The last remaining mink being farmed in the Netherlands have been culled, bringing an end to worries about possible Covid-19 infection.
After a mutated version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was detected among mink on fur-farms in Denmark, the government there ordered a cull of the entire mink population of some 17 million animals. Denmark is Europe’s largest producer of farmed mink fur.
The worry was that the mutated virus could be communicated to humans, circumventing any protection offered by a vaccine. A court declared the cull order unlawful, as it meant killing animals that may not have been infected, but by that time the majority of mink had been gassed.
The virus then showed up in mink farms in Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland.
The Dutch government had already passed legislation to bring an end to fur-farming in the country by 2024, but decided to bring that deadline forward to 2021. Producers would be allowed to close out this year’s season, despite calls from the opposition to order an end sooner.
In the event, all but four of the country’s 140 fur farms had closed down, never to reopen. At the four exceptions a cull has now taken place, with the gassing of around a million animals.
Dutch fur-farmers affected by the measures will receive compensation until 2024 to allow them to find another occupation.
In Belgium, meanwhile, fur-farming is already banned in Wallonia and the Brussels region. Flanders originally ordered a ban from 2023, with a premium for farmers who stopped earlier. But that was before Covid-19.
Inspections by the federal food safety agency AFSCA-FAVV determined there were no instances of Covid-19 in the region’s 17 fur farms. While awaiting further developments, the industry will have to abide by a safety plan which includes mandatory virological testing of all dead animals, strict rules on handling the animals by humans, and notification of the agency in the event of any irregularities at all.
For the time being the Flemish government is not calling for a cull, but that situation could change any day.