Game Commission seeks to stop HogStop: Public takes a dim view of contraceptive for boar hogs
A new contraceptive to control feral pig populations is raising the hackles of hunters and cultural practitioners, who’re demanding the product HogStop be banned in the islands until more is known about it.
About two dozen people testified Tuesday evening before the county Game Management Commission, citing concerns about the product making its way into the land and waterways and being consumed by non-targeted species, including endangered species.
Hunters worried about the loss of an important food source; Native Hawaiians had additional concerns about their people’s historic relationship with the pig, brought to the islands by Polynesian voyagers for food.
“How does it impact the Hawaiian people,” asked TJaye Keawemauhili. “It’s an attack on our people. … That’s our blood; that’s our life.”
“The pig is some people’s aumakua (personal or family deity in Hawaiian culture), so there is a direct connection to the culture,” added Brian Ogawa.
The commission voted unanimously to send a letter to Mayor Mitch Roth, asking the product, which reduces fertility of boars by inhibiting production of sperm through gossypol derived from cottonseed oil, be temporarily banned on Hawaii Island.
“The Commission strongly believes HogStop creates adverse conditions for animals, mammals, and humans well past its intended limited scope of use as a contraceptive for boar, which can lead to environmental damage and even health risks to humans who consume game animals exposed to such a poison,” the letter reads. “The Commission, therefore, requests (within the limits of law) an immediate temporary ban on the HogStop product for use within County jurisdiction pending submission of environmental, health, and ecosystem impact studies to assess its effects to animal and human health broadly, as well as specific study of the effects such a contraceptive poison could have on the existing ecosystems and environment of Hawai‘i Island.”
Cottonseed oil is the active contraceptive ingredient, while the product also contains cottonseed meal, salt, corn and molasses, said Greg Takeshima, environmental health specialist for the state Department of Agriculture. He said the active ingredient is a natural chemical and doesn’t render the meat unable to be consumed by people.
“HDOA has determined there is no false or misleading statement on the HogStop label,” Takeshima said. “The product isn’t required to be labeled (so) our hands are unfortunately tied.”
Kaui Lucas, the managing agent for HogStopHI and its parent company, Pacific HogStop LLC, downplayed any potential risk. The EPA, she said, classified the product as a minimum risk pesticide, similar to neem oil and citric acid, the latter of which is sprayed on foliage to battle coqui frogs.
In fact, she said, cottonseed oil is used for deepfrying in fast-food establishments and is an ingredient often found in salad dressings.
The bottom line, Lucas said, is that feral pigs are out of control and threatening farm crops. She believes there is a way to balance the hunters’ interests with those of the farmers, despite the “really wicked disinformation campaign on social media.”
“The hunters have a point. This is their food source,” Lucas said. “But their food source is taking away the farmers’ food source.”
Dan Loper, the inventor of the HogStop forumula, said he is a nutrition consultant with 52 years experience and holds a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State, a master’s degree from Kentucky, and a Ph.D from Kansas State in nutritional biochemistry. He didn’t respond to a phone message by press-time Wednesday.
But he had posted a statement on the website for the product: “Living in Texas as a dairyman and consultant I became aware of the feral hog problem and began thinking about ways to control the population. I began field testing combinations of natural feed ingredients to control feral hog population growth,” the statement read in part. “A palatable bait formula was chosen to market to the feral hog infested states.”
(This article has been edited to correct the description of the chemical process by which HogStop works.)