Alarm Bells Ring Over the Culling Of Millions of ‘Healthy’ Mink in Denmark

ALARM BELLS Ring Over the Culling Of Millions of ‘Healthy’ Mink in Denmark.

The death of the fur industry exposes Covid’s enduring threat, a scandal in Denmark over the government’s handling of a mink cull is a cautionary tale for the world- health experts say it’s an alarm bell the world needs to listen to.

Early last month, Denmark’s government told all mink farmers to kill their stock because of concern that a mutated form of the virus was spreading more quickly than previously thought. One farmer, Knud Vest, and his family, carefully started the eradication of 23,000 animals, while opposition political parties rounded on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

For breeders of small, furry European mink like the 74-year-old Dane, the Covid-19 pandemic has been more than just a threat to his health. The past weeks wiped out his business of more than five decades and spawned a political crisis in Denmark that’s turned into a cautionary tale of the coronavirus’s potential to endure as a menace.

“At first when I heard about it I didn’t believe it,” Vest said at his farm last week. “This severe over-reaction has in fact done what animal rights activists have been trying to achieve for years.” Denmark fared pretty well through the first wave of the pandemic in spring as a swift lockdown helped halt the spread of the virus while global attention turned to neighbouring Sweden’s decision to keep its economy open.

That work has been undermined by a scandal over the government’s handling of a cull of 17 million mink, which is roughly equivalent to three for every person in the Scandinavian country. Opponents say the eradication of all healthy mink was a breach of the Danish constitution.

“All countries that have this kind of animal farming need to aggressively monitor what’s going on with contamination as a minimum,” said Marion Koopmans, a virologist at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “Keeping an eye on the animal side of the virus is an urgent question, and for me, it is a high priority to understand what is going on.”

Mink are being bred and skinned for their fur in many countries including Russia and the U.S. So far, eight have reported Covid-19 in farmed mink to the World Organisation for Animal Health, WHO said on Dec. 3.

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Tony Winterburn

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