The latest victims of the Covid 19 pandemic are innocent animals, Mink in Denmark. Scientists recently discovered a mutated form of the virus in Mink on several farms. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen delared that the mutated virus posed a “risk to the effectiveness” of a future Covid-19 vaccine and ordered a cull resulting in the death of 17 million animals.
A total of six countries have discovered instances of Covid 19 at mink farms. They include The Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Italy and the US. Recently, scientists in Denmark have been concerned that genetic changes in a mink-centric variant of the virus, which has infected at least a dozen people, has the ability to ensure that any potential vaccines are less effective than hoped. The genetic change in question is in the spike protein of the virus, which is an important part of the human body’s immune response, and in turn a vital target for any vaccines.
There are approximately 5,000 fur farms in the European Union which accounts for half the international fur production. After Europe, the next largest would be Poland and China. Global mink farming statistics from 2018 reveal Canada farmed 1.7million mink, the US 3.1 million, the EU 34.7 million and China 20.7 million.
The industry had a reported turnover of almost $1bn (£750m) in 2018-19. Furs are sold to the garment industry but also used in some false eyelash products. China and Hong Kong in particular provide the biggest market.
Fur Europe insists demand for natural fur is still strong. But Danish animal rights groups believe it is time to follow the example of other European countries and phase out the trade completely.
Animals reared for their fur like mink have miserable lives and are kept in small wire cages. They are prisoners, unable to dig, explore, swim or dive. Mink on fur farms display signs of mental distress such as continuous pacing and circling inside their cages. They have also been known to self-mutilate and fight with their cage companions.
Numerous investigations in Finland have uncovered deplorable conditions and distressing suffering, including animals with festering wounds, deformed feet, sore eyes, and even mink being forced to cannibalism. They die in brutal ways too. When they are at their prime, before they are even a year old, the animals are gassed, electrocuted, beaten or have their necks broken.
Demand for fur declined in the late 1980s and 1990s due to a number of reasons, including the failure of designers to dream up tantalising new lines and animal rights campaigners. Since 2000, however, sales internationally have risen to record highs, spurred on by innovative ways of working with fur, and a sharp increase in disposable income in both Russia and China.
Coronavirus outbreaks have already spelled the end of the mink industry in the Netherlands. The UK and Austria banned fur production years ago, Germany has phased it out and Belgium, France and Norway plan to as well.
Mink appear particularly susceptible to Covid and it can spread quickly in the farms. Infections have been detected in France, Spain, Sweden, Italy, the US, Greece and the Netherlands, which will now ban fur farming by March 2021.
Animal welfare groups say this is further reason to outlaw the practice, in addition to ethical grounds.
“Fur farms are not only the cause of immense and unnecessary animal suffering, they are also ticking time bombs for deadly diseases,” says Dr Joanna Swabe from the Humane Society International.
Over the years, animal welfare campaigns have shifted public opinion. Numerous fashion brands have stopped using fur and switched to synthetic alternatives.
The UK banned fur farming in 2003. Austria, Germany and Japan have also stopped production and other countries are phasing it out.
So could this be the end of Mink farming?