There are also fears that the new, mutated virus from mink will pose a “risk to the effectiveness” of a future COVID-19 vaccine
Officially, a total of 12 people have so far been infected at mink farms mostly in the northern part of the country but health minister Magnus Heunicke said he believed that, in fact, half the 783 human COVID-19 cases in northern Denmark were “related” to mink.
And Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said there were now fears that the new, mutated virus posed a “risk to the effectiveness” of a future COVID-19 vaccine.
“It is very, very serious,” Ms Frederiksen added.
“Thus, the mutated virus in mink can have devastating consequences worldwide.”
Denmark is one of the world’s main mink fur exporters, producing an estimated 17 million furs per year.
This comes after Boris Johnson has warned of deaths “on a grievous scale” without further action, such as the 2nd national lockdown, to stem the spread of coronavirus infections. As he opened a House of Commons debate on England’s new lockdown, the prime minister urged MPs to vote in favour of a second national shutdown later on Wednesday.
Kopenhagen Fur, a co-operative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40% of the global mink production. Most of its exports go to China and Hong Kong.
The Danish government is backing the cull as a way to minimise the risk of more retransmitting coronavirus to humans.
According to government estimates, culling the country’s 15 million mink could cost up to five billion kroner (£605m).
But national police head Thorkild Fogde said it should happen “as soon as possible”.
Denmark’s minister for food, Mogens Jensen, said 207 farms were now infected, up from 41 last month, and the disease has spread to all of the western peninsula of Jutland.
The country has registered 50,530 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 729 related deaths.
Perhaps surprisingly, animal welfare group Humane Society International applauded the prime minister for taking “such an essential and science-based step to protect Danish citizens”.
This comes after the UK’s National Health Service is getting ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines before Christmas if a jab is ready, NHS England’s chief executive has said. No vaccines for COVID-19 have yet to have been approved but there are two frontrunners in the late-stages of clinical trials in the UK
Its hope is that losing so many mink to the coronavirus will cause fur farms to go out of the business.
Humane Society International-Europe spokesman Joanna Swabe said: “Although the death of millions of mink, whether culled for COVID-19 or killed for fur, is an animal welfare tragedy.”
“Fur farmers will now have a clear opportunity to pivot away from this cruel and dying industry and choose a more humane and sustainable livelihood instead.”