Over 2 million mink were culled in Denmark following the discovery of a new strain of Covid-19 that is thought to pass through the animal, but lawmakers have called a halt to the extermination effort.

2 million mink were culled and dumped on military-owned land in the north-west, because there are not enough incinerators to burn the carcasses, before Danish lawmakers stepped in to overturn a government order to farmers.

Emergency legislation to allow the cull continue had been drafted, but failed to garner a three-quarters majority of MPs in support of the matter.

“There are huge doubts relating to whether the planned cull was based on an adequate scientific basis,” Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, the leader of the opposition Liberals, told TV2. “At the same time, one’s depriving a lot of people of their livelihoods.”

The ‘Cluster 5’ strain of Covid-19 is thought to have mutated through a spike in protein when it passed from mink back to farm workers in the country, with officials fearing a vaccine will be impotent against the mutation.

The state-wide cull of mink comes as Pfizer announced yesterday it had discovered a vaccine for Covid-19, claiming the injection would be 90% effective against the virus.

Danish authorities are now trying to halt the transmission of the virus from mink to prevent the wider public contracting the mutated strain, having only infected 13 known people so far.

Although the Danish government admitted there may not be a legal defense for the cull, some 2.5 million mink have been discarded so far according to TV2.

Photos circulated online show lorries dumping thousands of mink into mass graves before being sprayed down with disinfectant.

Although there is no evidence proving the new strain will render the vaccine ineffective, health authorities around Europe are now taking extra quarantine measures for travelers returning from Denmark, with the UK banning non-British arrivals from the country.

Speaking to the MailOnline, University of Reading virologist Professor Ian Jones said:

 

“The virus jump is the result of it being transmitted to mink by the animal handlers and finding the ability to replicate in mink cells. Mink is obviously a permissive species for the virus but in the process certain mutations, which are always present at some level, are selected as that form of the virus does better in mink cells compared to human. This gives the mink virus, which can then spread easily among the very dense populations of animals on mink farms. It happens in other viruses too, influenza for example, but it generally stops there. In theory, the mink form, which has mutations in the spike protein, could then evade the immune response generated to the vaccines currently in development and form Covid-19-2. There are a lot of reasons why this would not happen easily, but it is a formal possibility which is why the mass cull has taken place. Genetic drift in the virus is to be expected and cases like this do need tracking but my risk assessment would be that this is currently only a low-level threat.”