In this file:
· Covid fears are disrupting the $30 billion global fur industry
· Minks are transmitting Covid-19 to humans. Don’t blame the minks.
Covid fears are disrupting the $30 billion global fur industry
By Marc Bain, Quartz
Nov 13, 2020
Denmark’s push to kill million of minks over fears the animals will spread a new coronavirus mutation is set to ripple through the global fur industry.
Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of some 1,500 Danish fur farmers and the world’s largest fur auction house, has announced it will gradually shut down over a period of two to three years. Without mink production, it will have no ownership base, it says. It plans to hold a normal auction season in 2021 and will continue to have auctions in 2022, but foresees just one or two auctions in 2023.
Furs are a commodity like other raw materials. Many fur producers such as farmers and trappers will sell their pelts through auction houses to buyers and brokers who supply fashion brands. Minks are an important part of the global fur trade, valued from $24 billion (paywall) to $33 billion (paywall) in 2018, depending on the source. Last year, Denmark produced about 12.8 million mink pelts, making it the world’s top producer. ”Kopenhagen Fur’s large international customer group might of course have difficulties understanding the past week’s development in Denmark,” the organization said in a statement. “Many customers have based their entire business model on Danish mink.”
Denmark had ordered more than 15 million mink killed across the country’s farms because a new variant of the coronavirus appeared to be spreading through the animals and jumping to humans. The country called off the cull after political opponents of the ruling party challenged its legal authority to issue the order, but has still recommended farmers kill their minks. Slaughter of infected minks and those on nearby farms has already started.
Mink are so far the only known animal able to catch the virus from humans and pass it back to them, potentially with mutations. On Nov. 12, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control released a risk assessment noting coronavirus variants transmitted from mink could undermine the effectiveness of a vaccine as well as existing diagnosis and treatment options...
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Minks are transmitting Covid-19 to humans. Don’t blame the minks.
From Denmark to the US, outbreaks on mink farms raise concerns that a virus mutation could make our vaccines ineffective.
By Sigal Samuel, Vox
Nov 13, 2020
Denmark’s fur farms are home to 17 million minks, and last week, the government announced it would kill all of them.
This week, however, the government rolled that back a bit. Now, the government merely recommends killing all farmed minks in the country. It will only require the killing of minks — weasel-like animals prized for their fur — on farms where Covid-19 has been detected.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen initially said all 17 million minks would be culled because the virus that causes Covid-19 had moved from humans to minks and back to humans. The country’s public health officials reported that while in the mink, the virus had mutated, raising the risk of a new strain circulating among us that our vaccines would be ineffective against — a finding that, to be clear, is preliminary and has not been confirmed in peer-reviewed research. In a worst-case scenario, that could set back the clock on our pandemic recovery.
This fear isn’t limited to Denmark. There have also been Covid-19 outbreaks on mink fur farms in the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy — and the US. At least a million minks have already been culled by gassing in the Netherlands and Spain, though the US has so far avoided culling. On farms in Utah, Wisconsin, and Michigan, thousands of minks have died of the disease, but mink-to-human transmission has not yet been detected.
The threat to public health seems to raise an ethical dilemma: Should farms kill all their minks in order to prevent a mutated form of the virus from spreading among all human beings? Is causing that much animal suffering justifiable if it prevents a lot of human suffering, which could result if our future vaccines are ineffective against the new strain?
Denmark, at first, thought the answer was yes. But it was forced to backtrack after experts pointed out that the government couldn’t legally mandate a mass cull without passing new legislation, and after infectious disease experts questioned the scientific basis for the cull.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, was among those pushing back. She pointed out that there is no data available to support the claim that the mink variant risks jeopardizing our future vaccines. Denmark’s public health authority suggested that might be the case based on its findings, but those findings were not peer-reviewed, and no specific data on the mutation was released to the scientific community — yet another instance of “science by press release” during the pandemic. What’s more, viruses mutate all the time; that’s normal and expected, so the mink variant is not necessarily cause for panic.
If it turns out to be true that the mink variant would jeopardize our vaccines and that there’s a strong chance that thousands or even millions of people will therefore die if we don’t cull the minks, you could make the case that a cull is the lesser of two evils. But we just don’t have enough data right now to know whether that’s true.
We do, however, know one thing with certainty. The fact that we are being forced to choose between two reasonable impulses — wanting to prevent animal suffering and wanting to prevent human suffering — is the result of another decision made: to farm thousands and thousands of animals in close quarters and unsanitary conditions.
Large-scale animal farming amplifies the threat of pandemics ...
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