Danish government under increasing pressure over illegal mink directive

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.

Danish government under increasing pressure over illegal mink directive
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks to press on Tuesday. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix

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.


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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IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?

The number of new Covid-19 infections fell on Saturday for the second day in a row, following a three-day plateau at the start of last week. Has the omicron wave peaked?

IN NUMBERS: Has the Omicron Covid-19 wave peaked in Denmark?
Graffiti in the Copenhagen hippy enclave of Christiania complaining of Omicron's impact on Christmas. Photo: Philip Davali/Scanpix

How many cases, hospitalisations and deaths are there in Denmark? 

Denmark registered 12,588 new cases in the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, down from the 18,261 registered on in the day leading up to Friday at 2pm, which was itself a decline from the record 28,283 cases recorded on Wednesday. 

The cases were identified by a total of 174,517 PCR tests, bringing the positive percentage to 7.21 percent, down from the sky high rates of close to 12 percent seen in the first few days of January. 

The number of cases over the past seven days is lower than the week before in almost every municipality in Denmark, with only Vallensbæk, Aarhus, Holseterbro, Skanderborg, Hjørring, Vordingborg,  Ringkøbing, Kolding, Assens, Horsens, Thisted, and Langeland reporting rises. 

Hospitalisations have also started to fall, with some 730 patients being treated for Covid-10 on Saturday, down from 755 on Friday. On Tuesday, 794 were being treated for Covid-19 in Danish hospitals, the highest number since the peak of the 2020-21 winter wave.

The only marker which has not yet started to fall is the number of deaths, which tends to trail infections and hospitalisations. 

In the 24 hours leading up to 2pm on Saturday, Denmark registered 28 deaths with Covid-19, the highest daily number recorded since 20 January 2021, when 29 people died with Covid-19 (although Denmark’s deadliest day was the 19 January 2021, when 39 people died). 

How does Denmark compare to other countries in Europe? 

Over the last seven days, Denmark has had the highest Covid-19 case rate of any country in Europe bar Ireland. The number of new infections in the country has climbed steadily since the start of December, apart from a brief fall over Christmas. 

So does this mean the omicron wave has peaked? 

Maybe, although experts are not sure. 

“Of course, you can hope for that, but I’m not sure that is the case,” said Christian Wejse, head of the Department for Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital. “I think it is too early to conclude that the epidemic has peaked.”

He said that patients with the Omicron variant were being discharged more rapidly on average than had been the case with those who had the more dangerous Delta variant. 

“Many admissions are relatively short-lived, thankfully. This is because many do not become that il, and are largely hospitalized because they are suffering with something else. And if they are stable and do not need oxygen, then they are quickly discharged again.” 

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said during a visit to an event held by the Social Liberal party that the latest numbers made her even more optimistic about the coming month. 

“We have lower infection numbers and the number of hospitalisations is also plateauing,” she said. “I think we’re going to get through this winter pretty well, even if it will be a difficult time for a lot of people, and we are beginning to see the spring ahead of us, so I’m actually very optimistic.” 

She said that she had been encouraged by the fact that Omicron was a “visibly less dangerous variant if it is not allowed to explode.”