Millions of mink will be dug up from mass graves and burned in waste incinerators in Denmark after some resurfaced, prompting complaints from residents about possible health and environmental risks, the country's government said.
Denmark's entire herd of some 17 million mink destined for the high-end fashion industry was ordered to be culled in early November after hundreds of farms suffered outbreaks of coronavirus and authorities found mutated strains of the virus among people.
Amid fears that the slightly-altered disease would render vaccines developed to fight the original virus useless, Denmark ordered all of its mink destroyed.
Denmark is digging up millions of mink that were culled due to a COVID-19 outbreak, after they resurfaced from the mass graves they were buried in due to decomposition. This is due to concerns that the carcasses may pose a health risk to drinking water and a nearby bathing lake. pic.twitter.com/Vs41eLNuHl— BFM News (@NewsBFM) December 21, 2020
But of the four million mink hastily buried at a military area in western Denmark, some soon started to resurface from the sandy soil after gasses from the decomposition process pushed the mink out of the ground.
Thomas Kristensen, of the National Police, told broadcaster DR that sandy soil in West Jutland is partly responsible because it is not heavy enough to hold the mink bodies down.
Authorities claimed there was no risk of the graves spreading the coronavirus, but residents have complained about the potential risk of contaminating drinking water and a bathing lake less than 200 metres from the mass graves.
The government were forced to admit that the mass graves, which were dug in November on military sites near Holstebro and Karup, were an environmental hazard.
Their proposal gained support in parliament on Sunday to dig up the mink, the ministry of food and agriculture said in a statement.
The work will only begin in May next year, when the risk of contamination of COVID-19 from the dead animals has been eliminated, the ministry said.
'This way, we avoid the mink being treated as dangerous biological waste, a solution that's never been used before,' the ministry added, reports NDTV.
Denmark was the top exporter of mink to luxury fashion labels, with its pelts in high demand due to high breeding standards.
Denmark is the biggest exporter of mink, China is the biggest importer. With Covid came bans on imports. But in April, the gov of China reclassified mink, arctic fox and racoon as “special livestock” to ensure fur would be “exempt” from the bans. https://t.co/A3adkSa5m1— Moonrise (@MoonriseBooks) December 7, 2020
The animals will be trucked to nearby waste incinerators.
The move comes as Denmark is battling to keep the coronavirus under control. Denmark has one of the highest rates of coronavirus rates in Europe, with 609 cases reported yesterday, according to Oxford University's Our World Data. This is much higher than the UK rate of 403 for confirmed coronavirus cases.
The cull has prompted protests by Danish mink farmers along with legal challenges, as some say politicians had no authority to order the slaughter.
However, Danish politicians have claimed it as a success, saying the mutant strain of coronavirus has 'likely been eradicated' because no new infections have been detected since September 15.
The culling - which reportedly had no legal basis - led to the agriculture minister to resign and Prime Minister Mette Frederisken to apologise in tears.
Denmark Announces Christmas Lockdown As Coronavirus Cases Spike - Denmark’s prime minister Mette Frederiksen has announced a nationwide Christmas lockdown to try and deal with record rates of c... - https://t.co/Nbr7aDQQl3 pic.twitter.com/7hLmt0kPne— Refess.com (@Refess) December 16, 2020
Today, a bill that would ban the breeding of mink until 2022 is set to become law.
Scientists believe the mutant virus jumped from fur farm workers to mink in the summer before it was passed back to humans.
As it crossed between species, a mutation occurred on its 'spike' protein, which it uses to enter human cells.
It was significant because the leading vaccine candidates work by targeting this protein.
When news about the new strain broke earlier this month, Britain banned non-British citizens returning from Denmark and introduced strict quarantine rules for any Brit who'd recently returned from the country.
At the time, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the mutated could have 'grave consequences' if it became widespread.
In a turn of events, Denmark has now announced it will ban flights from Britain in response to the UK government announcing their discovery of the '70 per cent more infectious' mutant strain.
According to the World Health Organisation, the strain has already been identified in Denmark and the Netherlands, while one case was found in Australia.
Denmark said it would suspend flights from the UK for 48 hours from Monday morning to limit the spread of the new strain of coronavirus.
The country is joined by France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Israel and El Salvador in banning all flights carrying passengers from the UK.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.