ASI Calls on an Infinite Ban on the Fur Trade as the Coronavirus Rips Through Mink Farms

One million innocent creatures slaughtered in a matter of a few weeks. Yes, you read that right – ONE MILLION. Brutally butchered because humans decided fur coats were important during a global pandemic that ironically manifested from animal cruelty. Wake up! It’s 2020… you don’t need to skin an animal for a jacket.

Fur farms are ghastly places of torture. They perpetuate horrifically cruel practices and harbor methods of raising and handling animals that are completely barbaric. In a time where the world is grappling with a deadly pandemic, the Animal Survival International (formerly Political Animal Lobby) calls on an urgent and desperate move towards a more compassionate world. Shut down all fur farms – for good!

“Coronavirus is ripping through mink farms and instead of implementing a total and infinite ban on fur, countries are simply covering up the mess they’ve made, at the expense of animals,” said Sarah Morris of ASI. “While decades ago, fur garments - especially mink - represented the ultimate symbol of status, elegance, and femininity. Today, all they represent is blatant animal cruelty. Today we know better. Or, perhaps, I should say, we should know better.”

In breaking news, Spain has ordered the culling of 100,000 mink on a farm and an estimated one million mink have already been culled on Dutch fur farms, as Covid-19 wreaks havoc in the European fur farming industry.

Joaquin Olona, agriculture minister for the north-eastern Aragon region, said the cull "to avoid the risk of human transmission” would involve the slaughter of 92,700 mink which are prized for their pelts. This, after the coronavirus, reached the farm through a worker who passed it onto the animals. Coronavirus infections are now reported to have spread to 24 Dutch fur farms. A further outbreak reported last week, brings the number to 25 and climbing.

“Mink are culled in the same way they are killed for fur, using carbon monoxide and dioxide gas. Culled fur does not enter the retail chain,” said HSI Europe’s public affairs director, Joanna Swabe. “Gassing is a particularly cruel way to kill mink because they are semi-aquatic animals able to hold their breath for long periods. Recent Dutch video footage appears to show a mink that survived gassing being fished out of a container to be gassed again.”

Although mink is the most popular animal farmed for fur, foxes and raccoon dogs are also raised in captivity for the fur trade. Killing methods of these animals are equally gruesome. Because fur farmers care only about preserving the quality of the fur, they use slaughter methods that keep the pelts intact but that can result in extreme suffering for the animals. According to various reports and live footage captured on these fur farms, “small animals are sometimes crammed into boxes and poisoned with engine exhaust from a truck. Engine exhaust is not always lethal, and some animals wake up while they are being skinned.” Larger animals have “clamps attached to their mouths and rods are forced into their anuses, and they are painfully electrocuted.” Other animals are “poisoned with strychnine, which suffocates them by paralyzing their muscles with painful, rigid cramps.” Gassing, decompression chambers, and neck-breaking are other common slaughter methods on fur factory farms.

In addition to animal cruelty, fur farms act as reservoirs for coronaviruses, incubating pathogens transmissible to humans. Both foxes and raccoon dogs are known to be able to become infected with SARS-CoV-related viruses, with the potential to act as intermediate hosts to pass viruses to humans. Raccoon dogs and foxes in wildlife markets in China were both found to have been infected with SARS-CoV.

“Covid-19 had its origins in the animal kingdom. There are now many opportunities for animals to be exposed through contact with humans carrying the virus,” said Morris. “The Dutch government, and all fur-producing countries like Denmark, Poland, France, Italy, China, Finland, Spain, and the United States, should commit to ending this inhumane practice and not only protect public health but prevent more animals from suffering. Fur is not essential to human health or well-being. In the modern world, we don’t need to still be wearing fur. Every single fur coat, every single fur lining, every single fur trim represents the intense suffering of an animal. This cruelty will only end if the world refuses to buy or wear fur. Wearing a dead animal and encouraging animal cruelty is never fashionable.”

Dr. Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, agreed.

“The death toll from the Dutch mink fur farm culls has now reached 1 million mink. The risk from failing to eliminate this virus reservoir is clear and yet still the Dutch government is not acting decisively by fast-tracking the early closure of this cruel and dangerous industry. The Dutch Parliament has already adopted a motion calling for the mink industry to shut down before the existing 2024 deadline. In addition to fur factory farming being inherently cruel, the potential for zoonotic disease spread, and mink fur farms, in particular, to act as reservoirs for coronaviruses, incubating pathogens transmissible to humans, is an unavoidably compelling reason for the world to call time on fur farming.”

Mink fur farms and COVID-19 timeline

  • 26 April: SARS-CoV-2 is identified on two mink farms in the Netherlands.
  • 9 May: SARS-CoV-2 is discovered on two more mink farms in Noord Brabant as well as in dust particles in the enclosures in which the mink are kept in.
  • 15 May: SARS-CoV-2 is diagnosed in three cats living at a mink farm where the presence of the virus was detected.
  • 19 May: The first farm worker is reported to have contracted COVID-19. The Minister confirms compulsory screening is extended to all mink farms in the Netherlands.
  • 20 May: Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten tells MPs it is likely that mink infected with SARS-CoV-2 passed the virus to a worker.
  • 22 May 2020: Seven out of 14 employees of a mink farm in La Puebla de Valverde (Spain) test positive for SARS-CoV-2.
  • 25 May: A second farmworker contracts COVID-19. The Minister confirms transmission from mink to humans is “extremely likely.”
  • 28 May: Ministers confirm that mandatory screening of all Dutch mink farms is underway.
  • 1 June: SARS-Cov-2 is found on another three mink fur farms in the Netherlands, with a fourth case confirmed on 3 June. This brings the total to nine farms.
  • 3 June: Dutch Ministers publish a final report confirming animals on the infected farms will be culled “in the interests of both public and animal health.”
  • 23 June: Dutch Parliament votes in favor of shutting down all mink fur farms in the Netherlands, with early closure of farms with compensation to be paid to fur farmers to end the practice earlier than the phase-out due date of 31 December 2023.
  • 1 July: The Dutch government says it will consider a one-stop voluntary closing scheme and breeding ban for mink fur farms in the Netherlands. It aims to decide in August 2020 and must notify Parliament before the new mating season starts in February 2021.
  • 6 July: 20th mink fur farm in the Netherlands is confirmed with COVID-19.
  • 9 July: Two more mink farms in the Netherlands are confirmed with COVID-19. Another 75,000 mink are culled.
  • 9 July: Brabant-Zuidoost regional safety board calls on Minister Schouten to implement preventative clearing.
  • 13 July: The 23rd mink fur farm in the Netherlands is confirmed as being infected with COVID-19.
  • 15 July: Another Dutch mink fur farm is infected with COVID-19. This brings the total of infected farms to 24. The Dutch mink death toll reaches 1 million mink.

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