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MINKS

One percent of mink breeders apply for money to resume business

Around one percent of all mink breeders have applied for money to be able to keep their businesses dormant and then continue operations, if mink breeding is allowed again in Denmark, according to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. This equates to just 13 mink breeders who may open their businesses again.

A mink farm in North Jutland
A mink farm in North Jutland in October 2020. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

1246 mink breeders on the other hand, have applied for compensation because they expect to close their businesses, according to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen).

At midnight on Saturday, the deadline expired for when Danish mink breeders could apply for what the agency calls dormant compensation (dvalekompensation) or closure compensation (nedlukningserstatning).

It is not known whether all mink breeders in Denmark have applied. But the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has written on its website that it expected to receive applications from around 1,200 mink businesses.

Breeding mink in Denmark has been banned since November 2020, when government ordered that all minks in Denmark to be culled on November 4th after a mutated version of the new coronavirus was detected at its mink farms and had spread to people. The mutated form is now considered to have been eradicated.

The culling order of around 15 million minks, issued by the government was later found to be illegal, and an official commission has since been appointed to scrutinise it. The commission is due to report its findings in April 2022.

A political agreement was reached in January 2021 on a compensation package for the mink breeders and people in related industries who lost their livelihoods. The package has been set up to around 18.8 billion kroner (around €1.6 billion).

According to the plan, mink breeding should be possible again from next year. But Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Rasmus Prehn has previously stated that the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) will make an assessment of whether this can happen on the 2nd May.

In the latest assessment from June last year, it was stated by SSI, among other things, that keeping mink in Denmark “may entail a health risk for people of unknown size”.

According to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries,  there are six independent commissions that must assess and determine how much money each mink breeder and related professions can have in compensation.

The money is paid out as the cases are processed. The last mink breeders may have to wait until the end of 2024.

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MINKS

What did Danish mink inquiry conclude and what happens next?

An independent commission tasked with investigating government decisions surrounding the 2020 culling of millions of Danish fur farm mink released its final report on Thursday.

What did Danish mink inquiry conclude and what happens next?

The 4,500-page report finds fault with prime minister Mette Frederiksen, who, it says, made “grossly misleading” statements about the legal basis of the mink cull at a November 2020 press conference. 

The commission also said that Frederiksen “did not have knowledge about of the intention of” misleading, meaning she was not aware that the legal basis for the decision was not in place, according to the reports.

In its report, the commission wrote that “severe misleading” had occurred over the mink cullings, called the events “exceptionally criticisable” and that laws had been broken.

READ ALSO: Danish PM ‘grossly misled’ during mink announcement 

The report says 10 officials, largely department heads from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the Environment and Food, the National Police, and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, should be held accountable for failing to demonstrate that there was no legal basis for the decision to cull far farm mink.

Barbara Bertelsen, head of the prime minister’s department, and Mogens Jensen, former minister of food, agriculture, and fisheries, are the subject of particular criticism in the report.

“It is the assessment of the commission that the head of the prime minister’s department Barbara Bertelsen has committed derelictions of duty of such severity that there is a basis for the public to seek to hold her accountable,” the report states.

Bertelsen, as a lawyer, should have questioned the legality of the order to cull the minks, the commission said.

The decision to cull the mink fell under Jensen’s purview and the commission found Jensen was aware the government had no legal authority and lied to parliament about it. Jensen resigned just two weeks after the decision was made. 

“The Commission finds that Mogens Jensen was on November 5th 2020 informed that there was no legal authority to cull all the minks and that [Jensen] thereby… gained knowledge that should have forced him to realise that his – and also the prime minister’s – statements during the press briefing on November 4th were severely misleading,” the report states.

It is not the duty of the commission to make a legal assessment of whether ministers acted intentionally or recklessly.

Potential consequences for Frederiksen could take the form of an official reprimand, known as a næse, or the appointment of a special impeachment court, a rare occurrence in Danish politics but used as recently as last year.

Parliament has the responsibility for final conclusions, meaning that the minority Social Democratic government’s allied parties on the left wing are likely to have a decisive say in whether the matter is taken forward, following the submission of the commission’s report.

At least one of the three left wing parties – the Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre), Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) and Socialist People’s Party (SF) would need to decide to pursue Frederiksen by appointing a special impeachment court, should that route be taken. Opposition parties would also need to favour this option.

Two of those parties have already signalled that they do not want to appoint an impeachment court, however.

SF said it saw no reason to proceed with the special court or with independent legal investigations of the matter, arguing Frederiksen had neither committed a crime nor lied to parliament. The Red Green Alliance said that Frederiksen has not deliberately misled the public at the November 4th briefing because she did not know the order was illegal at that time.

Social Liberal political spokesperson Andreas Steenberg said on Thursday that the party was yet to form any conclusions.

Frederiksen said on Friday that the government would review the criticism of the 10 officials, including Bertelsen, before deciding whether to suspend them. The decision will rest on the advice of a governmental staff competency agency, Medarbejder- og Kompetencestyrelsen, Frederiksen said.

“I take and have responsibility for this not having been a drawn out process, because we were under time constraints. That does not change the fact that some fundamental things should be in place — including legal basis,” she said at a briefing.

Denmark was the world’s leading exporter of mink fur until it decided in November 2020 to cull all its 15-17 million minks, after studies suggested that a variant found in some of the animals could jeopardise the effectiveness of future vaccines.

The variant was later considered to have been eradicated before a compensation package worth billions of kroner was agreed for the farmers.

The original order by the government to cull the mink was shown to have been illegal shortly after the initial culling order was given, resulting in one of the biggest scandals in modern Danish politics.

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