This is a developing story related to Covid 19. Because of the deeper implications it has for the scientific community, economy and animal welfare I decided to create a separate thread from general Covid discussion to hopefully give this important news the attention it should have.
Currently in the north of Denmark more than a quarter of a million people have been have put on lockdown after a mutation in the Covid strand was found in minks. Out of the 1,139 mink farms in Denmark there were at least 207 farms in Jutland affected by the virus, with at least 5 cases of a new virus strain of Covid detected. 12 people were infected by a variant of Covid that appears to be transmittable from mink to humans, as opposed to from human to mink as previous investigation has found.
This is disturbing on several levels. It is unsettling in relation to the human population as the scientific community works to develop a vaccine. If a mutant variant of Covid were to take hold, and continued to mutate then it would be almost impossible to protect everyone against all forms of the disease, similarly to how there are so many strains of cold and flu that we don't have one cure-all vaccine to immunize you against everything. A shot that is effective against one form of Covid, may not be effective against another.
There is room for discussion about how much risk the mutation found in minks actually poses to human beings. What we saw in Denmark was a relatively small case number, and there isn't evidence so far that the strain behaves differently than the SARS-CoV-2 we are familiar with.
Maria van Kerkhove, head of the World Health Organization's Diseases and Zoonosis unit has cautioned that it is still early in the hour, and there is no indicator that this strain affects the disease's transmissibility, severity, or risk of reinfection. It may not in anyway complicate efforts to find a vaccine. The Who stressed that more research should be performed.
“There is always a concern when you have a circulation and transmission from humans to animals and then animals to humans. We’ve been seeing this for a number of months now and what we understand is the minks have been infected with contact from humans and it circulates in the mink and then it can pass back to humans. Each one of these changes, each one of these mutations, whether they are identified in mink or they are identified in humans, need to be evaluated because we need to determine the importance of each of these. And if any of these changes means that the virus behaves differently. There’s a proper way to do that because there need to be studies to evaluate if there’s any changes in transmissibility or severity and if there are any implications for diagnostics for vaccines and therapeutics. In this situation, there is a suggestion that some of these mutations may have some implications, but we need to do the proper studies to evaluate this and that is ongoing right now," said Kerkhove from the WHO's headquarters in Sweden.
Tyra Grove Krause, head of the department of infectious disease epidemiology and prevention at the State Serum Institute stated the authorities should act at once in a Friday briefing. “We definitely need to do more studies on this specific variant and its possible effect on future vaccines, but it takes a long time to do these kind of studies."
Denmark's foreign minister Jeppe Kofod said that, "We would rather go a step too far than take a step too little to combat Covid-19."
In response to the situation government of Denmark has ordered that all minks be killed. This is not restricted to minks that have the virus, the entire herd of animals is being put down, even healthy minks will not be allowed to live anymore. The military and Danish police forces were employed to exterminate the country's mink population if farmers do not kill all minks.
Reports vary that between 15 million- 17 million minks have been slaughtered or are in the process of being so. I am sad to say that they are being killed by the especially slow and painful method of culling.
We have seen outbreaks of Covid on mink farms in the Netherlands, Sweden. Denmark, the US, Spain, Denmark and millions of animals have unfortunately been culled to death as a result. However, the sheer volume of animals killed recently is making headlines, and the impact on the fur industry and farmers is being discussed as Denmark is the largest producer of mink fur in the world, and half of all mink skin products are exported from Denmark.
This is a story where I think there isn't a clear winner. The outcome definitely didn't help the poor animals, nor is there any profit in it for the farmers who have lost their businesses, and I can't even say if it helped the world as a whole. It wasn't clear how dangerous this new strand was since we only had 5 cases of the mutation to go on. I also don't understand why minks were killed indiscriminately just because they were minks, even when they tested negative for covid. This story honestly breaks my heart as an animal lover. I don't support the wearing of animal fur to begin with, and this adds as I see it an additional level of suffering to an already unethical industry.
I wish the people of Denmark who caught Covid a speedy recovery, as I wish well everyone who has fallen ill from this terrible disease or has loved ones at risk.
What do you think of the situation? Do you think this was necessary evil for the greater good, do you think this was overkill? Come and discuss with us.
The future of the fur trade is also part of the conversation. Some scientists are calling on a full ban on mink fur production, citing Covid concerns. Warning there are some images of animal carcasses in the photographs from the BBC article, so you may not want to click on this link if it is a potential trigger.
The mass mink culls of Denmark and quarantine of the farms have obviously halted mink fur production, yet the Danish government has stopped short of taking permanent measures to fully ban production of mink products as far as I am aware. Though since 2009 fox fur has been banned in Denmark.
Some countries such as the Kingdom of the Netherlands have responded to the outbreaks on their mink farms by legislating that minks no longer be kept in cramped cages where the spread of the virus would be more likely, stopped the breeding of mink and unveiling a plan to phase out the mink industry by 2024 in a government buy out program.
What I do support is the ban on mink fur and the entire fur trade, not only nation-wide but globally. It's cruel. It's wasteful. it serves no higher purpose. It is just a very ugly fashion trend. Nobody needs to wear a fur coat to be warm. This practice is not only wrong morally, but now dangerous to humans. Had we never bred millions of animals outside of their natural habitat, held them in cages to rot in their own filth and skinned them alive then we would not even be in this situation where minks were able to spread Covid to humans and vice versa.
That's my line, what's yours? Should fur stay or go?
Reading this makes me feel absolutely horrible. Minks are sweet animals and I love them, and knowing so many millions of them are forced to be put down because of this is really heartbreaking. I understand COVID is deadly and we need to do all we can to make sure people don't get infected, but this is just.....sad on so many levels. /: Agree that the fur industry is super unnecessary though and 10000000% support the ban.
I guess they felt that this was the only way to not run the risk of more people getting infected via minks, that it's better that the minks die instead of humans. If there are no minks, they can't spread it to other minks or people. But it might be too late at this point. Now that humans have been infected, humans can infect other humans with it.
One thing though:
I am sad to say that they are being killed by the especially slow and painful method of culling.
My understanding of the term "cull" is that it just means a reduction in population or a mass killing of something and not a specific method of death. Do I have this wrong though?
“No, I... I have to be strong. Everyone expects me to."
One thing though: My understanding of the term "cull" is that it just means a reduction in population or a mass killing of something and not a specific method of death. Do I have this wrong though?
This is a good question you ask. You are right, culling is slaughter. In the context of mink farming specifically culling is often gas. This is a protracted death as I understand it because minks can hold their breath for long periods of time since they are a semiaquatic species. So they may suffer multiple gassing attempts. It's pretty sad.
I find it hard to add to what is already an in-depth summation of my own thoughts in the OP. The mass, indiscriminate slaughter is both unwarranted and also deprives us of the chance to learn more about the new stain. It shouldn't really surprise us that our own horrible treatment of other living things would eventually bite us in the ass though.
A heavy-handed approach will not help anything. What happens in two weeks if other unique COVID strains are found in other farmed animals? Will countries begin to cull every farmed animal that might potentially develop mutated strains?
I'd also like to know what is being done with minks after they have been killed. I doubt farmers are just going to let their... product go to waste. I imagine they'll clean the bodies, have them inspected for COVID, and then attempt to sell the furs that test as negative to manufacturers.
This might be hard to imagine, but the news of what's happening in Denmark has taken another cruel twist. The corpses of thousands of slaughtered minks are literally rising from the soil out of the mass graves they were thrown into, to the panic of the people living there.
Police have said they believe the phenomena was caused by an interaction of gasses emitted from the culled animals as they decayed, pushing the remains right back out of the earth, leading to this ghostly image. Because the cadavers won't stay in the ground they are doubling the sizes of the graves as they continue to kill the minks, while local mayors are calling for the corpses to be burned instead of buried, and authorities are promising to fence the areas off.
As upsetting as this story is it could get even worse. Because the mink population was killed in this hasty way many of the bodies are getting dumped in shallow graves near rivers and lakes, and there is a risk of contaminating wthe water supplies with nitrogen and phosphorus from the decomposing carcasses. A Danish politician Leif Brogger decried the handling of this crisis, saying, "The authorities are playing with our environment and using it as a dumping ground!"