Story at a glance

  • Danish authorities last week announced they were moving forward with plans to cull up to 17 million animals due to a reported mutated strain of the coronavirus.
  • Early lab results showed the mutation could be less sensitive to antibodies and impinge upon the effectiveness of a future vaccine.
  • Members of Parliament argued the Danish government cannot legally order the mass culling and refused to pass legislation that would authorize the order.

The Danish government has paused plans to mandate culling of the country’s entire mink population to contain a coronavirus mutation that had arisen in the infected animals after conceding it had no legal authority to carry out the plan, according to The Washington Post

Danish authorities last week announced they were moving forward with plans to cull up to 17 million animals due to the strain, following early lab results that showed the mutation could be less sensitive to antibodies and impact the effectiveness of a future vaccine. 


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The strain spread from minks to at least 12 humans in August and September and was confirmed to be found on only five of the more than 1,000 farms in the country. 

But the decision to kill the animals that are relied on for the country’s profitable fur industry hit a snag after health authorities warned the move could be too premature. 

The World Health Organization also cautioned that it is too early to determine if the mutation was significant enough to pose an increased risk to humans.

Viruses naturally mutate, and scientists have observed minor mutations in the new novel coronavirus, but none that have affected its ability to spread or cause disease in any significant way. 

Members of Parliament argued the Danish government cannot legally order the mass culling and refused to pass legislation that would authorize the order.

“There are huge doubts relating to whether the planned cull was based on an adequate scientific basis,” Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, leader of the opposition Liberals, said, according to Bloomberg. “At the same time, one’s depriving a lot of people of their livelihoods.” 

Authorities pushing the order backtracked on Monday and conceded they could not legally order the killing of the animals outside areas considered to be high-risk.

On Tuesday, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen apologized for issuing the order, the Post reports citing state broadcaster TV 2. Frederiksen, however, has not ruled out a future cull. 

Coronavirus outbreaks within mink farms have persisted in Denmark over the course of the pandemic despite ongoing efforts by the government to cull herds of infected animals. 


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Published on Nov 10, 2020