Denmark wants to cull 15 million minks over COVID-19 fears

Minks in a farm in North Jutland, Denmark.
Minks in a farm in North Jutland, Denmark. Denmark’s prime minister says the government wants to cull all minks in Danish farms to minimize the risk that they’ll re-transmit the coronavirus to humans.
(Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via Associated Press)

Denmark’s prime minister said Wednesday that the government wants to cull all 15 million minks in Danish farms to minimize the risk that they’ll re-transmit the new coronavirus to humans.

Half of the 783 COVID-19 cases in northern Denmark “are related” to mink, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said. And a report from a government agency says 12 people in the region have been infected with a mutated version of the virus that came from minks, said Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

“It is very, very serious,” Frederiksen said. “Thus, the mutated virus in minks can have devastating consequences worldwide.”


Denmark is one of the world’s main mink fur exporters, producing an estimated 17 million furs per year. Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40% of the global mink production. Most of its exports go to China and Hong Kong.

According to government estimates, culling the country’s 15 million minks could cost up to 5 billion kroner, or $785 million. Thorkild Fogde, the head of the national police, said “it should happen as soon as possible.”

Despite President Trump’s statements that the coronavirus was released from a laboratory in Wuhan, scientists say the evidence points to a natural origin.

Denmark’s minister for food, Mogens Jensen, said 207 farms were now infected, up from 41 last month, and the virus has spread to all of the western peninsula of Jutland.

Last month, Denmark started culling millions of minks in the north of the country. The government has promised to compensate farmers.

A total of 207 out of the 1,139 fur farms in Denmark has been infected with the coronavirus, which prompted the announcement. Millions of mink will be killed as a result.

Humane Society International, an animal welfare group, applauded the prime minister for taking “such an essential and science-based step to protect Danish citizens,” and said it hoped that losing so many mink to the coronavirus causes fur farms to go out of the business.

“Although the death of millions of mink — whether culled for COVID-19 or killed for fur — is an animal welfare tragedy, fur farmers will now have a clear opportunity to pivot away from this cruel and dying industry and choose a more humane and sustainable livelihood instead,” said Joanna Swabe, a spokesperson for Humane Society International-Europe.

Denmark has registered 50,530 confirmed coronavirus infections and 729 COVID-19 deaths.