Two pig farmers in Western Australia will be jailed after being convicted of illegally importing Danish pig semen concealed in shampoo bottles.
Torben Soerensen has been sentenced to three years in prison, while Henning Laue faces a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to breaching quarantine and biosecurity laws.
The Perth district court was told boar semen had been illegally imported from Denmark multiple times between May 2009 and March 2017. The semen was used in GD Pork’s artificial breeding program and several breeding sows were direct offspring of Danish boars.
Federal agriculture minister Bridget McKenzie said breaches of biosecurity laws would not be tolerated.
“This case shows a disturbing disregard for the laws that protect the livelihoods of Australia’s 2,700 pork producers, and the quality of the pork that millions of Australians enjoy each year,” McKenzie said.
“GD Pork imported the semen illegally in an attempt to get an unfair advantage over its competitors, through new genetics.”
Western Australian Farmers Federation spokeswoman Jessica Wallace said the offences was “a selfish act” that could cripple an entire industry.
“How extremely disappointing,” she said.
Industry body Australian Pork said pigs were highly susceptible to disease and major potential threats included African swine fever and foot and mouth disease.
In Europe there have been cases of African swine fever on the Italian island of Sardinia for decades and the disease has spread to the European Union.
The European Food Safety Authority said most outbreaks occurred in small farms and were contained relatively quickly. But the disease was still spreading locally among wild boar, where containment was more difficult. In Asia there have been outbreaks in China and Vietnam.
Infected pigs show symptoms including fever, weakness and vomiting. Sudden death can also occur.
The company, GD Pork, which is a subsidiary of a Danish company, received a fine of $500,000 but is in liquidation. Administrators were appointed in October last year and sold off farms at Pinjarra and Kojonup as well as livestock in April this year.
The federal agriculture department began investigating the business in February 2017. Authorities searched the Pinjarra farm and seized pig mating records in March 2017. In July the same year, in a separate raid, they seized samples of hair from individual pigs for genetic testing.
An administrators’ report on the business said it borrowed an extra $10.26m from lenders after the raids but at no time did GD Pork tell the banks of potential prosecution by government agencies.