The COVID Mink Crisis Explained: Why Denmark Culled 17 Million Minks and Now Plans to Dig up Their Buried Bodies

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Mink are seen at the farm of Henrik Nordgaard Hansen and Ann-Mona Kulsoe Larsen near Naestved, Denmark on Nov. 6, 2020.

Around the world, minks are getting sick. The small, ferret-like mammals farmed for their valuable fur have raised alarm after contracting and mutating the coronavirus, passing it back to humans. The virus, officials said, spread from human handler to mink, mutated, and then spread back to humans. (emphasis mine).

Denmark went so far as to cull 17 million minks in November in response to outbreaks at more than 200 mink farms. The northern region of the country, where most fur farms lie, was placed under strict lockdowns. The Danish government spared no mink, killing infected and healthy animals, alike.

“We would rather go a step too far than take a step too little to combat Covid-19,” the country’s foreign minister Jeppe Kofod said at a press conference in early November.  The country’s prime minister later apologized and its food and agriculture minister stepped down when the order to kill the animals was declared illegal.

“The development marks the latest embarrassment for Denmark’s government, which was slammed by parliament for failing to consult the legislature before ordering farmers to cull their mink. The minister in charge has since been forced to resign, but Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen still faces questions about her handling of the case. On Thursday, she offered a tearful apology to Denmark’s mink farmers for the mistakes made. The Print

The story, however, has not ended there.

Since the mass slaughter, hundreds of mink carcasses have emerged from their graves. Buried in shallow pits and trenches in Western Denmark, the dead minks were pushed out of the ground by gas emitted from their decomposing bodies, leading to more outrage and concern.

The Denmark govt clarified that the graves were too shallow and the dead animals were left in places ‘where they shouldn’t be.’ And across the Atlantic, mink farms in the U.S. are seeing Covid-19  spread and deaths of their own.

Here’s what’s going on.

Source: NBC News and supplemental source DW

Implications for Vaccines: The Print