November 5, 2020 – Reports from Denmark this week are making it clearer than ever that mink fur farming is a public health minefield and an animal welfare nightmare.
The European nation announced that it would slaughter all 15 million mink on its 10,000 fur farms following concerns that a mutation in the virus that has infected the mink could possibly interfere with the effectiveness of a vaccine for humans. According to news reports, 12 people have already been infected with this mutated virus, which shows a weak reaction to antibodies. Half of North Denmark’s 783 human cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, are also related to mink.
This is the latest in a growing mountain of evidence of the serious public health risks associated with mink fur farming. Concerns emerged when the Netherlands reported the first cases of infected mink on its fur farms in May and followed up by slaughtering millions of animals. Coronavirus infections have since been reported on mink fur farms in Spain, Sweden, Italy and the United States.
The Netherlands also reported the first cases of the virus jumping from mink to workers on fur farms—the only known cases of animals transmitting the virus to humans (besides the first coronavirus infection supposed to have originated at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China). In August, the Dutch government made the welcome decision to move up its deadline for ending mink fur farming by two years, to 2021.
Today, we are calling on the Danish government to turn around the tragedy now playing out on its fur farms by transitioning fur farmers to more humane livelihoods and closing down Denmark’s fur industry for good.
Fur is already in decline globally and it makes no sense for Denmark to restart this industry. The past few years have seen steep drops in pelt prices and stockpiles left unsold at fur auctions. Fashion designers and retailers are moving away from fur, and consumers are increasingly choosing humane, manmade alternatives that look and feel like fur.
The reason for this change is growing awareness about the terrible cruelty of fur farming. Animals on these farms, including mink, foxes, rabbits and raccoon dogs, are confined for their entire lives in tiny, filthy cages, unable to act out the simplest of natural behaviors like swimming or running, as our investigations have shown. Now, with the pandemic, these animals are paying a heavier price than ever for frivolous items that no one needs to wear. This has to stop, and the Danish government has the perfect opportunity to show other fur-producing nations how to do so.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and CEO of Humane Society International, the international affiliate of the HSUS. www.humanesociety.org and www.hsi.org