AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — A state judge granted a meat company’s temporary restraining order suspending Texas Department of Agriculture emergency rules authorizing use of a warfarin-based poison on feral hogs.
Wild Boar Meats sued the state in Travis County Court on March 1. Wild Boar, based in Hubbard, between Dallas and Waco, buys dead wild boar and sells licenses to hunters to kill wild boar and bring the carcasses to its plant for processing.
The Department of Agriculture announced its administrative rule change on Feb. 21. It classified the warfarin-based hog bait, Kaput Feral Hog Lure, as a limited-use pesticide.
“This solution is long overdue. Wild hogs have caused extensive damage to Texas lands and loss of income for many, many years,” defendant Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in the announcement. “With the introduction of this first hog lure, the ‘Hog Apocalypse’ may finally be on the horizon.”
Miller said the approval of warfarin for feral hog control was a result of 10 years of research by Scimetrics, the maker of Kaput, and the Department of Agriculture.
Warfarin is an anticoagulant that was used for many years against feral hogs in Australia. Critics, including the Sierra Club, say wildlife that feeds on the carcass of a poisoned hog could spread the poison through the food chain and environment.
Wild Boar Meats says in the lawsuit that the use of warfarin-based poison on feral hogs is not feasible for ranch owners in Texas.
“Many property owners want to hunt and consume feral hogs, or lease their land to feral-hog hunters — not poison the feral hogs,” the complaint states. “Many property owners do not like or trust poison or the effects and risks of poison on domestic animals (e.g., dogs, cats), livestock, wildlife, and the environment. Many property owners do not want to incur the expense of a program that is doomed to failure or, at best, minimal, temporary success.”
Ranchers will be forced to move livestock from pastures designated for the hog poison, Wild Boar says. The wild hogs must be conditioned to learn how to open the containers with the poison, and this will lead to an influx of hogs from other properties, and the separate pasturing must continue for 90 days after the last use of the poison, according to Kaput’s own instructions.
Kaput’s instructions also say that the warfarin poison cannot be used near water sources and that poisoned hogs must be buried.
“A poisoned feral hog may well end up on neighboring property, and the property owner may have no idea that a poisoned hog is on the property, much less any program or desire for burial,” Wild Boar says in the complaint. “That would expose the poison-containing carcass to other wildlife, including birds of prey, vultures, coyotes, raccoons, etc. — or even domestic dogs and cats.”
It also claims that Commissioner Miller left out important facts about Australia’s experiment in the 1980s with warfarin poison on hogs.
“Ultimately, Australia concluded that the method of death was so cruel, that use of warfarin should be outlawed — even though Australia is not a culturally ‘squeamish’ country and even though Australia has more feral hogs than people,” the complaint states. “Warfarin is an anti-coagulant, so hogs die by bleeding to death — including bleeding out the eyes, nose, mouth, and other body orifices. The death is painful and gruesome. Australia found that the timeline for feral-hog death was 4-17 days.”
In addition to the cruelty, warfarin poison could do economic damage to Texas, Wild Boar says. The harvesting of feral hogs by hunters, feral hog meat processors and even bootmakers effectively controls the population of the hogs, but “(a) warfarin-poisoning program will substantially reduce or destroy those businesses, including Wild Boar Meats. Given the flawed concepts on which warfarin-poisoning is based, that program will result in a net reduction in the number of feral hogs removed from Texas ranches annually” and will “make the feral-hog control problem worse, not better.”
Wild Boar also cites problems with costs, health threats to other animals and children, the impracticality of burying the dead hogs, environmental hazards and problems with poison bait stations.
The bait stations might not keep out animals like raccoons, which could lift the doors to the bait station and then remove and distribute the poison. Other wildlife would then be at risk of consuming it.
Wild Boar Meats suggests a safer alternative way to kill feral hogs. For example, sodium nitrite does not harm humans or pets, is lethal to feral hogs and can kill them much more quickly.
Warfarin poisoning also will hurt the “kill-to-eat” and “trap-to-sell” industries.
“Trapping is one of the most effective means of feral-hog control in Texas. But many trappers sell the hogs for human or pet-products consumption. This will no longer be feasible. Warfarin can remain in a feral hog for up to 17 days,” the complaint states.
Finally, it says there is no real “emergency” for the emergency rule, which will devastate Wild Boar Meats.
“There is no way to deactivate the chemical warfarin in a dead feral hog; the antidote Vitamin K only works for a living animal. … (I)ndividually testing each feral hog for warfarin takes 2-3 days and is cost prohibitive. Given these unknowns, plaintiff’s customer’s have expressed concerns about the ‘emergency’ rule and are considering putting future orders on hold,” Wild Boar says.
“The combined meat and hog hunting industry is in the millions of dollars annually. The financial impact on the thousands of hunters and trappers who sell feral-hog meat will be much greater, as will be the effect on the companies that operate as direct buyers from feral-hog hunters and trappers.”
Miller on Friday responded to the temporary restraining order by saying the court order removed the emergency rule’s safeguards for misuse of the poison.
“The Kaput Feral Hog Bait had already been registered for use in Texas following the approval of the product by the federal Environmental Protection Agency as an unrestricted pesticide, similar to household rat bait,” Miller said in a statement. “However, the agency decided additional protections for hunters, landowners and consumers were needed before the product could be used in Texas.”
However, on its Facebook page, Wild Boar took issue with Miller’s claims regarding registration.
“There was no public input on the registration of Kaput and there were no independent studies performed by the EPA! Here is why: Kaput contains the chemical warfarin. Warfarin has been used in rat poisons before — previously approved by the EPA. Because warfarin is not a new ingredient, the application is not public and therefore there was no public input,” the company said.
“But wait, it gets better: The only studies that the EPA relied on were the studies submitted by Kaput; because the application was not public, Kaput did not have to make its studies public.”
Wild Boar has requested the Texas Legislature to file a bill requiring agencies to study all poisons before approving them for use on wildlife.
It is represented by Matt Dow with Jackson Walker LLP in Austin.