(Bloomberg) — Millions of dead mink thrown into mass graves have resurfaced in Denmark, triggering a new wave of finger pointing over how the country is handling the crisis.

The animals, which were culled earlier this month after Denmark found a mutation of the coronavirus in mink that could spread to humans and hamper vaccine efforts, have since started to rot. The gas in their bodies is now causing the mink to rise to the surface, fanning contamination fears.

The development marks the latest embarrassment for Denmark’s government, which was slammed by parliament for failing to consult the legislature before ordering farmers to cull their mink. The minister in charge has since been forced to resign, but Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen still faces questions about her handling of the case.

On Thursday, she offered a tearful apology to Denmark’s mink farmers for the mistakes made.

“I think there’s a reason to apologize for the process,” Frederiksen said, according to footage published by Danish media. “Mistakes were made.”

The list of errors, including alleged acts of cruelty due to the rushed nature of the cull, has even angered members of Frederiksen’s own Social Democrats.


Hans Christian Osterby, a Social Democrat mayor for the city of Holstebro in western Denmark, said the way in which the mink were buried was “completely wrong,” in an interview with broadcaster TV2. He also criticized the authorities for burying the animals in his municipality, without first seeking consent.

The graves were too shallow and the dead animals were left in places “where they shouldn’t be,” he said. “This decision has been made really, really fast and we as a municipality have not been involved at all.”

Denmark’s new food and veterinary affairs minister, Rasmus Prehn, told state broadcaster DR that the government is now looking into exhuming the buried mink, and burning the bodies.

But not all animals can be dug up, because the corpses would disintegrate if one tried, Prehn said. “The important thing is to contain the situation, so that it doesn’t lead to contamination.”

(Updates with comments from minister in final paragraphs)

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