Denmark incinerates 4 million mink, culled to curb Covid-19 mutations

A sign prohibiting entry hangs by burial pits that contain culled mink in Karup, Denmark, in December 2020.
A sign prohibiting entry hangs by burial pits that contain culled mink in Karup, Denmark, in December 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

COPENHAGEN (REUTERS) - Denmark this week began incinerating four million mink that had been culled to curb Covid-19 mutations, but which began to resurface from mass burial sites, prompting renewed health concerns.

The Danish government last year decided to cull all of the country's 17 million mink to curb a Covid-19 mutation and because the mammal was considered likely to host future mutations.

Some were buried in pits in a military area in western Denmark under 2m of soil, only for some to resurface in less than a month.

Contaminants were later found under the graves in an examination carried out on behalf of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, prompting the government to order the incineration of the the animals.

"There's not supposed to be any virus left, but we burn it at more than 1,000 deg C, so if there were any virus left it would definitely disappear," said Jacob Hartvig Simonsen, the chief executive officer of the ARC waste-management plant.

The contaminants were not coronavirus-related but were a result of the decomposition process.

Mink easily become infected by Covid-19 and infection is exacerbated because they are bred in large numbers and kept in cramped living conditions, the World Health Organisation has said.

All of the four million mink are expected to be incinerated by mid-July.