Denmark will dig up hundreds of thousands of useless mink it culled to stamp out a doubtlessly harmful mutation of the virus that causes Covid-19, solely to discover that their rotting carcasses may trigger a recent contamination danger.

The Danish parliament voted Sunday to exhume up to 5.5 million of the animals starting in May after environmental inspectors discovered that some water sources may have already got been polluted by micro organism because the our bodies decay. Workers may have to wait a number of months to be sure there isn’t a danger of contracting Covid-19 from the animals earlier than incinerating them, the federal government mentioned, although officers say they’re hopeful the choice will deliver an finish to the saga, which has rocked Denmark’s authorities and pushed broader issues in regards to the security of the worldwide fur-farming business.

The drama started in November, when Prime Minister

Mette Frederiksen’s

authorities signed the demise warrant for the nation’s 17 million mink—3 times the human inhabitants. Researchers had discovered that the farms the place they had been bred for his or her fur may act as a reservoir for a brand new pressure of the virus—unrelated to the brand new variation lately discovered within the U.Ok.—which may resist the brand new vaccines now being deployed. Scientists advising the federal government warned that the mutation may turn into endemic amongst feral mink, creating a long-lasting downside.

The cull successfully introduced Denmark’s $750-million-a-year mink business—the world’s largest—to an unedifying finish.

Many Danes initially applauded the federal government’s fast resolution. Denmark was additionally among the many first European nations to shut its borders when Covid-19 first appeared earlier this 12 months, burnishing Ms. Fredericksen’s management credentials in a rustic the place politicians extra normally take their time to attain a broad consensus on essential coverage selections.

Denmark will dig up hundreds of thousands of useless mink it culled to stamp out a doubtlessly harmful mutation of the virus that causes Covid-19, solely to discover that their rotting carcasses may trigger a recent contamination danger.

Denmark culled about 17 million mink in November.


morten stricker/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Political opponents and lots of farmers, although, say her authorities acted in haste, whereas animal rights campaigners mentioned the episode meant Denmark ought to comply with the U.Ok., Germany and different nations which have already outlawed the farming of fur.

First, authorized consultants known as the cull order unconstitutional. The authorities didn’t have the authorized backing it wanted to impose the cull; it later launched retroactive laws to cowl it. The agriculture minister resigned and opposition lawmakers are calling for extra heads to roll.

Farmers complained {that a} compensation settlement wasn’t in place when the cull started. Last month, they drove lots of of tractors into the capital, Copenhagen, to make their case and are nonetheless ready for particulars of what they could count on. A bundle was authorised in parliament Monday.

Then mink corpses started to reappear, pushed up by means of the soil by gases launched as their our bodies decomposed. Danish newspapers began calling them “zombie mink,” haunting the federal government because it grappled with a resurgence of Covid-19 among the many human inhabitants.

The animals had been supposed to have been incinerated, however the scale of the cull meant that up to 5.5 million mink had been buried close to the cities of Karup and Holstebro.

Disposing of the animals has been a problem. Mink are notably inclined to the virus as a result of they’re weak to coronaviruses and are raised in tightly-packed cages in massive numbers, making it simpler to unfold. Researchers discovered seven differing kinds of mutations within the spike protein of the virus amongst farmed mink after they caught it from farmworkers. One of these mutations carried 4 genetic adjustments that elevated the virus’s resistance to antibodies—doubtlessly making it extra resistant to vaccines.

A dozen farmworkers had been additionally discovered to have been contaminated by the mutation, making it the primary identified instance of animals catching the virus from people after which passing it again. It hasn’t unfold any additional.

Outbreaks of the extra widely-transmitted type of Covid-19 have been detected on mink farms in different elements of Europe, the place cull orders have additionally been imposed, and within the U.S., the place the Agriculture Department final week mentioned it had discovered a optimistic case in a wild mink in Utah as half of a wildlife surveillance undertaking round contaminated farms.

“To our knowledge, this is the first free-ranging, native wild animal confirmed with SARS-CoV-2,” the USDA mentioned in an alert to the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Danish mink breeders, in the meantime, have an unsure future. Some farms had been breeding mink for generations, and Danish mink pelts had been thought to be the best on the planet, and had been notably wanted in China and Russia.

Animal rights campaigners argue that the cull ought to mark the tip of the fur farming business in Denmark fully. The business is unlikely to get well in any case.

Without their breeding inventory, mink farmers will discover it tough to return to the 20% premiums they commanded within the international market, and which many have mentioned they want to cowl their margins. New laws prohibits the re-introduction of mink to Denmark till the tip of subsequent 12 months.

Fur can be steadily falling out of favor with the style business, with each the amount and value of pelts dropping by round half since 2014, in accordance to the principle alternate, Kopenhagen Fur.

The alternate says it now plans to wind down operations over the following two-to-three years.

Write to James Hookway at

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