MADRID – The World Wildlife Fund wants the Spanish government to immediately close mink farms after an outbreak of the coronavirus on a farm in Galicia. They also call to ban the next breeding season.
A mink farm in Santiago de Compostela with 6,500 animals, detected the virus outbreak. The recently approved ‘Sars-CoV-2 Prevention, Surveillance and Control Program in American Mink Farms in Spain’, approved by the Spanish authorities, is insufficient, according to the WWF. This is due to the special sensitivity that minks appear to show with COVID 19. According to the WWF along with the characteristics of the mink facilities this could lead to “inevitable mass infections.”
That is why the NGO asked the government and autonomous regions to close all farms with this species and to immediately ban the next breeding season. In the breeding season, the population of American mink in Spain would increase to 500,000 individuals.
The World Wildlife Fund recalls that other countries, such as Denmark, Sweden and Italy, suspended mink breeding before 2021 due to the risk of contamination this activity poses. The Netherlands has already permanently banned these farms.
The new breeding season will cause the number of minks living on overcrowded farms to increase fivefold, the organisation says. This greatly increases the “risk of new outbreaks and possible mutations of the virus in case of more outbreaks”.
Gemma Rodríguez, responsible for the NGO’s species programme, cited public health and ethics as two main motives for banning mink farms. She added that specimens of this species – considered to be some of the ‘most invasive and harmful species in the world’ – are regularly escaping from the farms.
The spokeswoman concluded by saying that “the last, necessary and urgent step to stop the spread of the coronavirus in mink farms is the permanent shutdown of all these farms in the country.”
Spain’s mink farms
Spain culled more than 100,000 minks in July this year after many tested positive for Covid-19. It started with an outbreak on a farm in Aragon where the owners and some employees tested positive. A sample showed that 87% of the animals were positive. In total there are 38 mink farms in the country.
In the Netherlands, the government decided in August last year to permanently close all mink farms from March 2021 after a wave of infections. Millions of minks were preventatively culled there after the corona virus was found on at least 70 mink farms.
In November, Gemma Rodriguez called mink farms a “sanitary bomb”. “We are facing a serious health problem: the risk of Covid-19 contamination in fur farms may now jeopardise the effectiveness of the vaccine under development,” said Rodriguez . The WWF representative assured there are “plenty of reasons to put an end to this sanitary bomb. In Spain we have 38 biological bombs [referring to the number of mink farms], let’s not wait for them to explode as happened in Denmark and before that in the Netherlands”.