There was a shock last week when Denmark decided to cull all its mink – up to 17 million animals – because of the spread of coronavirus. That national cull has turned into a political outcry, now that the prime minister has admitted the plan was rushed and had no legal basis.
Danish authorities worry that a mutated form of coronavirus found in mink could potentially hamper the effectiveness of a future vaccine.
As the politicians argue, mass graves have appeared in the Danish countryside filled with the slaughtered animals.
Police and the armed forces have been deployed and farmers have been told to cull their healthy animals too -but the task will take weeks.
Coronavirus outbreaks have already spelled the end of the mink industry in the Netherlands. The UK and Austria banned fur production years ago, Germany has phased it out and Belgium, France and Norway plan to as well.
Across Europe there are some 4,350 mink farms, with Poland, Finland, Lithuania and Greece also part of the sector.
Industry group Fur Europe insists demand for natural fur is still strong. “The market has already reacted to next year’s reduced supply with higher pelt prices,” it told the BBC.
But Danish animal rights groups believe it is time to follow the example of other European countries and phase out the trade completely.
“It’s highly unacceptable to treat animals the way that mink are treated in the industry,” says Birgitte Iversen Damm of Animal Protection Denmark.