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In the middle of the Mink Commission’s work to investigate how the government could decide to kill all mink in violation of the law, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Minister of Foreign Affairs Barbara Bertelsen’s lawyers on Friday threw a sensational email on the table.
The two assistants, together with two other assistants to employees of the Prime Minister’s Office, sent an 18-page memo with supplementary appendices of more than 200 pages to the Commission, stating that in their opinion there was in fact authority to kill all mink, as the government announced its decision on 4 November 2020.
As it later emerged, the assessment from both the civil service and the government was otherwise that, contrary to the government’s decision, there was no legal basis for killing all mink.
It is against this background that a commission of inquiry has been set up to investigate how this could happen and who knew what.
The co-chairs emphasize that it is their legal assessment, and not their clients’.
“The memorandum only reflects our perception of the legal issue and is not a reproduction of considerations in the Prime Minister’s Office during the process,” the four assistants in the memorandum, which Berlingske is in possession of, write.
Mette Frederiksen has otherwise several times regretted that the legal basis was not in place when mink breeders were ordered to kill their mink in November last year.
In the terms of reference for the investigation – ie the commission’s task – it is a concrete point that it must be clarified whether there was a legal basis for the decision to kill all mink.
“For the said period, the Commission of Inquiry shall in particular examine and account for questions of compliance with applicable law and in this connection make an independent assessment of whether at the time of the Government’s public announcement of its decision there was authority for this measure.”
It is thus not a premise of the investigation that there was no legal basis, but part of what the Commission must investigate.
Law on the keeping of animals central
It is in the Animal Husbandry Act that the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, on behalf of the then Ministry of the Environment and Food, concluded on several occasions that there was no legal basis for killing all mink in Denmark in the law.
It is in the central administration, the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries and the underlying Danish Veterinary and Food Administration that have had expertise in the law.
The Crown lawyers in the Ministry of Justice have seen the assessment and have not disregarded that assessment, when in the days following the government’s decision at a late meeting of the government’s Coordination Committee on 3 November, the civil service became aware that a legal basis was to be created for the decision.
The co-chairs do not believe that the Ministry of the Environment and Food has been inside and looked closely enough at the underlying documents and a law from e.g. 1994, which according to them could provide grounds for it being legal to order all mink killed.
»It is our opinion that MFVMs (Ministry of the Environment and Food, red.) assessment does not have a basis in the preparatory work for the law, partly because no attention has been paid to the zoonosis law from 1994, «the memorandum states.
The Zoonoses Act is about ‘protecting human health by taking measures against the presence of zoonotic agents in animals, in animal foods and in other products of animals’, as stated in the text of the law.
In December 2020, the subsequent government succeeded in making a change in the law, so that there was legal authority to kill all mink, but the four co-owners believe this was irrelevant to the decision.
»In our opinion, Act no. 2185 of 29 December 2020 on the killing of and temporary ban on keeping mink is of no significance for the understanding of the legal basis per. 4 November 2020, «the memorandum states:
It is unclear what the four assistants want to get out of their note, as the government and Mette Frederiksen at the time thought they had acted in a way that was not legally authorized.
Mette Frederiksen’s deputy chairman, Lars Kjeldsen, during a break in the Mink Commission did not want to answer questions from the press for a quote.
Source: www.berlingske.dk by www.berlingske.dk.
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