Denmark could dig up and cremate mink killed in Covid cull

Denmark’s government is considering exhuming and cremating the remains of millions of culled mink after decaying carcasses started to emerge from a hastily dug grave.

After a mutated version of Covid-19 was found in the animals, the prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, announced a cull in early November of the estimated 15-17 million mink in Denmark, the world’s biggest exporter of mink fur.

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

Now problems with the disposal of the dead animals have emerged. There are fears that phosphorus and nitrogen could be released in large quantities into the soil surrounding mass graves during the decomposition process.

On Friday, Denmark’s new minister for agriculture, Rasmus Prehn, expressed his backing for the idea of exhuming the culled mink and burning them, while saying such a move would need the approval of the country’s environment agency. “The desire to get rid of the minks and burned I have had since the first day I heard of it,” he told the broadcaster TV2.

A majority of the Danish parliament, where the idea has been debated, supports the idea.

This week, in the western Holstebro municipality, gases released during the decomposition process started to push the carcasses back to the surface of a burial pit that was too shallow.

On Thursday, Frederiksen wiped away tears and apologised for the handling of the crisis as she visited one of the affected mink farmers. “I don’t have any issues with apologising for the course of events, because mistakes have been made,” she told TV2.

The cull was ordered amid concerns that mutated Covid-19 found in mink would render vaccines against the disease less effective. Last week, the Danish government concluded that the potential threat was “very likely extinguished”, in the absence of any new cases in the animals.

More than 10 million mink have been culled in the country, according to the latest tally.


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