Animal Rights

100,000 mink to be culled in Spain after testing positive for coronavirus

100,000 mink will be culled in Spain after testing positive for coronavirus. Meanwhile, the Netherlands abandons mink farming completely.

Almost 100,000 mink in a mega-farm in Spain are to be culled after many of them tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus responsible for Covid-19. These animals are farmed for their fur in the town of La Puebla de Valverde, in the Aragon region, approximately 100 kilometres from Valencia. The farm has been under observation since the 22nd of May, when the wife of an employee contracted the virus. Since then, seven more people in the 14-strong workforce tested positive for Covid-19, as did 87 per cent of the animals tested. For this reason, health authorities decided to cull all 92,700 mink.

It isn’t clear how the outbreak came about

Joaquin Olona, the Agriculture Minister for the northwestern region, told reporters on the 16th of July that the aim of the culling is “to avoid the risk of human transmission”. He also stressed that there’s no clear evidence yet regarding whether mink can transmit the virus to humans. In fact, according to the Guardian, it’s believed that the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the farm was caused by a worker who then infected the animals.

Italy’s anti-vivisection league (Lega Antivivisezione Italiana – LAV) expressed its agreement with this hypothesis. As the organisation’s website reads: “The mink farming cycle begins with the birth of cubs in May. As with all mammals, cubs benefit from their mothers’ antibodies, and the likelihood is that there was a low viral load that meant the animals were asymptomatic”. Now almost 100,000 mink will be killed.

Caged mink
100,000 mink are to be culled in Spain © Essere Animali

The Netherlands puts a stop to mink farming

A similar situation occurred in the Netherlands at the beginning of June. The Dutch government ordered the culling of 10,000 mink to allay fears that farms might lead to outbreaks of the illness and that mink might transmit the virus to humans. The decision was made after two workers in a farm contracted the illness in May, supposedly infected by mink that had previously been infected by other employees. However, even in this case, contamination of humans by animals was seen only as plausible, not as certain.

To avoid any future risks of zoonotic transmission (from animals to humans), the Netherlands opted to immediately abandon mink farming. This provision, which was due to come into effect in 2024, was brought forward to assist efforts in controlling the spread of Covid-19, and will mark the end of the country’s status as fourth-largest producer of mink fur in the world.

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