To date, the Dutch government has killed one million mink in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 on fur farms in the Netherlands. On April 26, SARS-CoV-2—the virus that leads to COVID-19—was initially identified on two mink fur farms in the Netherlands and has since spread to 24 mink fur farms. While the government initially believed that the transmission of the virus was from human workers to animals, in May, Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten confirmed that the transmission of the virus was from minks to humans. In June, the Netherlands began “culling” thousands of minks to stop the spread of the virus, which has now culminated in approximately one million animals killed. 

In 2013, the Dutch government voted to ban mink fur farming, legislation that is set to be enacted in 2024. With the spread of COVID-19 and pressure from animal-rights group Humane Society International (HSI), Dutch Members of Parliament voted in June to shut down the country’s remaining 128 mink fur farms ahead of 2024, with their final decision set to be announced in August 2020.  

“The death toll from the Dutch mink fur farm culls has now reached one million mink and the risk from failing to eliminate this virus reservoir is clear and yet still the Dutch government is not acting decisively by fast-tracking the early closure of this cruel and dangerous industry,” Joanna Swabe, Senior Director of Public Affairs for HSI Europe, said. “The Dutch Parliament has already adopted a motion calling for the mink industry to shut down before the existing 2024 deadline. In addition to fur factory farming being inherently cruel, the potential for zoonotic disease spread, and for mink fur farms in particular to act as reservoirs for coronaviruses, incubating pathogens transmissible to humans, is an unavoidably compelling reason for the world to call time on fur farming.”