As It Happens

Denmark builds $15M border fence to keep out German wild boars

The Denmark government is building a fence along its southern border with Germany to stop wild boars and the spread of African swine fever. But the idea of a "border wall" has been hijacked by right-wing politicians.

Journalist Martin Sorensen doubts the fence will work and says it's drummed up anti-immigration rhetoric

Workers set up the fence along the Denmark and German border to prevent wild boars from crossing. (Frank Cilius/AFP/Getty Images)
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Denmark is building a massive fence that stretches across its southern border with Germany in the fight against wild boars.

The Danish government say those wild boars could carry the African swine fever virus, which would be detrimental to Denmark's lucrative pork industry. While the disease is harmless to humans, it is deadly to pigs. 

But the fence has its critics. 

"A lot of people are against it," freelance journalist Martin Sorensen told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"They say it's purely for symbolic reasons — that it's not going to help anything to keep the wild boars out."

The nearly 70-kilometre fence comes with a $15-million price tag. Since it will cover the only land border with Germany, the government will still need to keep some sections open for traffic and transporting goods.

Denmark doesn't have an indigenous wild boar population, so any wild boars that are in Denmark are coming in from Germany  — and even one sick boar could cause harm. 

"The concern is that if just one boar comes across the border with this disease our exports outside the EU of pork products is going to hit rock bottom," Sorensen said. "It's been spreading quite rapidly from Eastern Europe."

No cases in Germany

Sorensen says that there are currently no cases of African swine fever in Germany but the disease has been found in Belgium.

He adds that the disease can be transmitted through food products, which is likely how it reached Belgium. For example, Sorensen suggests a boar may have eaten an infected piece of meat that was discarded by a truck driver. 

The mandatory entry ways through the fence and waterways also pose problems, because wild boars can swim. 

Denmark is building a massive fence along its border with Germany to stop the spread of African swine fever. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

"We don't know how wild boar are going to react once they meet the fence," Sorensen said.

"Why wouldn't it just walk along the fence until it reaches one of these holes? And then it would be able to walk across the border — or even swim,'" Sorensen said.

Another concern is the unintended effects the fence will have on other wildlife.

"They are putting in small holes for small rodents. Deer will be able to jump across," Sorensen said. "So they're trying to make sure that other animals can pass freely."

Anti-immigrant rhetoric

Sorensen says the symbol of the fence has also drummed up anti-immigrant rhetoric. The fence was backed by votes from the right-wing Danish People's Party. 

"Some senior members of that party in parliament, they picked up on this, and said this would be like a first step to put up an actual barrier against humans as well," Sorensen said.

"Even some of the farmers who are supporting the fence say, 'We really support the fence but not for those reasons. We only support it for animal welfare.'"

Despite questions about the feasibility of the fence and concerns over the message it sends, Sorensen says the government is standing behind the project.

"They say if this is what can save — I believe it's a $2-billion export outside of the EU — by that comparison it's a small amount," Sorensen said. "It's worth it."

Written by John McGill. Produced by Sarah Jackson.

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