Millions of mink set to be dug up over concerns their bodies could harm nature

Questions have been asked of the environment minister, with the legality of the mass burials under scrutiny

The diggers are expected to roll back into Jutland after a majority in Parliament agreed that mink buried in two mass graves near Karup and Holstebro must be dug up and destroyed in another way.

The authorities are worried the current arrangement may have severe environmental consequences if left unchanged. For the government, it is another  failure in a mink saga riddled with mistakes and illegalities.

“Ticking environmental time bomb” 
Miljøstyrelsen has stated that the two mass graves together contain at least 10,000 tonnes of dead mink which, as they start to decay, will release phosphorous and nitrogen into the surrounding environment.

Socialistisk Folkeparti described it as a “ticking environmental time-bomb”, and Venstre agrees it is a major problem that needs to be addressed.

“In both areas it is deeply problematic to have the dead animals lying in the ground. In Nørre Felding by Boutrup Lake, it corresponds to 147 tonnes of nitrogen, and at Kølvrå there are concerns it will impact the drinking water,” Venstre spokesperson  Thomas Danielsen told TV2.

Legally dubious … again 
The government will be keen to swiftly move on from an episode that has already cost Mogens Jensen his position as agriculture minister. However, this new issue is dragging the environment minister, Lea Wermelin, into the spotlight.

According to Peter Pagh, a professor of environmental law at the University of Copenhagen, there was a lack of legal authority to bury the millions of dead mink at the two grave sites. The two executive orders issued by the minister bypassed the requirement for environmental approval, he explained to TV2.

Not a pretty process
It is this legal question that Wermelin will have been expected to explain in her consultation this morning, alongside outlining alternative options for disposing of the mink.

“The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration gave permission for burial, provided that there was no consequences for public or animal health,” she stated during the consultation.

She added that there is a legal basis for the burial within the Environmental Protection Act, but admitted that “regardless of law, it has been an unsightly process”.