Ireland becomes 15th European Union nation to ban or phase out the mink industry
DUBLIN, HELSINKI––Responding to continuing discoveries of the COVID-19 coronavirus in factory-farmed mink, the government of the Republic of Ireland has elected to ban fur faming.
The Finnish Food Authority, by contrast, is experimentally vaccinating farmed mink in hopes fur demand will recover enough as the global COVID-19 pandemic recedes to give Finland a much larger share of the already shrinking mink pelt market.
Irish ban long in the works
Irish agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue on October 20, 2021 released the details of a fur farming buyout in negotiation since Irish chief medical officer Tony Holohan in November 2020 advised culling the entire Irish captive population of about 120,000 mink “as a matter of urgency.”
The mink reside on just three farms, in counties Laois, Donegal and Kerry. None of the Irish mink farms have actually had COVID-19 outbreaks yet. The COVID-19 coronavirus has, however, hit most mink pelt producing nations, especially the Netherlands and Denmark, both of which have already liquidated their mink breeding industries.
The Netherlands, already phasing out the mink breeding industry when COVID-19 hit, accelerated the time table to completely end it.
Denmark reportedly allowed mink farmers to save some breeding stock, in hopes of rebuilding the industry, once the world’s biggest, when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Irish fur farmers get compensation
The last three Irish fur farmers are reportedly to receive compensation totaling from four to eight million euros, as well as whatever proceeds they may obtain from killing and selling the pelts from their present mink inventory.
The Irish fur farming ban is also to forbid raising cats, chinchillas, dogs, foxes, mink, stoats, and weasels for their fur or skin, effective in early 2022.
“The Irish government has faced increasing pressure to follow the lead of 14 other European Union countries, from Norway to Serbia, that have ended or are ending fur farming,” reported Jane Dalton for The Independent back in June 2019.
Reported income from Irish mink pelt exports had dropped to as little as $25,000/year, about a third of the Irish gross domestic product for just one person.
Meanwhile, Dalton noted, “Fur farming stopped in England and Wales in 2000, and in Scotland and Northern Ireland two years later.”
Finland tries to save far bigger fur trade
Finland had 914 fur farms as of 2016, exporting 2.3 million fox pelts, 1.94 million mink pelts, and 150,000 tanuki pelts, marketed as “Finn raccoon.”
The Finnish fur industry has contracted since then to about 750 working farms. Pelt exports may have contracted even more during the COVID-19 pandemic, but more recent export data is unavailable.
Reported MedicalExpress on October 1, 2021, “Finland will begin vaccinating minks on fur farms against COVID-19 after authorities granted temporary approval for an experimental vaccine.”
According to Finnish Food Authority senior inspector Liisa Kaartinen, the conditional usage permit for the experimental vaccine “is valid until the end of December 2021, by which time the applicant has to provide further data.”
Finland, like Ireland, is among the few mink farming nations which has not yet reported COVID-19 outbreaks among mink.
Finn vaccine cannot yet be exported
“We have prepared about half a million doses [of the experimental vaccine], which should be enough to vaccinate all animals twice,” said Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association research director Jussi Peura.
The Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association reportedly developed the vaccine for mink in partnership with scientists from Helsinki University.
“Because clinical trials have not yet been carried out,” MedicalExpress said, “the jab cannot be distributed commercially.”
“The breeders’ association believes its vaccine is the first to receive such approval in the European Union,” MedicalExpress added. “Neighboring Russia said in March 2021 it had registered what it called the world’s first animal vaccine against COVID-19, previously tested on dogs, cats, mink, and foxes.
The Russian vaccine, however, is not known to be in commercial use.
Ann Arbor is first city in fur-farming state to ban fur sales
COVID-19 concerns also boosted a campaign to ban the sale of new fur garments in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, adopted during the first week of August 2021.
Retail fur sales bans have been enacted in many U.S. cities retailers, beginning in 2011 in West Hollywood, California. The sale of new fur garments was banned in 2019 in the entire state of California, but the ban is not to take effect until January 1, 2023.
Ann Arbor, however, appears to be the first city in a major fur farming state to ban retail fur sales.
Summarized Detroit Free Press writer Frank Witsil, “Michigan ranks sixth in retail fur sales, with about $20 million or 3.5% of all fur sales nationwide. Michigan produced 65,000 mink pelts in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in December 2020 reported that “a mink on a Michigan farm ‘and a small number of people’ were infected with a coronavirus ‘that contained mink-related mutations,’ but concluded that, ‘there is no evidence that mink are playing a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people.’”
However, at least one Michigan mink farm experienced a COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. Similar outbreaks reportedly occurred on mink fur farms in Wisconsin, Utah, Oregon, and Canada, as well as those that hit mink producers in western Europe.
In April 2021, Witsil mentioned, “a Michigan taxidermist who was infected with COVID-19 was at the center of a medical mystery: Did the taxidermist get infected by a mink — the animal susceptible to the virus and farmed for its fur — or a human?”