When Denmark ordered its entire mink population to be culled in late 2020 amid fears that a mutated version of the coronavirus that infected minks could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, millions of animals were killed and farmers were staggered by a financial burden that Danish people will eventually face. putting the taxpayers back on it.
On Friday, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark apologized to the country’s mink farmers after a damning report released this week blamed top officials for mishandling the cull and said she misled the public – the latest twist in a fiasco that has undermined the popularity of the government .
“I know you have lost your life’s work, and I am sincerely sorry for the frustration and grief it has caused,” Ms Frederiksen said, adding that the government would take criticisms of its handling of the situation seriously.
But she insisted the decision to cull the minks was “necessary” and refuted calls for a legal inquiry. “We had a responsibility for the health of the entire world,” she said, adding that officials had not misled the public about the matter.
The decision to cull the mink was made after it was revealed that the coronavirus had jumped from animals to humans in some cases. Concerned that a mutated version of the virus transmitted by minks could make coronavirus vaccines less effective for humans, the government ordered the culling of some 17 million animals, a major blow to a country that had hitherto been was the world’s largest producer of mink skins. used for luxury jackets.
Outbreaks in mink populations and the subsequent slaughter of the animals had cropped up in other countries, but the killing rate was much higher in Denmark. The Danish army was called in to help about 1,100 mink farmers slaughter their animals. To make matters worse, many of the animals were not properly buried and had to be dug up from mass graves and burned.
The cull, which resulted in the loss of 5,000 jobs and effectively halted the industry at the time, received a public response and forced the resignation of one minister. Some right-wing lawmakers accused Ms Frederiksen of using the pandemic to end mink farming in the country and called for her resignation.
A 1,649-page report, published Thursday by a parliamentary committee investigating what has been called a ‘minkgate’ in Denmark for more than a year, called the slaughter order illegal and accused several government officials of acting ‘impeccably’, including some in Mrs. Frederiksen’s office that she believes could be held legally liable for misconduct.
The report found that Ms Frederiksen was “grossly misleading” and violated “truth and legality” when she announced in November 2020 that all minks, infected or not, were to be culled. But the commission said it could not judge whether Ms Frederiksen had committed “gross negligence” because she said she was not aware she had exceeded her authority.
Ms Frederiksen testified before the committee last year that only days after announcing the decision to cull the minks did she become aware that the government did not have the legal powers to kill uninfected animals.
It was not immediately clear what the political ramifications of the report would be. Ms Frederiksen said she had no plans to resign and rejected calls for a legal inquiry, saying the government was transparent on the matter.
“At no point has the government tried to hide or cover up this mistake,” she said. “On the contrary, we have brought it all out.”
A decision on how to proceed with the matter will be left to Parliament, she said.
Some supporters of Ms Frederiksen’s centre-left government in parliament said they would not call for a legal inquiry. Many of her conservative opponents want an investigation, and they have criticized the government’s handling of the matter.
“It’s a big show with five ministers trying to save themselves,” said Soren Pape Poulsen, a leader of the Conservative People’s Party, according to Danish broadcaster DR.
If Danish lawmakers go ahead with a legal investigation, Ms Frederiksen could be impeached.
Lawmakers last year approved a measure that would allow mink farmers in Denmark’s already troubled industry to seek damages of up to $3 billion. According to government figures, 1,245 mink companies have filed for compensation since last month after shutting down their business. Only 15 have applied for a financial package that would help them continue mink farming after the farming ban was lifted.