Coronavirus: Millions of mink to be culled after passing COVID mutation to humans

Millions of mink are set to be culled after a mutation of the Coronavirus was discovered at more than 200 Danish mink farms.

Officially, a total of 12 people have so far been infected at farms mostly in the northern part of the country but health minister Magnus Heunicke said he believed that, in fact, half the 783 human COVID-19 cases in northern Denmark were “related” to mink.

And Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said there were now fears that the new, mutated virus posed a “risk to the effectiveness” of a future COVID-19 vaccine.

“It is very, very serious,” Ms Frederiksen added. “Thus, the mutated virus in mink can have devastating consequences worldwide.”

Denmark is one of the world’s main mink fur exporters, producing an estimated 17 million furs per year.

Kopenhagen Fur, a co-operative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40% of the global mink production. Most of its exports go to China and Hong Kong.

The Danish government is backing the cull as a way to minimise the risk of more retransmitting coronavirus to humans.

According to government estimates, culling the country’s 15 million mink could cost up to five billion kroner (£605m).

But national police head Thorkild Fogde said it should happen “as soon as possible”.

Denmark’s minister for food, Mogens Jensen, said 207 farms were now infected, up from 41 last month, and the disease has spread to all of the western peninsula of Jutland.

The country has registered 50,530 confirmed COVID-19 infections and 729 related deaths.

Perhaps surprisingly, animal welfare group Humane Society International applauded the prime minister for taking “such an essential and science-based step to protect Danish citizens”.

Its hope is that losing so many mink to the coronavirus will cause fur farms to go out of the business.

Humane Society International-Europe spokesman Joanna Swabe said: “Although the death of millions of mink, whether culled for COVID-19 or killed for fur, is an animal welfare tragedy.

“Fur farmers will now have a clear opportunity to pivot away from this cruel and dying industry and choose a more humane and sustainable livelihood instead.”

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