VERGES, Interview Room 11, Edinburgh 2nd-17th May 2014
For this exhibition I began to focus on the conflicts that have arisen from reintroducing animals. I used the Wild Boar in the Forest of Dean as a case study for the kinds of issues that can arise from the return of a species. The work entitled The Boar War, aims to explore the problems and benefits of the boars presence.
The Boar War
The war began on the verges. Those strips of green separating soil and concrete. Forest once again denoted a hunting ground extending far beyond the woods.
Propaganda began to spread through fear and misunderstanding and was sensationalised by mass media coverage. Stories of possible attacks on dogs and walkers led to concerns for children’s safety and the public called for blood.
As men with guns entered the trees the boar were pushed out to the disputed territories. Ploughing up the swathes of neatly cut grass with their snouts, turning turf and carefully curated flowerbeds to lumpy, muddy eyesores.
No-one could say for sure how many the boar numbered, estimations and out right guesses ranged from 200 to 1000 individuals. This only served to fuel the conflict. Each year new litters of striped piglets were born, a sight for sore eyes but even they could not melt the hearts of those who regarded them as a pest, reproducing exponentially to become a plague on the peaceful woodland.
Allies of the boar fought desperately to change public opinion, preaching about the shy and gentle nature of the boar, of their intelligence and preference to remain far from human contact. Reassurance that walkers and children would not be attacked without provocation and the virtues of the boars presence in creating a balanced eco system were heeded by some but still the persecution continued. The baying of angry gardeners and lifelong locals could not be drowned out. Meanwhile the boar continued to go about their existence unaware of the battle that raged with them at the centre.
A balance needed to be found, reintroduced by accident and without natural predators human intervention was necessary to keep boar numbers to a level the forest could sustain, but who was to say how many that would be? No-one knew how many there were or how many the forest could hold. Perhaps the ecology of the forest would find a natural balance but the humans decided they could not take this risk.
Those on the frontline denounced the opinions of those who came from further afield, but this battle was of a wider relevance. Elsewhere similar battles raged, between man and boar, man and badger, man and bird. A war on wildlife was declared in rural and urban areas alike.
The trees were no longer a haven.
The boar fell as the cull was enforced. Sows killed to reduce the birth rate. Juveniles butchered for sausages to fill the plates of those who called for their demise. Large males brought down by lead bullets to serve as trophies hanging on a hunters wall and the verges were littered with the casualties of war.
The verges became the final resting place of countless animals in the one-sided violence that raged throughout the early 21st century.