Report concludes public health still at risk from mink farms in Denmark


Report concludes public health still at risk from mink farms in Denmark

12 May 2022
Animal Protection Denmark
The Statens Serum Institut has published their long-awaited health assessment regarding the reopening of Danish mink farms. The government of Denmark currently has a temporary ban on mink breeding in place until 2023 following a COVID-19 outbreak in several hundred mink farms, which resulted in the country’s entire mink population being culled.

The health risk assessment from the Statens Serum Institut was commissioned by the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Rasmus Prehn. In the report, the potential dangers to public health in various scenarios following the reopening of the mink industry in Denmark are assessed.

The report concludes that, in principle, public health is not in imminent danger, but variants of COVID-19 could arise in mink populations, resulting in viral “reservoirs” which vaccines may not effectively protect against. This scenario presents a high public health risk

Earlier this year the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a joint statement confirming the risks of “animal reservoirs” of SARS-CoV-2. Farmed mink have been shown to be capable of infecting humans with the virus.
Although the probability of a new variant of concern is very low, why take the chance at all? Mink production will be reopened, where predators will be locked in small cages to use their fur. Why run a risk at all when there are so many good reasons not to take it.
Britta Riis, Director, Animal Protection Denmark

According to Animal Protection Denmark, mink breeders themselves have little incentive to continue production: only 15 mink breeders, about one percent, have chosen the dormancy scheme, where they can reopen their mink farms following the temporary ban. The remaining Danish mink breeders have chosen expropriation. 

1243 mink breeders have applied for compensation for shutting down their operations completely, while 15 have applied for the dormancy scheme. The latter may still change their decision and opt for expropriation until 21 December 2023. 

Animal Protection Denmark has long argued that mink production is unethical. The organisation points out that mink are active predators, which in the wild defend territories, often covering several kilometres and stretches of water. On mink farms, however, they spend their entire lives in very small and barren wire cages, where they are deprived of their basic natural behaviour.