While we are all worrying about the threat to poultry from an alien virus which has now reached these shores, there seems to be little concern at the threat to our countryside and livestock from an alien animal now roaming free in England. I am referring to wild boar, hundreds of them, which are inhabiting forested areas of Kent, Sussex, Dorset and Gloucestershire, having escaped from farms and bred in the wild. If nothing is done about them, there could be many thousands of wild boar in 20 years’ time, marauding through woodland, threatening walkers, destroying crops and pasture, and spreading diseases — swine fever, bovine tuberculosis — to domestic pigs and cattle. The spread of avian flu may be easier to contain than the proliferation of these dangerous wild beasts.
I know there are those who welcome the reintroduction to this country of what they call an indigenous species. In fact the native wild boar became extinct in Britain about 800 years ago. James I had some brought here from Europe, and Charles I enjoyed hunting them in the New Forest, but they did not survive beyond the 17th century. The boar is primarily an animal of the forest, unsuited to today’s English countryside and the increased access to it. If a rambler meets a sow with young, he could be in trouble.
So what is to be done? The Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs launched a consultation exercise last year, its aim ‘to ensure an acceptable balance’, whatever that may mean. Given that it is probably impractical to kill off the species in the wild, and that there are bound to be more escapes or ‘releases’ from farms in the future, the best thing to do would be to designate the wild boar a game animal, and so provide some sporting enjoyment before it gets to the kitchen.
Pigsticking is no longer a recognised sport among British cavalry officers, but wild boar are hunted with packs of hounds in France, and in several European countries driven by dogs through the forest towards a line of guns (or, rather, large-calibre rifles). In some wooded areas they are shot from high seats. And since boar is an animal of venery, its meat is considered more akin to venison than to pork.
The rolled loin of boar, from a farm in Somerset, which I cooked last week, was firm, close-grained meat, less fibrous than pork is inclined to be. I followed a Cypriot recipe reproduced by Clarissa Dickson Wright, first rubbing the meat with a lot of ground coriander seeds (about three teaspoons for a three-pound piece of loin), and leaving it for a few hours. Red wine was then poured over the meat and left to marinate overnight. The joint should be taken from the marinade and put first in a very hot oven for about ten minutes, then covered with the wine and some more coriander seeds, cooked in a medium oven for about an hour and a half and eaten with mashed potato. The taste was gamey but subtle, with a hint of bacon to it, and altogether delicious.
Boar burgers are sold in the Marlborough market, and boar p