After the Danish government culled and buried some four million farmed mink in late 2020 due to a COVID-19 mutation, officials have begun to exhume the animals due to public concerns of groundwater contamination.
The government’s controversial decision to cull the world’s largest mink population in November 2020 came after officials believed the effectiveness of any future vaccine could be affected as the virus spread from farm workers to mink, then back to humans again with potential mutations.
The cull of the weasel-like animals saw millions of minks incinerated, but due to space constraints, others were buried near a body of water, which officials now fear could become contaminated, particularly as some of the mink resurfaced due to gasses from decomposition.
“I regret that this will cause some noise and some smell, but I think the residents would rather have this for a short period, and then know that the problem is solved and the risk of pollution eliminated, than have to live with the uncertainty for many years going forward,” said Rasmus Prehn, Denmark’s new agriculture minister, in a statement.
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In mid-June of 2020, the first mink farms in Northern Jutland were found infected with COVID-19, and the virus spread to 207 farms across Jutland, officials said.
Critics of the massive cull — the country had some 17 million mink — questioned the legality and the science behind the government’s decision.
The lake is reportedly less than 200 metres from the mass mink grave. Some sources suggest it may also be a source of drinking water, and is located within a military training area in west Denmark.
The plan is for all the animal carcasses to be dug up and incinerated by mid-July.