In 2020, the Danish government ordered a blanket cull of 15 million farmed mink, effectively wiping out an entire industry, as a precaution to stop what was seen as a dangerous COVID-19 strain.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will be questioned later this year in an official inquiry into her government’s decision to cull all farmed mink in Denmark, a divisive decision that continues to make waves in the country’s politics.
Hearings by the so-called Mink Commission will start on 7 October and are expected to last months, with the prime minister the last scheduled witness on the list. Other cabinet ministers, including Nick Hækkerup (Justice) and Nicolai Wammen (Finance), as well as former Agriculture Minister Mogens Jensen have been summoned by the inquiry as well, Danish Radio reported.
The goal of the probe is to establish whether the government did the right thing in November 2020 when it ordered a blanket cull of the country’s entire stock of 15 million farmed mink, after discovering a disturbing mutated COVID-19 strain, which it deemed could jump species and tamper with the vaccination process.
However, after the decision was announced and was already in the process of implementation, it was revealed that the government had no legal authority to make it. The government crisis, dubbed ‘Minkgate’, was averted just in time by a cross-party agreement retroactively green-lighting the decision.
Nevertheless, the issue resulted in the resignation of then-agriculture minister Mogens Jensen. However, accusations of illegal overreach were still heard, and demands for an inquiry were made. All parliamentary parties backed the commission, the first of its kind in Denmark.
In contrast to established forms of inquiry, the Mink Commission is further-reaching and is empowered to summon witnesses for interview, rather than merely relying on legal reports or written accounts.
The right-of-the-centre “blue” bloc parties have particularly strongly criticised the government’s handling of the mink problem. Most recently, Conservative Party leader Søren Pape Poulsen called it a “scandal” when speaking at a party congress last week. The Danish People’s Party’s Kristian Thulesen Dahl used the same word, “scandal”, yet went so far as to suggest that the prime minister should face an impeachment trial, drawing parallels with the ongoing case of former Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg, who is on trial for her decision to separate underage asylum seeker couples for the sake of protecting women and combating forced child marriages.
The massive cull effectively shut down Denmark’s entire mink fur industry, which used to be the world’s largest producer, eliminating an international contender. The decision sparked massive protests from mink farmers, who were later awarded a compensation based on the size of their stocks.
The mink were gassed and buried in mass graves that in some cases proved to be too shallow, as bloated carcasses dubbed “zombie mink” emerged from the ground, and concerns about the pollution of drinking water were voiced. In yet another twist to the painful mink saga, the authorities decided to exhume and incinerate thousands of tonnes of rotten mink corpses.