Mink in a cage

FOUR PAWS statement on new FAO, OIE and WHO assessment on Sars-CoV-2 risks related to fur farming

18.2.2021

18 February 2021 – New assessment conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) on SARS-CoV-2 in animals used for fur farming shows high risks for Europe.

The risk assessment published on 17 February 2021 clearly concludes that there is not only a high risk of introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2 within fur farms, but also a high risk of transmission to humans and wildlife populations. While the risk is minor in Africa and moderate in Asia and America, Europe is identified as a vulnerable region. The main reason is that Europe has the largest number of fur farms and a wide variety of susceptible species is used in fur farming. European countries have also been heavily affected by COVID-19 and have reported high numbers of cases in farmed mink as well as infections among farm workers. Virus mutations originating from farmed mink were also detected in several humans outside fur farms.

Thomas Pietsch, fur and wild animal expert at FOUR PAWS:“Although the assessment sends an alarming signal to the European and international community, the recommendations remain extremely weak. The report only recommends strict sanitary biosecurity measures, monitoring and testing. This is far from sufficient given the colossal risk for human health. Since April 2020, COVID-19 has been found on more than 400 mink farms in the EU. The experience in the most affected country – Denmark, with 290 infected farms – has shown that surveillance, enhanced biosecurity and use of personal protective equipment did not stop the extensive spread of COVID-19 on mink farms and the spread of mink-associated virus strains to communities. In other important fur producing countries such as Poland or Greece the virus has been detected on mink farms as well. Since November 2020, FOUR PAWS along with several other animal welfare organisations have been warning the European institutions to take actions and deliver a strong, aligned response. Until today, the European Commission only issued an implementing decision to report susceptible animals for SARS-CoV-2 infection in European Member States. This is a far cry from the strong response expected by European citizens and the civil society to protect human health."

The breeding season on fur farms will start in March. Mink will reproduce at a fast rate, which will also increase the risk of spreading diseases and mutations. We cannot wait for the next disease, the next mutation, the next pandemic. We urge the European Commission to urgently address this issue and suspend mink production in the EU for public health and animal welfare reasons.

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in twelve countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org