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MINKS

Danish health agency says mink farming poses low Covid-19 risk

A resumption of Denmark's banned mink farming poses little risk of Covid virus variants emerging, the country's public health institute said Tuesday in a report that could lead to the industry's revival.

Minks at a Danish fur farm
Minks at a Danish fur farm prior to the shuttering of the industry in late 2020. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

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.

Prior to the cull, Denmark was also the world’s second-largest producer of mink fur after China.

The Scandinavian country later banned the breeding of the mammals until the end of 2022, in a blow to the industry.

The Danish public health institute SSI said in its report the risk was low that mink farming would lead to the emergence of variants of concern.

“Overall, the probability can be characterised as low, and is assumed to be significantly less than the probability that these will arise in a world population of 7.9 billion people”, it said.

The report is expected to play a part in the government’s decision later this year on whether to extend or end the ban.

According to Danish news agency Ritzau, 1,243 mink farmers have applied for state compensation for shutting down their farms.

Meanwhile only 15 have applied for compensation for dormant farms, suggesting that most mink farmers do not plan to resume even if the ban is lifted.

The Danish cull led to a political fiasco, when it quickly emerged — after the cull was already underway — that the government’s order had no legal basis, leading to the resignation of the agriculture minister, Mogens Jensen.

An agreement was reached retroactively to make the government’s decision legal, and the nationwide cull continued uninterrupted.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen later testified before a special parliamentary commission that she did not know the decision lacked legal basis.

READ ALSO: One percent of mink breeders apply for money to resume business

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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.

One percent of mink breeders apply for money to resume business

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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