Two West Australian pig farmers have been jailed over their involvement in an illegal semen racket that smuggled huge quantities of Danish pig semen into Australia under the guise of shampoo.
Torben Soerensen, managing director at the GD Pork piggery, and Henning Laue, his production manager, were each sentenced to two years' jail after pleading guilty to multiple charges of aiding the illegal importation of pig semen. Between 2009 and 2017 that semen was used to breed a veritable army of so-called “super sows”, according to The West Australian—inseminating at least 199 pigs and spawning more than 2,000 piglets.
It’s illegal to import pig genetics into Australia for biosecurity reasons, one of which is the potential spread of the debilitating viral disease Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, or blue-ear pig disease. The thing is, though, Danish pigs are typically more fertile than their Australian counterparts—producing more litters per year and having a higher quantity of lean meat. And that makes their semen a valuable product for anyone in the business of breeding swine.
Perth District Court heard that Soerensen and Laue arranged for semen to be collected from Danish boars and smuggled into Australia in passenger luggage, the ABC reports. The pork farmers then used the product for artificial insemination at a piggery in Pinjara.
An investigation by the Agriculture Department uncovered a string of emails that referred to the semen as “special merchandise” and detailed plans for its delivery into Australia. The trafficking operation was allegedly orchestrated by Danish nationals and major shareholders in GD Pork. Investigators seized hair samples from 100 pigs belonging to GD Pork, and verified their genetics with the Pig Research Centre in Denmark to confirm they’d been bred with illegal genetics. It’s understood that those pigs will not need to be destroyed, as they were found to be free of exotic illnesses.
Judge Troy Sweeney conceded that Soerensen and Laue were "influenced to offend" by "persuasive" overseas investors, but declared nonetheless that their role in the breaches of biosecurity and quarantine laws were "too serious, too blatant, and too sustained" to ignore. It was reportedly Laue’s idea to hide the semen inside the shampoo bottles to evade the attention of quarantine officials. Soerensen's lawyer told the court his client’s actions were "stupid", suggesting that, as sole proprietor of GD Pork, he had been the "front man" for a scheme that was masterminded by Danish investors.
GD Pork, which had a number of piggeries around Western Australia, was considered one of the state’s largest pork producers before Semengate. Soon after the charges were laid, however, multiple Danish investors withdrew their investment, and it has since gone into liquidation.