Culled mink rising from mass graves due to gruesome natural phenomemon

Culled mink rising from mass graves due to gruesome natural phenomemon
Thousands of dead mink in Denmark are literally rising from the grave after a botched burial led to a macabre and frightening natural phenomenon.
Denmark is culling 2.5 million mink after the discovery that the small mammals are carrying a particularly dangerous strain of coronavirus.
Many of the mink are being buried in shallow pits at a military training field in the West Jutland region.
Cleaning chemicals are used to disinfect a mass grave of minks in Denmark. (AP)
But a natural phenomenon means many of the carcasses are being pushed out of the ground into the open air.
"As the bodies decay, gases can be formed," police spokesperson Thomas Kristensen told national broadcaster DR.
"This causes the whole thing to expand a little. In this way, in the worst cases, the mink get pushed out of the ground."
The mink were buried in mass graves under a metre of soil, but the dirt in the region is too light to contain the rotting bodies.
There are now concerns the mass graves might be contaminating the drinking water in the region.
Mink breeder Thorbjoern Jepsen holds up a mink, as police forcibly gained access to his mink farm in Gjoel, Denmark. (AP / Henning Bagger)
Water utility Danske Vandværker expressed their concern in a press release.
"The location of the mink graves is very unfortunate and quite incomprehensible," director Susan Münster said.
"We do not know which substances can end up in the water that the residents of the area have to drink."
The press release noted that runoff from cemeteries is considered wastewater and treated accordingly, but no such policy exists for the mink mass grave.
It noted that people with their own water extraction devices like wells are at particular risk of being exposed to the mink carcass runoff.
Irrigation is also problematic if done with contaminated water.
Employees from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the Danish Emergency Management Agency transport a container at a mink farm, in Gjoel, Denmark. (AP / Henning Bagger Ritzau)
The mink cull went ahead after coronavirus was detected in 63 farms.
Mink are small mammals similar to weasels and ferrets, which are farmed for their especially soft and luxuriant fur.
Denmark is among the largest mink exporters in the world and produces an estimate 17 million furs per year.
Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of 1500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40 per cent of the global mink production. Most of its exports go to China and Hong Kong.
The coronavirus pandemic could "threaten the entire profession", Tage Pedersen, chairman of the Danish Fur Breeders Association, said.
"All breeders are right now in a huge amount of uncertainty and frustration over this 'meteor' that has fallen on our heads."
Scientists are still digging into how the mink got infected and if they can spread it to people.
Minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus. (AP / Sergei Grits)
Some may have gotten the virus from infected workers.
Danish authorities say some farm workers later caught the virus back from the mink.
The mutated variation of coronavirus identified in the mink has been named Cluster 5.
The World Health Organisation has warned that antibodies that fight coronavirus are less effective against Cluster 5, making it a more dangerous strain.
In August, the Netherlands brought forward the mandatory end of mink farming by three years to 2021 amid a growing number of coronavirus infections at fur farms.
Mink breeder Thorbjoern Jepsen walks by minks in their enclosure, at his mink farm in Gjoel, Denmark. (AP / Mads Claus Rasmussen)
In Poland, another large mink fur exporter, the ruling right-wing coalition and the opposition are deeply divided over a new law that would ban fur farms.
Opponents say the law will destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of fur farmers.
-with Associated Press