The Morning Call (Sunday)
Fur farmers lament decision to cull all of Denmark’s minks
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish fur farmers say they’ve been dealt a major blow after the world’s largest mink fur exporter decided to cull all 15 million minks in Denmark’s farms, to minimize the risk of them retransmitting the coronavirus to humans — a decision that has also raised eyebrows among health experts.
“I do not think there is a mink profession in the future,” breeder Frank Andersen told Danish broadcaster DR on Thursday. “I hope that they have evidence behind (their claim) and that it is the right decision,” said Andersen, who has run a mink farm with his father for the past 15 years near Hjoerring in northern Denmark, and has about 15,000 animals.
The government said last week that a mutation in COVID-19 has been found in 12 people who got infected by minks in the northern part of the country, announced plans to cull all minks in the country and promised to compensate farmers.
But Fur Europe, a Brusselsbased umbrella organization representing national associations in 28 European countries, said there was no indication mink farming was an important factor in transmitting the virus. The group urged Denmark to release its research for scrutiny among international scientists.
“Experts and public authorities agree that mink farming plays no significant role in the spreading of COVID-19,” the group said.
Medical experts were also puzzled by the Danish claim of a mutated virus.
James Wood, head of veter
inary medicine at Cambridge University, said the true significance of the reported mutations in Denmark “(has) not yet been evaluated by the international scientific community and (is) thus unclear.”
The coronavirus evolves constantly and, to date, there is no evidence that any of the mutations have affected
COVID-19’s impact on people.
Denmark, which produces an estimated 17 million furs per year, “is clearly taking a precautionary stance,” said Ian Jones, a professor of virology with the University of Reading.
Last month, Denmark started culling millions of minks in the north of the
country after COVID-19 infections were reported among the stock there. Nationwide, at least 207 out of the 1,139 fur farms in Denmark have now been infected.
In the Netherlands, another mink fur producer, only minks on a farm found to be infected are culled. Infected minks have been found at a total of 69
Dutch farms and well over 1 million animals have been culled.
In August, the Dutch government announced that it is bringing forward the mandatory end of mink farming in the country by three years amid a growing number of coronavirus infections at fur farms. The industry already
was working toward a total ban on all Dutch mink farms by 2024. That has now been brought forward to the spring of 2021.
Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40% of the global mink production. Most of its exports go to China and Hong Kong.