Denmark's government said Friday that it was considering digging up and cremating the hastily buried carcasses of millions of culled minks in the latest twist to a virus-linked farming scandal that has shaken the government.

After a mutated version of the novel coronavirus was found in the animals, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced a cull in early November of the estimated 15 to 17 million minks in the Scandinavian nation, the world's biggest exporter of their fur.

Once a mass gassing programme had already begun, a court challenge to the order found that the executive's decision had no legal basis, leading to the resignation of the agriculture minister.

Now problems have emerged with the disposal of the dead animals amid fears that phosphorus and nitrogen could be released in large quantities into the soil surrounding mass graves due to the decomposition process.

Denmark's new minister for agriculture, Rasmus Prehn, on Friday expressed his backing of the idea of exhuming the culled minks and burning them, while saying such a move would need the approval of the country's environment agency.

"The desire to get rid of the minks and burned I have had since the first day I heard of it," he told broadcaster TV2.

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wiped away tears as she visited a mink farm affected by the culling on Friday.
Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wiped away tears as she visited a mink farm affected by the culling on Friday. Ritzau Scanpix / Mads Nissen

A majority of the Danish parliament, where the idea has been debated, supports the idea.

Earlier this week, in the western Holstebro municipality, gases released during the decomposition process started to push the carcasses back to the surface of a burial pit that was too shallow.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Frederik wiped away tears and apologised for the handling of the crisis as she visited one of the affected mink farmers.

"I don't have any issues with apologising for the course of events, because mistakes have been made," Frederiksen, told broadcaster TV2

The cull was ordered out of fears that a mutated coronavirus found in mink would render vaccines against the disease less effective.

Last week, the Danish government concluded that the potential threat to human vaccines was "very likely extinguished", in the absence of any new cases of the mutated version.

More than 10 million minks have already been culled in the Scandinavian country, according to the latest tally.