Danish government under increasing pressure over illegal mink directive

Danish government under increasing pressure over illegal mink directive
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks to press on Tuesday. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix
The government is facing increasing criticism after it emerged that it had no legal basis for an order to cull minks outside of specified coronavirus risk zones.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said the Ministry of Food and the Environment should have informed mink fur farmers and the public earlier that a government directive to cull the country’s minks was illegal.

Last week, the government ordered all farmed minks in the country, sick or healthy, to be culled.

The order came in response to scientific evidence showing that a mutation of the new coronavirus detected in minks and then passed back to humans could endanger the efficacy of a future Covid-19 vaccine.

Up to 17 million minks are to be culled as a result, effectively bringing about the end of the mink fur industry in Denmark, which is worth billions of kroner annually.

However, it has since emerged that the government had no legal basis on which to order the culling of minks outside of risk zones for coronavirus transmission, defined as areas within a certain radius of confirmed coronavirus in minks.

During prime minister’s questions in parliament on Tuesday, Frederiksen said a review would be initiated over the matter.

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The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) did not officially inform mink farmers of the issue until Tuesday, despite the government becoming aware of the legal issue during the weekend, news wire Ritzau reports.

Frederiksen said responsibility for communication lies with the authorities.

“It is my clear expectation that the minister of environment and food [Mogens Jensen, ed.] (communicates),” she said following the parliamentary questions.

“I have a clear expectation that, when mistakes occur, they are corrected by ministers,” she added.

The PM has apologised over the issue and said she still backs Jensen as food minister, Ritzau writes.

The Veterinary and Food Administration said in its letter to mink farm owners on Tuesday that it was “very sorry” that an earlier letter did not clarify that the decision to cull minks outside of risk zones was based on a “recommendation”, rather than a directive.

The government is facing strong rebukes from other political parties over the directive.

“The prime minister gave an illegal directive. I don’t have the imagination to conceive that there wasn’t a single person who pointed out you need a legal basis to kill an entire industry,” Jakob Ellemann-Jensen of the Liberal (Venstre) party, the largest party in opposition, said in parliament.

Left-wing party the Red Green Alliance, a parliamentary ally of the government, called the issue “serious” for Jensen’s future position, DR reports.


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