Go to top of page

Case study: two men and company sentenced over illegal importations of pig semen

On 13 August 2019, two men were sentenced in the Perth District Court for their roles in the unlawful importation of pig semen into Australia.

Torben Soerensen (40) was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, to be released after serving 18 months, and Henning Laue (74) was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, to be released after serving eight months. The company for which the men worked, GD Pork Pty Ltd, was given a global fine of $500,000. Mr Soerensen was involved in eight of the offences committed by GD Pork, while Mr Laue was involved in seven. In April 2020 Mr Soerensen’s sentence was altered on appeal so that he would instead be released after serving 12 months imprisonment.

Mr Sorensen was the Sole Director of GD Pork. From 2014, Mr Laue was the production manager of GD Pork Pty Ltd. GD Pork operated a pig breeding program in Pinjarra, Western Australia, which included artificial insemination processes.

Between 2009 and 2017, GD Pork illegally imported pig semen into Australia on 21 occasions. The semen was concealed in bottles in passenger luggage on commercial flights from Denmark into Australia. The semen was then taken to the Pinjarra farm and used to artificially inseminate GD Pork sows.

Australia has bans on the importation of pigs and pig reproductive materials. No permits have been granted for the importation of foreign pig semen into Australia since 1995, primarily due to the risk of introducing diseases such as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).

Australia is in the very fortunate position of not having PRRS. PPRS is present in Denmark and can be spread via artificial insemination. After the offending was detected, the Department of Agriculture executed biosecurity risk assessment warrants, which showed that PRRS had not been imported as a result of the company’s offending.

Danish sows produce, on average, more piglets per year than Australian sows (32.2 piglets per year, compared with the Australian average of 26 piglets per year). The Court found that in using the imported semen, GD Pork obtained a commercial advantage over its competitors, being the opportunity to use the imported pig semen. This opportunity was not available to others in the pork industry.

In sentencing, Her Honour Judge T D Sweeney SC said the most important consideration was that of general deterrence to other like‑minded offenders in the pork industry or other industries where there are restrictions in place to protect the safety of Australian stock or crops. “The arrogant disregard of these considerations will be met with serious punishment,” Her Honour said. “The punishment for offences of this sort must send a clear message that it is not worth the risk, not financially and not in terms of one’s liberty.”