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Denmark builds barrier to keep out German swine in hopes of stopping spread of disease

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 28, 2019

A wild boar scavenges for food in Tegel Forest in Berlin, Germany. (Adam Berry / Bloomberg)
A wild boar scavenges for food in Tegel Forest in Berlin, Germany. (Adam Berry / Bloomberg)
By Deanna Paul Washington Post

Denmark has won praise from Sen. Bernie Sanders and other left-wing politicians for its socialist policies. Its latest project, however, seems like it could have come straight from the playbook of President Donald Trump.

Fearing the spread of African swine fever, the country began erecting its own southern wall Monday.

The 43-mile-long steel-mat fence will stand 5 feet tall and extend across the Danish-German border. The project, aimed at eradicating wild boar from the Danish countryside, is scheduled to be completed within the year.

Though there have not been any reported cases of African swine fever in Germany, the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain observed an increase in reports from Western Europe last fall, confirming two cases in the Belgian province of Luxembourg.

An outbreak of African swine fever - a disease deadly to wild boar and domestic pigs but harmless to humans and other animals - could devastate the country’s $4.5 billion pork industry. No treatment or vaccination against the disease exists.

Orla Osterby, agriculture spokeswoman for the Conservative People’s party of Denmark, applauded the effort to protect pork exports in an announcement released by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food on Monday.

“We can see African swine fever moving closer and closer to Denmark, making the threat very real,” she said.

Osterby and other supporters of the wall claim it promises to proactively prevent the disease’s spread.

Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported that Mogens Dall, chairman of the Danish agricultural association Landbo Syd, called the border wall an “insurance policy against African swine flu.”

“You also insure your house against fire, although it will probably never burn,” he told Jyllands Posten, a Danish daily newspaper. “It would mean ruin and unemployment for up to 33,000 people who are employed in the sector.”

But others have voiced disapproval, embroiling the country in its own border-wall controversy.

Danish officials said the fence, as planned, will have gaps roughly every 300 feet to allow smaller animals to pass through. Critics have seized on the detail, calling the plan ineffective and construction merely symbolic. Animal rights activists have voiced concern over the impact of a border fence on wildlife.

Several politicians have also questioned building a $4.6 million fence. Jan Philipp Albrecht, regional environment minister for the nearby German state of Schleswig-Holstein, told the Telegraph that she had “significant doubts about the usefulness and necessity of a fence.”

In a statement Monday, the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food detailed several other measures they are rolling out to combat the possible threat, such as improving veterinary services and collaborating with the Danish Hunters’ Association. It also mentioned efforts to encourage wild boar hunting, thereby breaking the chain of infection, like broadening approved hunting times.

“We have 11 billion good reasons to do everything we can to prevent African swine fever reaching Denmark,” said Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, minister of the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food.

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