Defra board member and financier Ben Goldsmith is facing calls for his resignation following a police probe into allegations he released deer and wild boar around his farm in Somerset.
Mr Goldsmith, brother of Defra Minister Zac Goldsmith, has denied releasing 22 red deer, but said they had escaped due to inadequate fencing.
Responding to the allegations as part of a Daily Mail investigation, Mr Goldsmith, a champion of rewilding, said he had been feeding wild boar but denied releasing them, adding they were living in the area already.
Farmers in the area said as well as posing a biosecurity risk to Mr Goldsmith’s own herd of Tamworth pigs, the wild boar could spread other diseases, such as African swine fever, further afield.
A National Pig Association spokesperson said: “Feeding wild boar is irresponsible but even more so if they are near to or on a pig farm.
“In addition to the disease risk, they destroy crops, gardens and woodland, cause road traffic accidents and have attacked people."
Mr Goldsmith was appointed a non-executive board member at Defra in 2018.
Shadow Farming Minister Daniel Zeichner said if the allegations were true, Mr Goldsmith should ‘consider his position’.
A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police said: “We are investigating, in partnership with other agencies, after receiving reports of potential offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the Deer Act involving the release of wild boar and red deer in south Somerset.”
Releasing wild boar could result in a maximum of two years’ jail.