A Vietnamese tourist has become the first person to be kicked out of Australia for concealing over five pounds of raw pork in her luggage, and has subsequently been banned from reentering the country for three years. While this may seem like a bit of an overreaction—they could have simply confiscated the pork, issued a fine, or given her a booting—Australia has highly strict biosecurity laws meant to protect their unique ecosystem and agricultural industries from invasive species and diseases.
Currently, Asia is experiencing a devastating outbreak of incurable and highly contagious swine flu that has so far killed over 100 million pigs, and Australian officials have put the country on high alert to protect their pork industry. The woman in question, by the way, was also carrying garlic, fruit, raw eggs and more than 2 pounds each of squid and quail in her suitcase.
“We have significant diseases like African swine fever on our doorstop, and one key pathway for this and other threats to arrive in Australia is by international passengers bringing in risk items,” Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said in a statement. “In the midst of what is potentially the biggest animal disease event the world has seen, it beggars belief that someone would deliberately attempt to bring pork meat past our border. That act could deal a very heavy blow to our $5.3 billion pork industry, as well as the 36,000 jobs that depend on it in rural and regional communities.”
While Australian nationals who break these laws will not be thrown out of and banned from their native country, McKenzie added a reminder that Aussies will be treated even more harshly: “Returning Australians who do the same could face criminal prosecution or civil court action. They could be ordered to pay up to $420,000 and be sentenced up to 10 years in jail.” Seems extreme, but then again, we’ve all seen what can happen when a foreign species is introduced to the land down under: