COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - The Danish government said Tuesday that a majority in parliament backed its decision to cull the country’s 15 million minks over concerns about a mutated version of the virus that has spread among the animals.
The government had announced the cull despite not having the right to order the killing of healthy animals, an embarrassing misstep that caused it to scramble to build political consensus for a new law.
The one-party Social Democratic, minority government made a deal late Monday with four left-leaning and center parties to support a law proposal that would allow for the culling of all mink, including those outside northern Denmark where infections have been found. The law proposal also bans mink farming until the end of 2021.
“There is now an agreement that will take care of that,” Mogens Jensen, the agriculture minister, told parliament. “I would like to apologize to the Danish mink breeders that it was not made clear that there was no legal basis.”
It was unclear when a parliamentary vote would take place.
The mutated version of the coronavirus found among the mink can be transmitted to people, though there is no evidence so far that it is more dangerous or resistant to vaccines. Earlier this month, authorities said that 11 people were sickened by it.
According to official figures, 283 farms have recorded infections and 265 have had their animals culled. On top of that more than 200 people in six mink pelting companies have tested positive, Danish authorities said Tuesday.
The government began last month killing farmed minks and later announced that all minks in the country should be culled, though it did not yet have the legal basis for it.
In a separate session in Parliament, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen once again apologized. She said the government had not been not aware that there was no legal basis for its decision. “I do not mean to disregard the law,” she said.
The center-right opposition asked why the government didn’t stop the culling of healthy animals when it realized it did not have a legal right. Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, head of the largest opposition party, the Liberals, called the lack of a legal basis “a scandal” and said the government “deliberately had run a red light.”
There are 1,139 mink farms in Denmark, employing about 6,000 people, according to the industry. They account for 40% of global mink fur production and are the world’s biggest exporter. Most exports go to China and Hong Kong.
Lawmakers have not yet reached a deal on how to compensate breeders.
On Monday, Denmark also ordered the culling of 25,000 chickens after bird flu was found on a farm in northern Denmark and wild bird populations. The H5N8 bird flu has been registered in several locations across Europe in recent months but has not been found to infect humans.
As a result, Denmark’s poultry and egg exports to countries outside the European Union is stopping for at least three months.
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