COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Danish Parliament-appointed commission has harshly criticized the country's government for its decision to cull millions of healthy mink at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to protect humans from a mutation of the virus.
The 2020 decision to wipe out Denmark's entire captive mink population had stirred strong controversy, particularly as the necessary legislation to allow such a drastic move was put in place more than a month after the cull had started.
In its report released Thursday, the commission said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was “grossly misleading” during a Nov. 4 press conference when she announced that all mink — infected and healthy animals alike — should be culled. The report also criticized other top Danish officials.
The culling of up to 17 million animals was ordered after a mutated version of the coronavirus was found in farms in northern Denmark and infected 11 people. Although there was no evidence that the mutated version was more dangerous, the government said it moved proactively.
Frederiksen, who heads a minority Social Democratic government, has insisted that she didn’t know the decision was unlawful, saying it was “based on a very serious risk assessment.”
The commission also said in its 1,649-page report that Mogens Jensen, the minister in charge of farming who eventually resigned over the mink cull , gave “incorrect information.”
The findings could ultimately mean that lawmakers decide whether current or former members of government should get a reprimand or face impeachment proceedings that are rarely used in Denmark.
Although that could take days, if not weeks, the publication of the report was top news in Denmark. Frederiksen — who with other key officials has been interviewed by the commission set up in December 2020 — is scheduled to hold a press conference Friday on the issue.
The three-member commission also recommended in its report that 10 top civil servants should face disciplinary actions.
Frederiksen's government announced the cull in early November 2020. Jensen resigned Nov. 18, hours after a first probe made it clear that the necessary legislation wasn’t in place , and the government scrambled to build political consensus. On Dec. 25, 2020, a parliament majority finally voted the legislation enabling the culling . The following month, lawmakers granted mink farmers a compensation of nearly 19 billion kroner ($2.7 billion).
Danish mink farms were the world’s biggest supplier of mink fur, accounting for 40% of global production. Most of exports went to China.
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