Activists point to the risk of infection from mink. This could make vaccine development more difficult for the fur industry.
BERLIN/AMSTERDAM taz | According to animal rights activists, the corona outbreak in Danish mink farms shows that the fur industry is endangering human lives. In an interview with the taz on Monday, the organization Peta pointed out that a mutation of the coronavirus had spread to people in the stables and may affect the effectiveness of future vaccines. “Whoever wears fur digs a grave for his fellow human beings and himself,” said the organization’s textile expert, Johanna Fuoss.
In Denmark, all 17 million minks are currently being killed to contain the mutated virus. However, at least 12 people have already been infected with the corona variant. As a result, far-reaching restrictions on public life have been in effect in seven North Jutland municipalities since Monday: Among other things, local public transport has been largely stopped there.
“It has long been scientifically proven that mutations of such pathogens occur again and again on these farms, where many animals live together in a small space,” added Peta activist Fuoss. Raccoon dogs, for example, are suspected of having transmitted the Sars virus, which killed hundreds of people from 2002 to 2004. Raccoon dogs are also kept en masse on fur farms, said the animal rights activist. Similar to mink: in narrow individual cages.
In Germany, the last fur farm closed in 2019. The husbandry regulations had previously been tightened. For example, they now require a body of water because in the wild, minks spend a large part of their life in water. These rules made mink farming in Germany unprofitable. “In Denmark, on the other hand, minks are still kept without a water basin,” criticized the animal rights activist.
“This is a horrific practice and incomprehensible, especially since there are now fake fur that can hardly be distinguished at first glance,” said Fuoss. “None of us need furs.”
The German fur association admits that the virus mutated in farm mink
According to the Peta expert, the fur collars on jackets that are popular in Germany are made almost exclusively of fake fur, “in the middle class”. Very cheap or very expensive goods still have real fur, but then mostly cheaper types such as raccoon dogs and rabbits or more expensive ones such as foxes and minks. Mink fur is mainly used to make fur coats or jacket linings. “A lot goes to Russia. There, mink coats are a status symbol. They have lost a lot of their reputation in Germany, ”says Fuoss.
The German Fur Association did not provide any figures in response to a taz request, but admitted: “According to the Danish authorities, the virus mutated in the farm mink in Denmark, so that it may now be transferable to humans.” However, this view must first be changed by the international Research community will be assessed, wrote spokeswoman Barbara Sixt.
Many farms in Netherlands contaminated
The coronavirus has also been circulating on fur farms in the Netherlands, which is the largest commercial mink breeding site behind Denmark and China. So far there have been infected animals on more than half of all around 100 farms.
Under the direction of virologist Marion Koopmans from Rotterdam’s Erasmus University Hospital, the outbreak was examined in detail on the country’s first 16 mink farms. Accordingly, 66 employees and 11 stray cats had the same corona variant as minks from which it had jumped. The epidemiologist involved, Francisca Velkers, outlines the overall picture in the newspaper Volkskrant so: “A person infects a mink, which in turn infects many other mink – marten-like animals are very susceptible to the virus. The mink then infect other people and stray cats on the farm. “
In the Netherlands, too, huge stocks of mink have been gassed in recent months: a total of around 2.4 million animals.
Marion Koopman, one of the most prominent experts in the field, is concerned: “You have to watch it very closely,” she told TV magazine 1 Vandaag. “The difference is that in the Netherlands we mainly saw people in the companies who were infected. In Denmark it was also people outside of the farms. “
The breeding should actually be completed in 2024. Because of the numerous corona infections, the government in The Hague decided in August that this process must be completed in March 2021. The companies are being bought out for a good one and a half million euros each. Industry associations complain that this price is too low to absorb the affected workers and their families. Animal rights activists see the amount as far too high from an ethical point of view.