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Denmark to dig up millions of mink from mass graves

Signage prohibiting entry hangs by burial pits that contain culled mink during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Karup, Denmark, December 10, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Millions of mink will be dug up from mass graves in Denmark after some had resurfaced, prompting complaints from residents about possible health risks, the country’s government said on Sunday.

Denmark’s entire herd of some 17 million mink destined for the high-end fashion industry was ordered to be culled in early November after hundreds of farms suffered outbreaks of coronavirus and authorities found mutated strains of the virus among people.

But of the four million mink hastily buried at a military area in western Denmark, some soon started to resurface from the sandy soil after gasses from the decomposition process pushed the mink out of the ground.

Authorities claimed there was no risk of the graves spreading the coronavirus, but residents have complained about the potential risk of contaminating drinking water and a bathing lake less than 200 metres from the mass graves.

Denmark was the top exporter of mink to luxury fashion labels, with its pelts in high demand due to high breeding standards.

The government on Sunday gained support in parliament to dig up the mink, the ministry of food and agriculture said in a statement.

The work will only begin in May next year, when the risk of contamination of COVID-19 from the dead animals has been eliminated, the ministry said.

The animals will be trucked to nearby waste incinerators.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, editing by Louise Heavens