Danish agriculture minister quits over mink culling fiasco

Associated Press

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – The Danish minister in charge of farming resigned Wednesday as he took the blame for the government ordering the culling of all farmed mink without having the necessary legislation in place first.

A mass grave is prepared as Danish health authorities, assisted by members of the Danish Armed Forces, work to dispose of dead mink in a military area near Holstebro, Denmark, Monday, Nov. 9 2020. Denmark will cull about 17 million mink after a mutated form of coronavirus that can spread to humans was found on mink farms.

The culling was ordered after a mutated version of the coronavirus was found in some farms and had infected people. There is no evidence that the mutated version is more dangerous but the government moved quickly out of safety, though it lacked the legal basis to order the killing of healthy animals too.

"I have today informed the prime minister that I want to resign from the government," said Mogens Jensen, the 57-year-old agriculture minister.

The left-leaning parties that support the Social Democratic one-party, minority government said Wednesday that they no longer have confidence in Jensen. The center-right opposition also expressed similar reservations.

"I apologize ... and I take full responsibility for that," Jensen told Danish broadcaster DR.

The government started the cull last month by killing infected animals. However, the order was also given that non-infected animals were to be culled though it did not have the legal authority for that. In total, roughly 15 million minks are to be killed.

The government has scrambled to build political consensus, and said Tuesday that a parliamentary majority was now backing its decision to cull the minks. 

Danish mink farms are the world's biggest supplier of mink fur, accounting for 40% of global production. Most of exports go to China and Hong Kong. 

There are 1,139 mink farms in Denmark, employing about 6,000 people. Breeders have said the culling will put an end to the industry.