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  • Writer's pictureKate Fox

Why are baby mink being culled?

Human vanity has to be the least acceptable excuse for animal cruelty. So it is not surprising that wildlife farming for the fur industry is at the top of this list of shame.

From fur bobbles on keyrings to hooded coat and boot trims to full-length fur coats. Although the suffering behind each of these items is unimaginable, the facts behind them remain well hidden.

With global pandemics uppermost in our minds, we are quick to regard any wildlife trade as an Asian speciality. In reality, this could not be further from the truth.

One positive outcome of the COVID-19 debacle is that it has shed some light on the industry. Simultaneously, it has cast some dark shadows across Europe’s relatively untarnished animal welfare reputation.

The reality is that the EU is responsible for supplying 50% of global fur production, 63% of the world’s mink and 70% of fox pelts. Dig a little deeper and you will find that Denmark, Poland and the Netherlands stand out as leading figures in this barbaric trade.

Although all things wildlife trade-related are being held up to scrutiny, this is not the only reason that the EU’s role in the fur industry is being condemned.

The Netherlands, which kills 6 million mink annually and is “the 4th largest mink farm industry in the world,” is in the process of prematurely culling tens of thousands of their animals with carbon monoxide gas. With mink giving birth in April and May, many of these are just week-old helpless kits.

Several species have had the misfortune to catch SARS-CoV-2 from people. Amongst them are cats, dogs, hamsters, ferrets, tigers and lions. Mink can now be added to that list.

By the 23rd and 25th April, two farms housing 12,000 and 7,500 minks began showing COVID-19 symptoms. Now 12 out of the 140 odd farms in the Netherlands are facing outbreaks.

What is more unusual is that “at least two farm workers have caught the virus from mink" making it the first recorded case of viral backlash.

The reason for this mass cull is both ironic and disturbing as it spot-lights an ongoing lack of humanity and enlightenment that led us headlong into this global pandemic.

While doctors and nurses bravely save human lives from a disease caused by animal cruelty, the wildlife that has the misfortunate to catch it from humans are being gassed by the tens of thousands and all due to concerns that farmworkers will be re-infected.

According to Science Magazine, with farmworkers protected by personal protective equipment and no evidence of the virus spreading beyond the mink sheds, there is “a very low risk” to the wider community.

Not only is there a low mortality rate amongst the farmed mink from COVID-19, but they inevitably build immunity if the disease is allowed to run its course. Even if a second wave spreads through the sheds as the kits mature, the same low threats remain. One has to, therefore, question this drastic knee-jerk reaction by the Dutch government.

This seems stranger still when one knows that the Netherlands has committed to banning mink farming from 2024 for ethical reasons. Although positive news, such moral sentiments guiding them forward make their present actions more than a little inconsistent.

With farmers being reimbursed for their financial loss and the ban on mink farming looming, maybe now is the time to bring the ban forward. With global pandemics from farmed wildlife at the heart of this social and economic disaster, re-evaluating the animal rights that have caused it should be a priority.

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