The Dutch government is investigating the possibility that a mink passed COVID-19 to a human after minks at four fur farms in the epicenter of the Netherlands’ novel coronavirus outbreak tested positive for the disease. Initially, the Dutch government assumed that COVID-19 was passed to the mink by farm employees. “On the basis of new research results from the ongoing research into COVID-19 infections at mink farms, it is plausible that an infection took place from mink to human,” the Dutch government said in a statement this week. “It also appears from this research that minks can have COVID-19 without displaying symptoms.” The Dutch government is now instituting mandatory COVID-19 testing for all minks at farms across the Netherlands. The initial origin of COVID-19 has not been confirmed but it is thought to have originated from a “wet” animal market in Wuhan, China—where wild animals live in cramped quarters awaiting live slaughter, not dissimilar to a fur farm.

“The latest COVID-19 mink case is yet another example of the risks of close interaction between wild animals and people. The demand for and exploitation of wild animals exposes us to disease and puts us all at risk. The cruel fur trade is no exception to this rule,” Jan Schmidt-Burbach, Global Head of Wildlife Research at World Animal Protection, said. “If COVID-19 has been passed between humans and minks, it shows just how dangerous fur farms can be. They not only potentially facilitate the emergence of infectious diseases but also play a role in spreading it further. The animal suffering involved makes matters worse, as cramped and stressful conditions weaken the animals’ immune systems, creating a perfect storm for diseases to thrive.”

Earlier this month, animal-rights groups Humane Society International/UK and British-Columbia-based The Fur-Bearers called upon governments in the United Kingdom and Canada to ban farming of all wildlife for fur such as mink, fox, raccoon dogs, and rabbits, which creates an unnecessary and unacceptable risk to human and animal health. 

“In recent weeks, infectious disease experts and the World Health Organization have called on nations to end their wildlife trade to avoid another pandemic; we need to extend that call to fur farms across the globe, including those right here on US soil,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said. “The fur industry is heading toward certain demise, and now, with the increased disease risk it poses, there is no reason to keep it alive for a day longer.”

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