Mink on Dutch Fur Farm Confirmed With Coronavirus Results in Urgent Calls to Hasten Fur Farming Bans

Mink on Dutch Fur Farm Confirmed With Coronavirus Results in Urgent Calls to Hasten Fur Farming Bans

Intensive farming of wildlife creates an unnecessary and unacceptable risk for human and animal health, says Humane Society International/UK

Mink on two fur farms with more than 20,000 animals in the Netherlands have been found infected with COVID-19, after exhibiting breathing difficulties. Animal protection charity Humane Society International, which campaigns for a global end to the fur trade, warns that factory farming tens of millions of mink, fox, raccoon dogs, chinchillas and rabbits in squalid conditions in countries around the world presents an unnecessary and unacceptable risk for both human and animal health.

The Dutch Agricultural Ministry said in a statement Sunday that it is assumed the mink contracted the virus from farm employees. Although the Ministry believes that the infected mink pose a “negligible,” risk to human health, the farms are banned from moving the minks or their manure, people are advised not to go within 400 meters of the farms, and air and soil tests are planned.

The creation of new mink farms was banned in the Netherlands in 2013, and existing mink fur farms have until 2024 to close.

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Mink on Dutch Fur Farm Confirmed With Coronavirus; Calls to Hasten Fur Farming Bans Increase in Urgency
Credit: Oikeutta elaimille.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, which leads the #FurFreeBritain campaign for a UK fur sales ban, says: “Fur factory farms are breeding grounds for infectious diseases, confining thousands of wild animals in unsanitary, crowded and stressful conditions, with precious little veterinary care.

“In addition to the animal suffering that’s an unavoidable fact of the fur trade, the potential for zoonotic disease spread is another compelling reason for all fashion companies to go fur-free, and for governments to take action to shut down this dirty trade. One of the lessons we must learn from COVID-19 is that we cannot carry on pushing animals to the limit of their endurance without serious consequences for both animal and human health.

“We urge the Netherlands and other countries in the process of phasing out fur farming to speed up their industry closures, and countries yet to commit to bans, including China and Finland, to do so now.”

Humane Society International warns that the global fur trade’s model of intensive farming of wildlife creates conditions that could facilitate the spread of zoonotic diseases. According to a 2016 report released by the Chinese Academy of Engineering, 75% of China’s wildlife trade is dominated by fur production. Animals who are farmed for their fur, such as raccoon dogs, foxes and mink, are common sights at wildlife wet markets in China which are the current focus of COVID-19 attention, and these species could easily be a potential intermediate host.

Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003, and has been prohibited and/or is in the process of being phased-out in the following EU Member States: Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Belgium. Ireland and Bulgaria are also presently considering bans on fur farming. Fur farming, however, continues to persist in other Member States with Denmark, Finland and Poland being the biggest producers.


In 2019, California became the first US state to ban fur sales following similar bans in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood. In 2020, Hawaii and Rhode Island have introduced fur sales ban proposals, as have cities in Minnesota and  Massachusetts. HSI/UK’s #FurFreeBritain campaign is calling for the UK to become the first country in the world to ban fur sales.

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An increasing number of fashion designers and retailers are dropping fur cruelty. In the last few years alone Prada, Gucci, Armani, Versace, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, DKNY, Burberry, Chanel, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and other high-profile brands have announced fur-free policies. In addition, online fashion retail platforms Net-A-Porter and Farfetch have introduced no-fur policies.          

Fur facts:

  • More than 100 million animals are killed for their fur every year worldwide including mink, fox, raccoon dog, chinchilla, rabbit and coyote – that’s equal to three animals dying every second, just for their fur.
  • On fur farms, animals spend their entire lives in tiny wire battery cages. Foxes are typically kept in cages that are just one metre squared, thousands of times smaller than their territories would be in the wild. This would be like a person being forced to live their entire life in a lift.
  • Foxes and raccoon dogs are known to be able to become infected with SARS-CoV-related viruses, with the potential to act as intermediate hosts to pass viruses to humans. Raccoon dogs and foxes in wildlife markets in China were both found to have been infected with SARS-CoV. HSI is calling on governments to completely ban consumption and trade in wild animals, in order to reduce the risk of another pandemic. China’s draft proposal to ban wildlife consumption and trade presently allows for the continued farming and slaughter of fur-bearing species – mink, raccoon dogs and foxes – defining them as ‘special livestock’. This is unacceptable.
  • Fur comes with a hefty environmental price tag. Whilst all materials have some eco-footprint, when compared to other textiles, fur takes a significant toll in terms of the C02 emissions associated with keeping and feeding tens of thousands of carnivorous animals on a farm, the manure runoff into lakes and rivers, and the cocktail of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as chromium and formaldehyde used to preserve the fur and skin to stop it from rotting.

Take action: Sign HSI’s petition for a UK fur sales ban at hsi.org/furfreebritain.

This release was submitted by Human Society International. Cover image by TheAnimalDay.org.

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