Deaths from coronavirus continue to mount with some countries heading into a second lockdown. Over 1.3 million people have died from COVID-19 during 2020 with the end apparently nowhere in sight. While that’s scary for humans, the situation is much more dire for minks. Minks? Yup. Fur real. They are toast because if COVID-19 hasn’t killed them, man will.
We all know what a mink is right? It’s a furry animal whose skin is used for stoles, etc. for human adornment. (Insert “GASP!” from readers who are PETA supporters.) More specifically, minks are dark-colored, semi-aquatic, carnivorous mammals who are members of the weasel family. Other members of this family include otters, weasels, and ferrets.
Minks are valued for their luxurious fur. Denmark is the world’s largest producer of mink fur with about 17 million furs produced annually. Unsurprisingly, that country is also one of the world’s largest mink exporters with most of the furs being exported to China and Hong Kong. Aha! We’ve identified something not made in China.
The furry critters are grown on farms. Guess that shows what I know; city girl that I am, I thought it was grains and vegetables which farmers raised. But, no, 1,139 mink farms are located in Denmark mostly in the northern part of the country. Between 15 and 17 million minks call Denmark home. With that country’s population slightly under 6 million, minks outnumber humans there. However, the Danish mink population is about to be wiped out one way or the other.
Outbreaks of COVID-19 have ravaged the Danish mink farms since the summer. Part of the problem is that the minks are kept in crowded conditions which are ideal for spreading a virus. Although minks which catch the virus suffer similar symptoms to humans, the course of the virus’ progression is much more rapid. Most of the infected minks are dead by the day after their symptoms appear. Well, at least they didn’t suffer long.
Even more disturbing than the death of the minks is the fact that, according to the Danish Health Minister in a press conference held November 4th, half of the 783 human cases of COVID-19 in northern Denmark “are related” to the mink outbreak. While some humans (non-PETA supporters) don’t mind minks giving us the fur off their backs (literally), they do mind minks passing along coronavirus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned the coronavirus is going from humans to animals and back to humans. Each time there is such a transmission, the virus can mutate. Health experts say mutations show a decreased sensitivity against antibodies meaning a COVID-19 vaccine could be less effective. Therefore it is crucial to stop the back and forth transmission between humans and minks. How will the transmission be stopped? The solution is bad news for the minks. They are going to be killed not for their fur but as a preventative health measure.
Unfortunately, outbreaks at mink farms have continued in Denmark despite repeated efforts to exterminate (fancy schmancy word for kill) the infected animals. Thus, more serious measures have to be taken. How serious? The minks are going to be totally wiped out.
Denmark plans to kill its entire herd of minks. That’s up to 17 million minks headed to that great mink farm in the sky. The Danish police, army, and home guard are to be deployed to speed up the killing process. Not only will the furry creatures be killed, but their pelts will be destroyed as well. This culling of the minks is estimated to cost around $800 million and may lead to the end of the mink industry in Denmark. (Insert “Hurray!” from PETA supporters.)
American minks should be nervous. Could the same fate await them? Quite possibly. In 2011 there were 268 mink farms in the United States. Per USDA, American mink farms produce over 2.5 million pelts each year. Wisconsin is the leading mink-producing state followed by Utah. In October, officials reported approximately 12,000 mink had died of COVID-19 on farms in Wisconsin and Utah. If not killed, those minks definitely need to be wearing face masks.
One positive which may come out of the 2020 pandemic is that it could hasten the end of the controversial fur industry. Fur farms are already banned in many countries such as Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Although fur farming is not (yet) banned in the United States, California has set housing requirements for minks that make fur farming cost-prohibitive. In addition, a ban on the sale and manufacture of fur has been imposed by the City of Los Angeles. Hollywood lights are okay; Hollywood minks are not.
Public health concerns related to COVID-19 may just be the nail in the coffin for the fur farming industry. Who needs fur in 2020 anyway? With lockdowns and stay at home orders, there’s nowhere to wear a mink stole anyway. Possibly a mink face mask, but not a fur coat. While a ban on fur farming would provide a brighter future for later generations of mink, it’s curtains for Danish minks, and possibly American minks, now.
Were you aware the coronavirus could be transmitted back and forth between humans and animals? Is it acceptable for minks to be bred in crowded conditions merely to be killed so humans can look marvelous? Is killing the entire herd of Danish minks the best option to prevent further spread of the virus? If not, what should be done?