All fur farm minks in Denmark were culled late last year and the practice banned until 2022 after an outbreak of Covid-19 in the animals at several farms led to concerns over mutations of the virus.
The mink industry was subsequently given a gigantic compensation package worth up to 18.8 billion kroner.
Parliament’s environment and food committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss whether to extend the current ban or allow the industry to return. Political negotiations were scheduled to take place following an orientation published the same day by the State Serum Institute (SSI), Denmark’s national infectious disease agency.
In a statement released on Tuesday morning, SSI maintained an earlier risk assessment that mink breeding constitutes an health risk of “unknown proportions” for humans in Denmark.
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The assessment, made by the agency in June, remains the position held by SSI, the infectious disease agency said.
“It is the general assessment of the State Serum Institute that breeding of mink in Denmark after 2021 could constitute a health risk for humans of unknown proportions,” the June assessment stated.
Three key risk factors were identified by SSI in June:
- Breakthrough Covid-19 infections in vaccinated mink breeders and skinners
- The potential of mink farms to act as an “infection reservoir” where the virus can continue to survive
- Emergence of new Covid-19 mutations in the animals and their spread to humans
The SSI assessment was solely concern with potential risk to humans, and did not have the task of considering safety measures for reopening farms.
Prior to the release of SSI’s statement on Tuesday, the interest organisation for the mink fur breeding industry, Danske Mink, criticised the appraisal made by the agency in June.
The formulation of the assessment was imprecise and “quite erroneous”, Danske Mink chairperson Louise Simonsen said.
The earlier orientation did not give an accurate representation “both with the number of animals and with the vaccination situation,” Simonsen argued.
Around 1,000 mink farms operated in Denmark at the time the industry was shut down.
Simonsen, in comments prior to Tuesday’s SSI statement, said she was uncertain how many were likely to restart their shuttered breeding grounds.
“We’ve had several messages from breeders who want to start up. But that number won’t stabilise until we know what we’re looking forward to,” she said.
The Conservative Party said through its spokesperson Per Larsen that SSI should have conducted a “risk assessment using groups of, for example, 50,000 or 100,000 minks” to see how “vaccinated mink, vaccinated staff and weekly testing could work”.
“Saying there’s a risk of unknown proportions is of no use whatsoever. It could mean nothing or many things,”” Larsen said.