‘When people get sick, we do everything to keep them alive. When animals get sick, we kill them’

Protest calling for an end to the fur trade, photo: Reuters
Protest calling for an end to the fur trade, photo: Reuters

Dutch animal rights activists are calling for an end to fur farming. On Monday, they protested in front of the parliament in The Hague following an outbreak of coronavirus on mink farms, that led to the mass killing of tens of thousands of animals.

More than 100 protesters, many wearing face masks with animal rights slogans, held images of mink in cages and called on the Dutch government to move the 2024 ban on fur farms forward and close them immediately.

“When people get sick, we do everything to keep them alive. When animals get sick, we kill them. Mink are creatures with feelings. A mink is not a something, but a someone,” said Willem Vermaat of the animal welfare organization Animal Rights during the protest.

“We shouldn’t put anyone in confinement in small, bare cages. We shouldn’t be gassing anyone. We should not treat anyone as a product,” he continued.

Vermaat also addressed the way the animals are being killed: “And death by gassing – a painful death often. Minks are thrown into a container of gas, where they slowly suffocate. It can last longer than 10 minutes before they die because minks are aquatic animals – even though they have never been allowed to live as aquatic animals in the fur industry – and can hold their breath for a long time. The Netherlands is now killing mink and their babies this way.”

Coronavirus had been detected on 10 of the 140 Dutch mink farms. Last week, agriculture minister Carola Schouten decided to have the animals at the infected farms murdered. She feared the virus might spread and infect humans, even though that has never been proven.

The government identified two cases in which humans were probably infected by mink; that would be the only animal-to-human transmissions known since the global outbreak began in China.

It seems very unlikely the mink would be a threat to humans, yet more than 10 thousand of the ferret-like animals have been killed at ten farms. “The experts have consistently indicated that mink corona is not a threat to public health,” said Animal Rights campaign leader Erwin Vermeulen.

Farms where no infection has been found, intend to continue operations. The farms were the animals were murdered, will probably replace the killed animals by new ones.

The Netherlands exports an estimated 90 million euros ($101 million) worth of mink fur annually. Other major mink fur producers include Denmark, Poland, and China.

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