Should Europe be scared of its mink farms?

May 22, 2021
Mink can be infected by SARS-CoV-2, but it is unclear whether they can pass the virus on to humans. What is known for sure is that humans can pass it on to them. However, due to doubts about the threat of animal to human transmission with these animals, various European countries have culled millions of the mink on their farms. Last November, for example, Denmark even announced it would cull all 17 million of them. reddit messenger-dsk linkedin vk Text size Aa Aa Should Europe be scared of its mink farms? Mink can be infected by SARS-CoV-2, but it is unclear whether they can pass the virus on to humans. What is known for sure is that humans can pass it on to them. However, due to doubts about the threat of animal to human transmission with these animals, various European countries have culled millions of the mink on their farms. Last November, for example, Denmark even announced it would cull all 17 million of them. The Greek approach In the north of Greece, a key actor in Europe's mink farm and fur industry, things are different. In Western Macedonia, one of the country's poorest regions, people depend heavily on the fur industry. At least 1.5 million mink are farmed there. We visited one of the 80 farms in the Kastoria area. We were only allowed in under strict conditions which included a negative PCR test for the entire crew. Nicole Baudin, a mink breeder on the farm, tells us that they were "very surprised that these animals were so sensitive to the COVID virus". When they realised that was the case, the people working there immediately started wearing masks and cleaning their hands. Now, they are not allowed to work with more than two people to a shed. She says that they've tried to do as much as they can to keep COVID out of the area. As such, all mink farmers are now vaccinated there. These measures, as well as regular tests on mink, are strongly advised by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to prevent contamination of the animals in what it calls a "high-risk" environment. So far, the farm we visited has not been infected. However, at least 15% of Greek farms have. That’s less than in the Netherlands, but it’s broadly in line with big fur producers like Denmark and Sweden. Despite this percentage, sick animals are no longer being culled in the region. They remain isolated under close veterinary supervision. Zoi Thomou, a vet, tells us how they operate: "If we find COVID-positive animals, then the farm enters a quarantine protocol. We don't kill animals anymore. We support the sick animals in any way we can." According to her, they already know that sick animals can develop immunity. "After a while, the virus is not even there", she adds. However, she does recognise that more research is needed. Big business Employment and the economy help explain Greece's different approach. The fur industry is one of the biggest sources of employment in the Western Macedonia region. It's second only to the energy sector.