Denmark put precaution before proportionality in national scandal

A new book throws more light on the closing of Danish mink farming, that happened in a process now coined the biggest democratic scandal in modern Danish history. Author and public health policy expert Kjeld Møller Pedersen’s book concludes that the Danish public health policies enforced as a result of the corona crisis have followed an overly cautious approach, in which rule of law, expert advice and socio-economics have receded into the background. Amongst other policy examples, the most shining one is ‘minkgate’. "The government was under a lot of pressure - it is only fair to mention. But instead of pursuing the principle of proportionality, where the least intrusive measures are taken in relation to the purpose, the government has consistently pushed the precautionary principle in front of it and applied an argument that actions should be taken here and now. This is undoubtedly related to the fact that with the coronavirus we have been confronted with something unknown and dangerous. Maybe the politicians were struck with a bit of anxiety and panic, and in these situations, they have listened less to the professionals who are used to dealing these things," Kjeld Møller Pedersen, who is a professor at the Southern University Of Denmark, said. According to experts from Danish Veterinary Consortium, veterinary professionals and organisations were not consulted in line with the Danish and European tradition of bringing together relevant parties when trying to limit infection. The holistic approach is also called One Health, an approach also promoted by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in their recent risk assessments of the mink situation. Veterinary Virology PhD and former Deputy Chief in ECDC, Per Have, points out that the central arguments for eliminating the entire mink industry – the risk for reduced vaccine effects and the speed of new mutations in mink – have proved too weak to justify the decision. "The biggest problem is that you have made a big decision without proportionality on the wrong basis," he said. Also, Kjeld Møller Pedersen points to the proposed vaccine reduced vaccine effect of the so-called cluster 5 mutation as a problematic argument for the cull. When the genome sequencing data was finally released by Danish authorities, experts in and outside Denmark quickly labelled the fear of reduced vaccine effect as exaggerated. "It all had to go so fast that there was no documentation of the effect of the measures initiated, which is part of the precautionary principle. But to say it in a diplomatic way, it can certainly be said that healthcare documentation of the closing (of the mink industry) has been incomplete. Instead, you have followed an overly cautious approach," Kjeld Møller Pedersen said.