Wednesday 23 September 2020

Coronavirus found on more mink farms, pressure mounts on minister to close them all

A pile of dead mink wait to be disposed of. Photo: Rob Engelaar ANP

Coronavirus has been found on several more Dutch mink farms over the weekend, taking the total to 33.

So far, some 1.5 million mink have been culled because of cornavirus, representing some 30% of the animals kept on the country’s 128 mink farms.

The fur industry is due to be phased out by 2024, but pressure is mounting on farm minister Carola Schouten to order a preventative cull across the entire sector now. Mink are known to have passed the virus on to at least two farm workers.

Schouten has said she wants to wait for new recommendations from the government’s Outbreak Management Team before taking a decision. But that advice is not expected before the end of the month.

‘Everyone is surprised that it is taking so long,’ Jan van Hoof, director of Mens, Dier & Peel, which campaigns against livestock farming in the Peel district, told the Volkskrant. ‘Economic interests are still being placed ahead of public health. This is what happened with Q fever.’

Q fever is a disease that can be transmitted to humans from animals, often goats. An outbreak of Q fever in the Netherlands in 2007 led to an estimated 10,000 infections among humans, and 74 deaths.

Two vets, who were also active during the Q fever crisis have also written to Schouten urging her to order a cull, warning of the ‘potential risk’ that mink farm owners and workers could spread the virus further.

In June, MPs voted in favour of a ban on further mink breeding and called for funding to help farmers close down their businesses ahead of schedule. The OMT in July also advised the cabinet to clear all mink farms if new infections were found later than mid August.

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