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How a Mink Cull Tipped Denmark Into Political Crisis

A mink at a farm in Bording, Denmark. 

A mink at a farm in Bording, Denmark. 

Photographer: Ole Jensen/Getty Images

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Denmark is heading for early elections just as the country grapples with escalating security and energy crises caused by the war in Ukraine. However, it isn’t soaring power bills that threaten to topple the government of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, but the fallout from a decision she made almost two years ago. Her order to cull 17 million mink at the height of the coronavirus pandemic was condemned by political rivals and later found to be unlawful. Frederiksen’s minority government has tried unsuccessfully to shake off the scandal ever since. 

Frederiksen, 44, made the controversial cull order in November 2020 after coronavirus was detected at some mink farms and experts warned it could potentially mutate into a deadlier strain and make future vaccines less effective. Denmark had the world’s largest population of the small animals, whose soft fur is used in clothing and furnishings. There was no legal basis for the cull when it began and, as it progressed, public outrage grew and the country’s food and veterinary affairs minister quit. Parliament eventually passed a bill giving legal cover to the cull but, by then, millions of healthy animals had been slaughtered. It later emerged that the decomposing bodies of buried mink were threatening to contaminate local water supplies, forcing the government to exhume them. Frederiksen avoided an impeachment trial, but a party that had backed the government in parliament withdrew its support and new elections were set for Nov. 1 -- seven months before the usual deadline.