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Confronting photos have emerged of Denmark's operation to kill millions of animals to stop a potential coronavirus outbreak.
The country revealed they were culling around 17 million mink after a mutation of Covid-19 found in the animals had spread to humans and posed a risk to potential vaccines.
The new coronavirus strain is called Cluster 5, which has seen 13 people infected in northern Denmark. Officials decided to kill the animals in order to attempt to eradicate the strain before it spiralled out of control.
WARNING: DISTRESSING IMAGES BELOW
Scientists say Cluster 5 spread from workers on mink fur farms to mink during the summer before it was passed back to humans. During this process, the mutation occurred on the virus' spike protein which it uses to enter human cells.
So far, two million of the animals have been killed and dumped at a military site in Holstebro, north west Denmark, with an estimated 17 million mink set to be destroyed.
UK health secretary Matt Hancock said there should be an 'international' discussion over the future of the mink farming industry in the wake of the recent events.
Speaking to Parliament during a Covid-19 update, he said: "I think there is an international case on public health grounds for addressing this question of mink farming, which we banned in the UK two decades ago."
"It was due to come to an end in Europe in 2023 anyway but people will have their own views on animal welfare grounds and I have certainly got mine.
"But clearly on global public health grounds, there is a case to do everything we can to stop the retransmission of this virus into an animal population and then back again which can lead to these sorts of mutations that we have seen."
According to Reuters, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference last week that she would be implementing the cull with a 'heavy heart' as a result of Europe entering its second wave of COVID infections.
She explained that mutations in the animals were a threat to the effectiveness of vaccines in development around the globe.
"The mutated virus - via mink - can carry the risk that the upcoming vaccine will not work as it should," Frederiksen said in the press conference.
"We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well.
"The mutated virus in mink may pose a risk to the effectiveness of a future vaccine," she added.
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