Two pig farmers are facing years in jail for sneaking Danish pig semen into Western Australia in shampoo bottles on a mission to create an ultra-fertile “super sow” and take the pork industry by storm.
Torben Soerensen and Henning Laue smuggled semen from Danish boars into their Pinjarra, Western Australia piggery 22 times between 2009 and 2017, in shampoo and hand lotion bottles stashed in their luggage, in order to supply the artificial breeding program of their company GD Pork with what federal agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie called an “unfair advantage” through “new genetics,” prosecutors charged.
The two pled guilty to multiple violations of biosecurity and quarantine laws and were sentenced in Perth District Court on Tuesday – Soerensen to three years and Laue to two years. GD Pork was fined $500,000, but the company is in liquidation and has already had its assets and livestock sold off by administrators.
Danish sows are markedly more fertile than their Australian cousins, birthing an average 32 offspring a year compared to 26, presenting an opportunity too tempting to resist for the spunky smugglers. After inseminating as many as 199 sows with their special sauce, their scheme started to fall apart in February 2017 after the Agriculture Department, acting on a tip, uncovered emails discussing the transportation of the pigs’ fluids.
Their operation was so successful that they stopped doing business with their external breeding supplier lest their fecundity arouse suspicion. When GD Pork’s managing director pointed out that the scheme was “leaving others behind,” they chose to manage the program themselves so that “nobody would have access to the results,” according to emails uncovered in the investigation.
Transporting pig genetics is illegal in Australia due to the possibility of transmitting diseases like swine flu and “pig plague” – Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome – which could decimate the country’s $5.3 billion pork industry if introduced into breeding stock. Fortunately, the exotic hybrids – 2,450 of which were born during the duration of the scheme – were not contaminated.
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