About 17-million minks will be culled in Denmark, the world’s largest mink fur producer, after scientists detected mutated versions of the coronavirus in mink farms that could spread to humans.

Coronavirus cases have been reported in mink farms in the northern Jutland region of Denmark, as well as across Europe. However, cases in Denmark have been rapidly spreading, reports the BBC. According to health authorities, five new virus strains were discovered on mink farms and 12 people have been infected thus far.

The country has attempted to curb outbreaks by culling infected minks since June. Now, the army, police and national emergency service will assist in the mink cull to eradicate the entire Danish herd.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday [November 4], Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced that they reached the decision with a ‘heavy heart’ after recommendations from health authorities.

Fredericksen cited a government report which said that the mutated virus was found to weaken the body’s ability to form antibodies. The mutated virus thus poses a potential threat to the efficacy of a future COVID-19 vaccine.

“The virus has mutated in mink. The mutated virus has spread to humans,” Frederiksen said.”We have a great responsibility towards our own population, but with the mutation that has now been found, we have an even greater responsibility for the rest of the world as well.”

The culling will happen at over 1000 mink farms, and will be a large undertaking that will occur as soon as possible, said police chief Thorkild Fogde.

New restrictions will also be imposed in some parts of Denmark to help curb the spread, including areas like Hjorring, Frederikshavn, Bronderslev, Jammerbugt, Vesthimmerland, Thisted and Laeso municipalities.

Dr Joanna Swabe, Humane Society International/Europe’s senior director of public affairs, says that this decision is a significant development in the mink fur trade.

“Although not a ban on fur farming, this move signals the end of suffering for millions of animals confined to small wire cages on Danish fur farms solely for the purposes of a trivial fur fashion that no one needs,” she said. “We commend the Danish prime minister on her decision to take such an essential and science-led step to protect Danish citizens from the deadly coronavirus.”

Denmark is not the first country to cull minks following coronavirus cases. In July, about 100 000 minks were culled in Spain after cases were found at a farm in the Aragón province. The Netherlands also culled tens of thousands of animals following outbreaks on various farms. 

Picture: Unsplash

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