Dutch politicians voted today in favour of fast-tracking the shut down of the estimated 128 remaining mink fur farms in the Netherlands, following outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2, commonly known as COVID-19, on 17 fur farms in April. The coronavirus was first identified on two Dutch mink farms (holding more than 20,000 animals) on 26 April 2020.
This comes on the back of two farm workers who are believed to have contracted COVID-19 from infected mink, resulting in the killing of thousands of animals; a measure taken by the Dutch government to prevent spread of the virus “in the interests of both public and animal health”.
In addition to voting for swift closures of mink farms, the Dutch Parliament voted to pay compensation to fur farmers – some farms worth millions of euros – to end mink farming practices earlier than the phase out date of December 31 2023.
While Dutch mink farms produced around 4.5 million mink pelts of the estimated 60 million mink pelts manufactured in 2018, the top three mink producing countries China, Denmark and Poland are still operating, collectively responsible for producing 43.2 million mink pelts in 2018. Globally an estimated 100 million animals a year are slaughtered for their fur, including mink, foxes and rabbits; equivalent to three animals killed every second, just for their fur.
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Commenting on the Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for animal protection group Humane Society International Europe, said: “The intensive breeding of animals on fur farms is an incredibly cruel practice that not only causes immense suffering to animals, but can also serve as a reservoir for coronaviruses.
“While we are disappointed by the suggestion that taxpayers’ hard-earned money should be used as compensation to fur farmers who have kept this cruel industry alive in the face of massive public and political opposition, this vote calls on the government to act swiftly to end this inhumane practice before the existing 2024 deadline. That is worth a celebration. The Dutch government now has to take action to honour the Parliament’s wishes.”
The government also voted to maintain the ban on transporting mink and to prevent fur farms from restocking with mink.
Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003, and has been prohibited or being phased-out in many European countries such as Belgium, Norway, Luxembourg and Ireland. In the United States, California became the first state to ban fur sales in 2019.
Luxury brands like Gucci, Versace, Burberry, Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier and Prada have also refused to feature animal fur in their collections after decades of pressure from animal welfare activists.
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Cover image of caged minks via Flickr.