Denmark is building a 'wall' on its German border. To stop pigs

Ryan W. Miller

Denmark is building its own border "wall" – but this one is meant to keep out pigs.

On Monday, the Danish government began construction of a more than 40-mile fence along its German border aimed at preventing the spread of African swine fever.

Crews began working in the border town of Padborg, and the roughly 5-foot tall fence is scheduled to be completed this fall, the Danish government said

"We have 11 billion good reasons to do everything we can to prevent African swine fever reaching Denmark. And now we can finally get started on erecting our wild boar fence," the country's Minister for Environment and Food, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, said in a statement. "The fence and our increased efforts to hunt wild boar will break the chain of infection so there is less risk of African swine fever spreading to Denmark." 

However, no cases of African swine fever have been reported in Germany, according to The Associated Press. The Local, an English-language news outlet, reported that the first case spotted in Poland came in 2014 from a wild boar from Belarus and that Belgium saw its first case in September near its border with Luxembourg and France.

The virus is highly contagious for pigs and can be spread through a variety of ways tied to the animals, but it is not a risk for human health, according to the intergovernmental World Organisation for Animal Health.

Workers erect a fence along the Denmark Germany border at Padborg, Denmark, Monday Jan. 28, 2019. Denmark has begun erecting a 70-kilometer (43.4-mile) fence along the German border to keep out wild boars in an attempt to prevent the spread of African swine fever, which could jeopardize the country's valuable pork industry.

Exports from Denmark's pork industry account for almost half of its agricultural exports and 5 percent of the country's overall exports, according to its Agriculture and Food Council.

In fact, pigs outnumbered people in Denmark by over 2 to 1 in 2016, according to the European Union's Eurostat.

"Even though African swine fever is harmless to people, we have to protect our pork exports," Orla Osterby, agriculture spokesperson for the Conservative People's Party of Denmark, said in a statement Monday.

The government said it has also increased other efforts to curb the potential spread of the virus, including making it easier to hunt wild boar at the border.

Critics of the border barrier, though, say it would be ineffective and is largely symbolic.

It’s "likely not ... a practical way to keep the African swine fever; beyond the fact that wild boar are extremely powerful animals and likely they can make their way through or under it," Viorel D. Popescu, an Ohio University biology professor who studies Eastern European forest ecology, wrote in an email to the Daily Beast.

"The fence will prevent rare and endangered species from moving freely between Denmark and Germany. The fence will go through protected areas, and that is a very bad idea," Denmark's World Wildlife Fund general secretary Bo Oeksnebjerg said, per the Local, when the barrier was being considered in the parliament in June.

Some Danish officials themselves have admitted that boars could pass through the gaps in the fence where it will cross roads and waterways, the AP reported.

The fence will cost $4.6 million, according to the AP.

Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Denmark is building a 'wall' on its German border. To stop pigs