Denmark government backs extension of ban on mink farming

Denmark government backs extension of ban on mink farming
Empty cages at a Danish mink fur farm in December 2020. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
Denmark, formerly the world's leading exporter of mink fur, says it plans to extend a ban on farming them for another year after the its controversial cull of all minks last year over a mutated strain of the coronavirus. 

The announcement followed a statement by infections disease agency State Serum Institute earlier on Tuesday, maintaining the position that such farms could present a health risk to humans.

“The only thing to do is to extend by a year the ban that has been in place this year,” agriculture minister Rasmus Prehn told journalists.

The aim was to protect Danes from so-called zoonoses — diseases and infections transmissible from animals to humans, he added. The mink is the only animal identified so far as being able to transmit Covid-19 to humans. 

A draft law to extend the ban, already backed by most MPs, will go before parliament, Prehn said.

In November 2020, Denmark announced it would cull all of the country’s more than 15 million minks after the discovery of a mutated version of the novel coronavirus.

Preliminary studies had suggested that the variant could jeopardise the effectiveness of future vaccines. 

Health officials recommended extending the ban in June, arguing that mink breeding still presented “a human health risk of an unknown magnitude”.

Nevertheless, the cull proved controversial.

With the mass gassing programme already underway, a court challenge to the order found that the executive’s decision had no legal basis, leading to the resignation of the previous agriculture minister.

READ ALSO: Danish PM Frederiksen to be questioned over Covid-19 mink culls

The mink industry was later given a gigantic compensation package worth up to 18.8 billion kroner.

Adding to the scandal, it was later revealed that the disposal of the dead animals posed an environmental threat. There were fears that phosphorus and nitrogen could be released in large quantities into the soil surrounding the mass graves due to the decomposition process.

The association for Danish mink breeders, Danske Minkavlere, on Tuesday criticised the basis for an extension of the ban on the industry.

“This is a very, very far-reaching and serious decision made on what we see as an unknown and even an unwritten basis,” the organisation’s chairperson Tage Pedersen said in a statement.

Opposition parties also criticised the government’s position on extending the ban.

“This was not a proper risk assessment. There was no description of various scenarios in which (mink breeding) could continue in a reassuring way,” the party’s business spokesperson Torsten Schack Pedersen told news wire Ritzau..

“That’s what we expected and requested answers to… unfortunately we’ve (only) been given confirmation that SSI still holds the position it held in June. But we haven’t been given answers to actual questions,” he added.

The left-wing Red Green Alliance backed the extension and said it favours a permanent ban on breeding mink for fur.

“It’s positive we’re starting here. But I’d rather have seen a permanent ban, out of consideration towards the health situation in Denmark and to send a signal to the mink breeders that this is the way things are going,” Red Green Alliance health spokesperson Peder Hvelplund said to Ritzau.

Unlike conservative parties, Hvelplund expressed confidence in the basis for the decision.

“With the experience we have from 2020 and the knowledge we have today, we know it’s not possible to manage coronavirus at mink farms,” he said.


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