Saturday 24 October 2020

Coronavirus found on more mink farms, inspectors to investigate infection spread

A pile of dead mink during a cull on an infected farm. Photo: Rob Engelaar ANP

The Dutch food and product safety board is investigating why coronavirus continues to spread on Dutch mink farms, following suggestions farmers are deliberately infecting their animals so they can claim lucrative compensation deals, broadcaster NOS and the Volkskrant newspaper have reported.

Coronavirus has been found on 47 of the country’s 110 mink farms, leading to the cull an estimated two million animals – and large payouts to farmers who have been affected.

D66 MP Tjeerd de Groot apparently requested the investigation, saying it is ‘very coincidental’ that so many farms have been affected while hygiene rules have been tightened up.

The investigation will also involve looking at how well these rules are being adhered to, NOS said.

The government has already decided that the entire mink industry will be closed down next year, once the current litters of pups have been gassed and skinned for their fur. Farm minister Carola Schouten has set aside €182m to pay for the process, of which €150m is in the form of compensation to the farmers themselves.

But farmers whose mink are gassed because of coronavirus also get compensation and this, says Esther Ouwehand, leader of pro animal party Partij voor de Dieren, is far more than they would get at auction for each mink pelt.

She estimates the cost of breeding a mink is about €21 over the year, but that each pelt is only raising around €16 at auction, because fur prizes have plunged in recent years.

‘But look at what the government pays mink farmers if their companies are infected,’ she said on Twitter. ‘They get €16,17 to €21 per pup, €70 for male breeding mink and €37.38 for a mother. That is more than they would get at a fur auction, and with less costs because the animals are killed prematurely.’

Fur farmers and farming organisations have staunchly denied the suggestion that farmers are deliberately infecting their mink. Such claims are ‘below the belt, given the sector is already in difficulties,’ Wim Verhagen, of the Dutch fur farming organisation NFE told local broadcaster Omroep Brabant.

Verhagen told the Volkskrant that the €182m the government has set aside to compensate farmers for closing their businesses three years ahead of schedule does not cover the industry for loss of income.

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