Denmark to exhume millions of mink after botched coronavirus cull

WION Web Team
Copenhagen, Denmark Published: Dec 21, 2020, 09:31 PM(IST)

Members of Danish health authorities are assisted by members of the Danish Armed Forces in disposing of dead mink in a military area near Holstebro in Denmark Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Danish lawmakers passed a law to temporarily ban mink breeding, leaving little hope to rebuild the industry, which pioneered the global fur trade

Denmark on Monday announced it will dig up millions of dead mink it culled to stamp out a potentially dangerous mutation of the virus that causes coronavirus, only to find that their rotting carcasses could cause a fresh contamination risk.

Officials ordered Denmark’s entire herd of approximately 15 million mink, which are farmed for their furs and prized in the high-end fashion industry, be destroyed in early November after a mutated form of the novel coronavirus was found to have been transmitted between the animals and humans.

Also read| Mass graves for mink in Denmark may have already polluted groundwater: Report

Workers will have to wait several months to make sure there is no risk of contracting Covid-19 from the animals before incinerating them, the government said, though officials say they are hopeful the decision will bring an end to the saga, which has rocked Denmark’s government and driven broader concerns about the safety of the global fur-farming industry.

Meanwhile, Danish lawmakers passed a law to temporarily ban mink breeding, leaving little hope to rebuild the industry, which pioneered the global fur trade.

Fearing an escalation of the coronavirus epidemic in the Nordic country, exacerbated by the discovery of a mutated virus strain, the Danish government ordered all mink culled in early November, despite lacking part of the legal basis to do so.

The move by lawmakers retroactively creates the legal basis for its order to cull all mink in the country in November.

Also read: Back from dead? Zombie minks rise from graves to 'exact revenge' after being culled

Likely to be one of the last farmers in Denmark with mink on his farm, Erik Vammen initially defied the government's calls for a nationwide cull, but now faces no other option than to put down his remaining 5,000 virus-free mink.

"I will comply with the law, as I've always done", Vammen said, adding that he'll wait until the last moment to cull his mink.

"I'm keeping my head high." The 62-year old farmer said it is likely he'll pick up mink breeding again when the temporary ban subsides in 2022.

The new law, which bans mink breeding by Jan. 15, also outlines some compensation for farmers, but lawmakers have yet to finalize exact measures.

The government's order has effectively obliterated Denmark's mink industry, known for its top-quality mink pelts, with most farmers and industry voices saying the industry will never recover.

Authorities later admitted that the order to cull healthy mink herds had lacked a legal basis.

The move hurled the government into a political storm, as plummeting public trust coincided with resignation calls and a vote of no confidence by opposition parties, culminating in the exit of the agriculture minister.

Parliament has also decided to instigate a probe into the government's handling of the mink crisis, including the actions of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

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