Denmark to mass kill 17 million mink after finding new coronavirus strain

Killed mink at a farm in Denmark, photo: Reuters/Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen
Killed mink at a farm in Denmark, photo: Reuters/Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

Denmark will kill up to 17 million mink after a mutation of the coronavirus found in the animals spread to humans, the prime minister said on Wednesday.

Health authorities found virus strains in humans and mink, which showed decreased sensitivity against antibodies, which could harm future vaccines, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.

“We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well,” Frederiksen told a news conference.

“The worst-case scenario is a new pandemic, starting all over again out of Denmark,” said Kare Molbak, director at the State Serum Institute, the Danish authority dealing with infectious diseases.

Animal rights organizations have been calling for an end of mink farms for years now, and with the ‘new pandemic’ scare, they feel it’s time to part ways with this cruel industry: an industry where mink are solely born to spend a few months in a tiny cage and are then killed for their skin.

”The current pandemic has made it clear that we have to take the danger of transmitting this disease very seriously. Transmission of the disease is of danger not only to the local farms but to the whole world,” Esben Sloth, head of Campaigns at World Animal Protection Denmark, said in a statement.

“COVID-19 probably derived from a wet market in Wuhan in China. Now we are at risk that the coronavirus might mutate on Danish mink farms. This clearly indicates that we must reconsider the way we interact with animals,” he continued.  

“Mink production is an outdated industry that should be banned solely considering the animals’ welfare. Keeping wild animals trapped in small cages only to be used for unnecessary luxury products like fur is appalling.”

Though several countries in the EU, like Norway, Slovakia, and recently the Netherlands, have decided to ban the production of mink, Denmark continues to allow the industry.

Mink have a great need for hunting, swimming and diving in water. The animals become so stressed over their unnatural life in a cage at a mink farm that many develop compulsive behaviors and hurt themselves or their cubs in frustration. 

Outbreaks at mink farms have persisted in Denmark despite repeatedly killing the animals since efforts since June. And now, the Frederiksen announced that all the mink in the country will be killed.

“China, Denmark, and Poland should support and extend the immediate and complete ban of mink production,” Christian Sonne, professor of Veterinary and Wildlife Medicine at Aarhus University, said in an email.

Minks have also been killed in the Netherlands and Spain after infections were discovered.

We talked to Esben Sloth, head of Campaigns at World Animal Protection Denmark, about the future of the mink industry after the killing of all mink in the country.

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