We eagerly awaited the wild boar piece, and after having seen it were left with the mixed feelings of relief, but also of continued frustration.
The relief was mainly thanks to the BBC not letting the Forestry Commission turn the piece into their usual public relations exercise, nor letting the Forestry Commission recite all of their usual fearful statements such as them trying to protect us all from exploding populations, dog attacks, human attacks, road accidents and perceived "damage" to grass. The Forestry Commission should be thankful for this too, because the nation would have soon realised that their culling is pre-emptive of adverse contact, and that no evidence of any unprovoked attacks on people or dogs as ever been proven.
But despite the programme claiming the wild boar are highly controversial, they did not say much about why, just leaving the viewer dangling with a lack of information, especially balanced information (ie about how many dogs are attacking boar and public perception of grass "damage"). Sure, we were delighted to hear Chris Packham claim the ecological advantages, Martin to be against killing piglets, and to question if we as a nation have become zoophobic (obviously based on George Monbiot's blog in the Guardian - see an earlier blog on here), but this is where the programme placed it's limits.
In the interview between Michaela and Ian Harvey, the FC's head ranger in the Forest of Dean, we heard him claim that management of the boar is to keep garden's safe! Now we know too that he will feel agrieved that this is the main reason put forwards for management! The only other thing of note he said was that there was no attempt to exterminate the wild boar. [But of course not - the FC have contracts to fulfil with boar meat - and this is where differing interpretations of "management" may lay, not one of people versus boar, nor one of ecology versus timber, but of a sustainable "harvest". If it was for our sake or the forest, the FC would be communicating with us regularly and working with us on a solution. But they do not. Why?]
But Ian was wrong to claim this is the first attempt at a census. The FC undertook one in 2009 using thermal imaging cameras. They didn't find enough boar to fit their own belief of a high population, so disregarded the result. In fact, the result proved that boar numbers were low!
Similarly, the contrary piece with Alastair Fraser and Michaela had a very flimsy response of boar numbers simply being lower than in the past. But it was a true and useful statement that no-one knows the population of boar, including the FC despite their own protestations (until very recently).
Editing of both sides of the debate was ruthless and seemed to avoid almost any of the ongoing contentions here, for which we for sure are perplexed by.
In the filming of the boar at night we were watching three tame boar (we recognised those boar) munching on what could be acorns. But it could have been baited maize too? Notice that the daylight film of the boar had them mooching up the soil, not eating acorns!
Of course, it all could have been edited to detract poachers. If so, and we agree this should have been a forethought, it failed. It failed because it still led to the belief that there are an unknown, possibly high, number of boar here. The fact that boar numbers are "possibly" low was not allowed, even though this is our major assertion.
All in all, we were glad to be mentioned by Autumnwatch, and we are thrilled to see so much response in the follow-up forum. Hopefully, through more programmes such as Autumnwatch, the public will eventually become better educated with the debate, and with this, may be allowed to progress to the details. This is the same with all the other controversial re-introductions of our long-disappeared species such as wolves, beavers and sea-eagles, for example.
Here is the Autumnwatch blog / forum for you to give your opinion on the Big Boar Debate (despite the debate never having been discussed on air):
Click here to watch the programme - the wild boar piece starts at 26.20 minutes in...and lasts for 7 minutes.