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Coronavirus: Denmark's agriculture minister resigns over illegal order to cull mink

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Denmark's Agriculture Minister Mogens Jensen announced his resignation on Wednesday.
Denmark's Agriculture Minister Mogens Jensen announced his resignation on Wednesday.   -   Copyright  MANDEL NGAN/AFP
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Denmark’s Minister of Agriculture has resigned over an illegal government order to cull the country’s farmed mink.

Mogens Jensen announced he was stepping down on Wednesday on social media, saying he no longer had the support of a parliament majority.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen also faced opposition calls to resign, as the Danish government faces its greatest crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, the government ordered that the country's entire mink population should be slaughtered because of a mutation in the coronavirus that could affect the effectiveness of future vaccines against COVID-19.

The drastic order came after analysis from the Danish Health Institute and health authorities, which had identified cluster variants in the coronavirus in the fur animals.

Authorities drafted the military and police to help Denmark’s 1,100 mink farmers cull their 17 million mink, one of the world’s biggest populations of the animals.

Denmark breeds mink for their fur and farmers had claimed that the order would end their business.

The Danish government later found it had no legal basis for the announcement, and could only cull mink where the infection had been detected or in the immediate area.

Several of the left and centre parties that give the Social Democratic government of Mette Frederiksen a parliamentary majority promptly withdrew their confidence in the government.

“I want the prime minister to acknowledge that when she makes a mistake, it’s her responsibility,” added opposition leader Jakob Elleman-Jensen of the Liberal Party.

"She made the decision and she did not intervene and stop it when she became aware that it was illegal, the case, therefore, does not stop with Mogens Jensen's departure," he added on Twitter.

Denmark's opposition has also asked for an independent investigation into the government’s actions to determine if they knowingly broke the law

"My ministry has made mistakes in connection with the government announcement of the decision to put down all mink in Denmark," Jensen said in a Facebook post.

"I regretted this earlier, I regret it again and take responsibility for this, especially I regret this to the many mink farmers who have been in a very unhappy situation.

"There has only been one purpose: to stop the Covid-19 infection in and from mink because it poses a threat to public health."

The first cases of coronavirus in minks were detected in June and the government then ordered the slaughter of all animals on the affected farms, while increasing control measures in the rest of the facilities.

This week, Denmark did gain the necessary support in Parliament to push through a legal reform which will prohibit mink breeding until 31 December 2021.