Mink Scandal Costs Danish Minister His Job Amid Botched Cull

Denmark’s response to a coronavirus mutation in its mink population has just cost a Cabinet minister his job.

Mogens Jensen, the 57-year-old minister for food and veterinary affairs, is stepping down after losing parliament’s support, according to a statement issued by his office on Wednesday.

His departure comes a fortnight after Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told Danish farmers to start culling the country’s 17 million mink. The response was needed, she said, to fight a rare strain of the coronavirus that had the potential to derail global efforts to develop a vaccine, and to infect humans.

But it’s since emerged that the government’s order was illegal. A rushed attempt to put together an emergency bill subsequently failed, and the government only managed to push through the necessary legislation with a slim majority earlier this week, after millions of healthy animals had already been slaughtered.

Frederiksen says the mink needed to be culled, regardless of the legal framework. But an almost united parliament has condemned her government’s decision to move ahead before consulting the legislature.

Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, the leader of Denmark’s main opposition party, the Liberals, says the blame now lies with the prime minister.

“Frederiksen is responsible for the illegal order,” he said in a tweet. “She made the decision and she didn’t step in to reverse it when she realized it was illegal. This case does not end with the departure of Mogens Jensen.”

An internal investigation published on Wednesday found that government advisers provided several ministers with documentation back in October that showed new legislation was needed to conduct a total mink cull. But that detail wasn’t discussed at any meetings attended by Cabinet ministers until November.

Vaccines

Denmark’s warning that the virus mutation found in its mink posed a particular threat to vaccines has been challenged. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, has said the mutation detected in Danish mink won’t compromise vaccines.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said the virus mutation found in Denmark “could potentially affect the level of overall vaccine effectiveness of vaccines under development.” But it also pointed to “high uncertainty,” and said “further investigations are required regarding the nature of these mutations and their implications for issues such as vaccine effectiveness.”

Meanwhile, the country’s mink industry has slammed the government’s decision to force through a mass cull, which it says has wiped out the future of a highly respected Danish export.

The government is now working on a support package to bail out the roughly 3,000 individuals employed in Denmark’s mink production.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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