Close all mink fur farms

Dutch government orders a cull of mink fur farms, and confirms they could act as reservoir for Covid-19

Jarvis Smith - My Green Pod

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Published: 7 June 2020

This Article was Written by: Jarvis Smith - My Green Pod

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The Dutch government has ordered the culling of thousands of mink on nine fur farms, following advice from a team of veterinary and infectious disease experts that mink fur farms could act as a reservoir for SARS-COV-2, allowing it to remain in circulation for a long time.

Dutch MPs were notified of the cabinet decision in a letter sent by the Dutch Agriculture Minister and the Minister for Public Health, Welfare & Sport.

The investigation by the Dutch Zoonoses Outbreak Management Team follows the Dutch Agriculture Minister’s statement on 25 May that it was ‘extremely likely’ that two fur farm workers in the Netherlands had contracted Covid-19 from mink infected with SARS-CoV-2.

‘A potential breeding ground’

In response to the Dutch government’s findings, animal protection group Humane Society International is calling for the global closure of mink fur farms, which collectively house an estimated 60 million mink.

Each mink fur farm is a potential breeding ground for Covid-19 and other novel infectious zoonotic diseases.

‘The intensive cage confinement of animals on fur farms has always been a potential breeding ground for infectious diseases, and confirmation that mink on Dutch fur farms have infected workers with Covid-19 exposes yet another reason to close this cruel and entirely unnecessary industry.

‘Fur farms typically contain thousands of mink in rows of cages in unsanitary, crowded and stressful conditions not unlike the wildlife markets at the centre of global concern.

‘In addition to fur factory farming being inherently cruel, the potential for zoonotic disease spread, and for mink fur farms in particular to act as reservoirs for coronaviruses, incubating pathogens transmissible to humans, is an unavoidably compelling reason for the world to call time on fur farming and for all fashion companies to go fur-free.

‘The Netherlands’ deadline of 2024 for phasing out mink fur farms simply provides three and a half more years of unnecessary risk. The Dutch government, and all fur-producing countries like Denmark, Poland, France, Italy, China, Finland, Spain and the United States, should commit to end this inhumane practice and protect public health.’

DR JOANNA SWABE
Senior Director of Public Affairs for animal protection group Humane Society International/Europe

Mink-human infection

The Ministers’ letter to the Dutch Parliament notes that more infections are expected to be detected in the coming weeks, and that as human-human infection rates decline, mink-human infection could increase the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 in humans.

All fur farms in the Netherlands are now undergoing mandatory screening, and measures have been put in place including a restriction on both farm visitors and the transportation of mink.

Cordons were put in place around the infected farms, and residents advised not to go within 400 metres of the farms. Initial tests confirmed that virus particles had been found in the dust of some of the mink sheds.

Non-infected farms will be required to continue to follow current measures and to submit carcasses of ‘naturally’ deceased animals each week. Mandatory testing of all Dutch mink farms is in progress and the results are due from those tests next week.

‘Reservoirs for pathogens’

Mink fur farming was banned in the Netherlands in 2013 with a deadline for complete phase out by 2024. The Netherlands farmed around 4.5million mink in 2018.

HSI is supporting calls by Dutch animal organisations for the closure of the approximately 128 fur farms that remain to be fast tracked in light of the COVID-19 risk.

The Ministers’ letter states that the Dutch cabinet is considering whether and how to support fur farms to voluntarily terminate their businesses before the 2024 deadline.

‘Banning the cruelty of fur farming in the UK nearly two decades ago, was morally the right thing to do for animals.

‘It’s clear from the situation in the Netherlands that mink fur farms can act as reservoirs for pathogens that put human health at risk.

‘By continuing to allow imports of tens of millions of pounds of fur each year, the UK is effectively underwriting trade in wildlife that could act as a petri-dish for the creation and spread of future viral pathogens.

‘We cannot lay pandemic blame at the door of those countries that commercially farm and trade in wild animals in appalling conditions while simultaneously providing markets for their products.

‘We urge the UK governments to ban the sale of animal fur, sending a clear global message that it is not acceptable to put public health at risk for the sake of the frivolous fur fashion industry.’

CLAIRE BASS
Humane Society International’s UK director

The other main species reared on fur farms – foxes and raccoon dogs – are known to be able to become infected with SARS-CoV-related viruses, with the potential to act as intermediate hosts to pass viruses to humans.

Raccoon dogs and foxes in wildlife markets in China were both found to have been infected with SARS-CoV.

Global fur farming

Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003, and has been prohibited and/or is in the process of being phased out in the following European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and, most recently, the government in Ireland has committed to ending fur farming.

Bulgaria, Lithuania, Montenegro and Ukraine are also presently considering bans on fur farming.

In the US, California became the first state to ban fur sales in 2019, following similar bans in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood.

In 2020, legislators in Hawaii and Rhode Island introduced fur sales ban proposals, as have cities in Minnesota and Massachusetts.

Fur farming, however, continues in other countries with China, Denmark, Finland and Poland being the biggest producers.

Globally, an estimated 100 million animals are killed annually for their fur.

Click here to sign HSI’s petition for a UK fur sales ban.

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