contaminated zone to prevent the virus reaching farm herds, but it is already facing embargos on its pork exports from countries like South Korea and China, which is also grappling with an outbreak of the disease.
I’m not going to make light of the situation because France has a serious problem on their hands. By the time you find one feral hog with swine fever, there are probably dozens, if not hundreds more that you didn’t find. And pigs travel fast, generally at night, and spread like weeds. Just ask anyone in the American south and southwest. In Texas alone, there are estimated to be 1.5 million feral hogs that do an average of $400M in damage each year. They’re considered to be among the worst invasive species in the western hemisphere.
That’s why France might already be too late in looking to put up a fence and other disruptive technology designed to stop the migration of the hogs. If you found a couple of dozen infected pigs within miles of the border, odds are that they’ve already crossed over. They’ll want to be cautious and learn from China, where that country is currently in danger of losing millions of domestic pigs if they can’t get their own African swine fever problem under control. South Korea has been hit with it as well.
The good news is that the disease doesn’t cross over to human beings (at least not yet), so we don’t need to worry about some global pandemic. But the bad news is that once the fever gets into a domestic herd it can wipe them all out in short order, forcing the destruction of all the animals who may have been exposed. And that means that the global supply of bacon is at risk.
We should probably be working on a quarantine, don’t you think? We’re talking about bacon, people.