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Denmark wants to ban mink farming until end of 2021 due to mutated virus scare

New version of coronavirus found on farms can infect people, but there is no evidence it is more dangerous; Danes set to kill 15 million animals as precautionary measure

Mink are buried in a mass grave as Danish health authorities, assisted by members of the Danish Armed Forces, dispose of the animals near Holstebro, Denmark, November 9 2020. (Morten Stricker/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
Mink are buried in a mass grave as Danish health authorities, assisted by members of the Danish Armed Forces, dispose of the animals near Holstebro, Denmark, November 9 2020. (Morten Stricker/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

The Danish government said Tuesday it wants to ban mink farming until the end of 2021, as it presented a law proposal that would allow for the culling of 15 million minks as announced last week.

The culling is meant to contain a mutated version of the new coronavirus that can be transmitted to people, though there is no evidence so far that it is more dangerous.

The government needs a new law as it does not have the right to order the killing of healthy animals.

The opposition criticized the government for starting the cull before the law was in place and before defining plans to compensate the breeders and their staff.

“I regret the course of events,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told the 179-seat Parliament during a question-and-answer session Tuesday.

“Although things went fast, it goes without saying that it must be completely clear that a new legislation is required here,” Frederiksen said.

An employee removes dead mink from a chamber after they were gassed. The herd consists of 3,000 mother mink and their cubs on their farm near Naestved, Denmark, on November 6, 2020. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)

Under the proposed law, mink farming will not be allowed until December 31, 2021, though a limited number of mink can be held privately, as pets for example.

The ruling Social Democrats have 48 seats in Parliament and need support to reach the majority of 90 lawmakers.

Taking a safety-first approach, the Danish government on Wednesday ordered the cull of all minks bred at Denmark’s 1,139 mink farms and has put more than a quarter million Danes in a northern region of the country into lockdown.

It said the mutated version of the virus was found in 11 people infected by minks.

Public authorities and mink breeders have started the culling, putting down some 2.5 million animals — infected and healthy — so far.

Hebrew media reported Monday that three Israelis who returned from Denmark are showing coronavirus symptoms, though officials said chances were thought to be low that any of the travelers would be carrying the mutated strain.

The Health Ministry said it was performing special testing on some 180 Israelis who recently traveled to Denmark in an effort to ensure the apparent coronavirus mutation did not take hold in Israel.

Heavy machinery disposes of dead mink in a military area near Holstebro, Denmark, Nov. 9 2020. (Morten Stricker/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)

The ministry said that it was contacting all the relevant travelers, additionally noting that Denmark was now a “red” country and that anyone arriving from there was required to immediately enter isolation for 14 days.

“It’s really frightening,” one recently returned traveler told Channel 12. “I did not think about it. I returned to Israel with my small children and I will be getting tested.”

On Tuesday, the network said that most Israelis who recently returned from Denmark were refusing to get checked. Just 40 of the 180 Israelis who were in Denmark recently agreed and were cooperating with the army’s Home Front Command, the report said.

Denmark, the world’s largest mink fur exporter, produces an estimated 17 million furs per year. Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40 percent of the global mink production. Most of its exports go to China and Hong Kong.

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