Danish PM Frederiksen to be questioned over Covid-19 mink culls

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is to be questioned later this year by an official inquiry into her government’s decision to cull all farmed mink in Denmark.

Danish PM Frederiksen to be questioned over Covid-19 mink culls
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks to press following the government's order to cull fur farm minks in November 2020. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Frederiksen will speak to the inquiry, officially named granskningskommissionen, on December 9th, a witness list published by the inquiry shows.

Hearings by the commission begin on October 7th with the PM the last scheduled witness on the list, though extra time for extended interviews has been made available until January 28th.

The mink inquiry is related to the government’s decision last November to cull millions of minks at breeding farms across the country, after a concerning variant of Covid-19 was discovered in the animals.

Days after the decision was announced, it emerged that the government had no legal authority to make it.

That resulted in accusations the government had issued an illegal directive which was then implemented by authorities.

The issue resulted in the resignation of then-agriculture minister Mogens Jensen.

Subsequently, an inquiry was initiated to investigate the government’s response to the situation.

All parties in parliament backed the commission, which is the first of its kind in Denmark.

It differs from the established form of inquiry, termed undersøgelseskommision (investigation commission) in that it is further-reaching – for example, by being able to summon witnesses for interview, rather than relying only legal reports or written accounts.

Conservative parties in particular have strongly criticised the government’s conduct over the mink issue. Conservative Party leader Søren Pape Poulsen called it a “scandal” when speaking at a party congress last week.

As well as Frederiken and Jensen, other ministers including Nick Hækkerup (justice) and Nicolai Wammen (finance) have been called by the inquiry.

READ ALSO: Denmark to spend billions on compensation deal for mink farmers

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Danish mink breeders to sue state over 2020 culling

Owners of Danish mink fur farms are to sue the state for 600 million kroner in compensation for the decision in late 2020 to cull all minks in the country due to concerns related to Covid-19 transmission in the animals.

Culled minks at a Danish fur farm in November 2020.
Culled minks at a Danish fur farm in November 2020.File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The amount is considered by the mink breeders to be necessary compensation for mink skins that were destroyed last year, broadcaster TV2 Fyn reports.     

In the 2020 compensation package agreed by parliament for the mink breeders, a price of 250 kroner per mink skin was set.

But Danish mink skins fetched an average price of 323 kroner per skin at autumn 2021 auctions, according to the report.

Mink breeders therefore contend they are being under compensated by 73 kroner per skin.

A breeder interviewed by TV2 Fyn defended the position to seek more than the price set by the market value at the time of the political compensation deal.

“The animals that were culled last year in November were to be sold in 2021. So you should get 2021 prices,” the breeder, Jens Jensen, told TV2.

Compensation for destructed skins forms part of a broader compensation package agreed by the Danish parliament following the cullings and shuttering of the mink fur industry in the country last year.

The deal is worth some 19 billion kroner, of which 2.5 billion have so far been paid out according to a status published by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) on November 19th.

READ ALSO: Denmark to spend billions on compensation deal for mink farmers

Liberal party food spokesperson Erling Bonnesen, who was involved in agreeing the original compensation package, told the regional media that the price was calculated based on available market information at the time.

“So there’s a retrospective rationalisation (here) based on price trends and market trends. But this must be decided in court,” Bonnesen said.

Around 15 million fur farm minks were culled after a mutation of Covid-19 was detected in the animals in autumn 2020.

Health authorities were concerned the mutation could result in increased resistance by the virus to Covid-19 vaccines, which were still in development at the time.

READ ALSO: Denmark government backs extension of ban on mink farming