This week, Dutch Members of Parliament voted to shut down all remaining mink fur farms—estimated at 128 farms—across the Netherlands in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. In 2013, the Dutch government passed a ban on mink fur farming which is scheduled to be enacted in 2024. The politicians voted to compensate fur farmers to phase out the practice three and a half years before the law goes into effect. “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,” Joanna Swabe, Senior Director of Public Affairs for Humane Society International Europe, said. “That is worth a celebration.”

On April 26, SARS-CoV-2—the virus that leads to COVID-19—was identified on two mink fur farms in the Netherlands on May 9, with two more fur farms identifying the presence of the virus, including in dust particles inside mink barns. On May 15, SARS-CoV-2 was diagnosed in three cats living on a mink farm where the presence of the virus was detected. By May 25, two workers on these mink farms tested positive for COVID-19 leading to mandatory virus screenings at all mink fur farms in the Netherlands. Following these incidents, Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten confirmed that the transmission of the virus from minks to humans—and not the other way around as the Dutch government previously thought—is “extremely likely.” On June 5, the Dutch government began “culling” thousands of minks at nine farms to contain the outbreak. Currently, there have been COVID-19 outbreaks reported at 17 mink fur farms.  

The Members of Parliament also voted to maintain the country’s existing ban on transporting mink and to prevent fur farms where the mink have already been “culled” from restocking with mink. 

“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,” Swabe said. “The Dutch Parliament has said good riddance to an industry predicated on the out-dated idea that exploiting, depriving, and killing animals for frivolous fur fashion is acceptable. The Dutch government now has to take action to honor the Parliament’s wishes.”

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