Political Support to Steer Mink Farming Through Corona Crisis

Mink farmers in Denmark and The Netherlands have been hard hit by the global pandemic as mink have proven susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, and more than 200 mink farms in the two countries have been infected. While the Netherlands decided to compensate mink farmers, and accelerate an already existing decision to ban mink farming, there is broad political support in Denmark to help the industry through the crisis. In a meeting in the Environment and Food Committee 28 October, the Danish Minister for Environment and Food, Mogens Jensen, (the Social Democratic Party) said public health is of highest priority, but that does not mean the government are planning to close the mink production. On the contrary, the minister announced his willingness to work out forward-looking solutions in cooperation with the mink farmers, as well as other political parties. "There would be many industries we would have to close down in order to be sure there is no spread of the virus in society. The government has no plans to close mink farming," the minister said. A total of 166 mink farms have been infected by the coronavirus in Denmark since June. In late September the authorities changed their original isolation strategy to a culling strategy and decided to cull healthy farms within 7,8 kilometres of infected farms as a precautionary measure. This has led to massive criticism from both opposition parties and veterinary experts and coupled with the increasing number of infected farms. The culling strategy further led to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration not having enough manpower to cull all the animals targeted by the strategy - perhaps as many as 6 million mink. Meanwhile, some of the infected mink farms have achieved herd immunity and developed antibodies. Danish research has revealed the virus no longer live on in the mink farm environment after 5-6 weeks, and the Danish mink farmers want to avoid culling healthy animals. Fur Europe Chairman John Papsø welcomed the government support to mink farming but said the short-term culling of healthy animals is inefficient and expensive. "It is a waste of resources to cull healthy animals, which are otherwise ready to be pelted and sold in 1-2 weeks. Public health must be the priority, but we all have to remember that Covid-19 is a global pandemic upheld by the human-to-human transmission of the virus," John Papsø said. Outside the mink farmer community, only four people in Danish society have been infected by a covid-19 strain from a mink farm. Looking into the next production season, John Papsø said solutions for mink farmers are likely to involve increased biosecurity and monitoring. Sweden, Italy and Spain have each had a mink farm infected by coronavirus as well.