Danish government faces biggest crisis yet over illegal mink order

Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Denmark mink culling process
FILE PHOTO: Denmark mink culling process

By Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark's minority government finally gained parliamentary support on Tuesday to legalise the cull it ordered earlier this month of all farmed mink to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but a poll showed public trust had plummeted over the crisis.

The Social Democratic government's admission there was no legal basis for its Nov. 5 order to cull the country's entire mink population magnified an outcry over the measure, which farmers say will end their business for good. [nL1N2HW0LQ][nL1N2HR100]

Food and Agriculture Minister Mogens Jensen said late on Monday the government had won parliamentary agreement for legislation underpinning the cull that would "hopefully create some peace".

But Berlingske daily called on Tuesday for the government to step down if a government report on the order expected on Wednesday shows it breached the constitution.

Mink farmer Frank Andersen described the cull as "panic solutions" and said authorities should have come up with a compensation plan first.

"They can't just pull the plug and let me deal with the consequences, he told Reuters. "I won't be able to start over, everything is ruined."

Two weeks ago, authorities drafted the military and police to help Denmark's 1,100 mink farmers cull their 17 million mink, one of the world's biggest herds of the animals, which are bred for their fur.

Outbreaks at mink farms had persisted in Denmark, the world's largest producer of mink furs, despite repeated efforts to cull infected animals since June. Authorities said the discovery of a new strain among the mink, which had also infected some humans, posed a risk to future COVID-19 vaccines.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen enjoyed widespread support during the coronavirus crisis for early and drastic lockdown measures, but the handling of the mink cull has dented that.

A July high of more than 75% of people saying they trusted the government fell to just over half by mid-November, according to a study by Aarhus University.

Frederiksen has apologised publicly but maintains the decision to cull all mink was sound and based on assessments by health authorities.

Farmers drove some 200 tractors on Saturday through Aalborg, Frederiksen's constituency and home town, to protest against the government's handling of the issue.

(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; editing by Philippa Fletcher)