The Netherlands slaughter mink infected with SARS-CoV-2

The Dutch authorities are studying two “probable” cases of transmission of the virus from animals to humans, the first documented to date in the world.

Close after close, the Dutch health authorities have been slaughtering several thousand mink since June 5 and for ten days, some of which have been infected with SARS-CoV-2. A decision taken despite protests from animal protection associations, which called for strictly isolating sick animals rather than killing all animals, and which causes the loss of a working season in these farms.

As the Covid-19 epidemic wanes in the Netherlands, the persistent presence of the virus among these animals raised fears of a possible rebound in the population, with authorities estimating that two people may have been infected with mustelids.

Presence of the virus in several farms

During May, veterinarians and breeders observed suspicious pneumonia and increased mortality in certain farms located in the south-east of the Netherlands, one of the areas most affected by the Covid-19. On May 19, the presence of the virus was confirmed in three farms and health measures were decreed there. On May 28, after the discovery of a fourth infected farm, they were extended to all Dutch minnows: no more transport of animals was allowed and compulsory testing was launched. But in the meantime, the virus has been able to circulate for several weeks in these high density confined spaces. As of June 10, thirteen farms were affected, according to the agriculture ministry.

In the Netherlands, mink farms are living their last hours. After years of campaigning against the fur sector, the country decided in 2013 to ban all new installations and to put an end to the activity of existing minks by 2024. Erwin Vermeulen, of the Animal Rights association, who tried in vain to have the slaughter decision annulled in court, deplores the conditions in these farms. “Mink live in wire cages, one on top of the other, while they are solitary animals.” “ With the scheduled end of this activity, no more investment has been made in recent years in the facilities.

The virus appeared in the spring in the Netherlands, when the minks were low and the farms become denser. “Mink farming is seasonal , continues Erwin Vermeulen. In March-April, the country had 800,000 pregnant females, who have since given birth to 5 or 6 young each. Now 4 to 5 million animals live on the farms. “