The Veterinary and Food Administration sent a letter to mink farm owners on Tuesday, but later said the mass culling (regardless of reported infection) should have been framed as a “recommendation” — not “directive.” Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen also apologized for the directive.
Denmark may be buckling under the pressure of a global spotlight around a mutated strain of the virus found on mink farms. Since June, a mutated strain of the virus called the ‘cluster 5’ variant or, SARS-CoV-2, had been linked to mink farms in northern Denmark — only to be officially reported and identified in September and November by the World Health Organization.
Last week, Frederiksen said that all 17 million farmed mink would be culled by Nov. 16, regardless of reported infection. The Danish veterinary and food association said mink farmers would “compensated” in a move to cease mink farming and trading next year, with the Danish government saying “no minks will be allowed in cages in 2021.”
Although legislation has existed since Oct. 1 deeming the mass culling of “all infected mink herds” and those herds nearby to infection hotspots in Denmark, the parliament pushed back on the latest announcement, citing no legal authority to mandate the killing of mink on farms “unaffected by the coronavirus.”
As of last week six countries — Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy and the United States — reported SARS-CoV-2 in farmed minks to the World Organization for Animal Health. According to the WHO, the infected minks create concern for a “spill-back” effect from humans to minks, whereby the virus could mutate, amplify and jeopardize a future vaccine.
“Denmark is one of the largest fur producers on the planet, so a total shutdown of all Danish mink fur farms amidst spiraling COVID-19 infections is a significant development. Although not a ban on fur farming, this move signals the end of suffering for millions of animals confined to small wire cages on Danish fur farms solely for the purposes of a trivial fur fashion that no-one needs,” commented Dr. Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs at the Humane Society. The organization promotes animal welfare worldwide.
The British Fur Trade and International Fur Federation were quick to note the Danish government’s decision to cull the country’s mink was temporary, and cautionary, and “not an anti-fur position.”
Already an industry dotted by belief-based assertions, another point of contention is speed, in not just the passing of legislation but the time it takes to impose legal culling. Animal welfare groups are remaining vocal and vigilant as the situation evolves.
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