Ireland To Become Next Country To Cull Its Mink Due To Coronavirus Mutation Risk
Ireland is set to cull its farmed mink population due to fears a coronavirus mutation found in the animals could impact humans.
The news comes just weeks after it was announced that Denmark would kill the seventeen million mink being kept on farms due to concerns the mutated variant of the virus could be more resistant to antibodies and severely impact the effectiveness of vaccines.
Ireland is home to around 120,000 mink on three remaining mink farms, located in Donegal, Laois and Kerry, and Irish Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan expressed his concerns about the coronavirus variant in a letter to the chief vet at the Department of Agriculture.
Holohan stressed that allowing mink farms to continue operating posed ‘an ongoing risk to public health’ if the variant were to become the dominant strain of the virus, Independent.ie reports.
Farmers working with mink in Ireland will be allowed to remove the fur from their mink, but no further breeding will be allowed to take place.
The Department of Agriculture released a statement on the matter to say that it has been ‘working closely with the public health authorities as well as with the operators of mink farms in Ireland to address any potential risks arising as a result of COVID-19’.
The statement explained that mink farmers have been operating ‘in full compliance with all legislative and animal welfare requirements’, but while no mink in Ireland have so far tested positive for COVID-19, it is recommended that they be culled.
The department said:
The Department of Health has indicated that the continued farming of mink represents an ongoing risk of additional mink-adapted SARS-CoV-2 variants emerging and, therefore, it has recommended that farmed mink in Ireland should be culled to minimise or eliminate this risk.
The Department of Agriculture continues to engage with the mink farmers to consider the next steps.
There are no immediate plans to carry out the proposed cull, RTE reports, but officials in the Department of Agriculture have confirmed to farm owners that it will happen.
Mink farming was already set to be discontinued under the Programme for Government, and the Department of Agriculture had planned to test mink in the country to see if the virus was present, but the actions were expedited following the call by the Chief Medical Officer.
Veterinary Ireland called for the country’s mink population to be culled ‘as soon as possible’ following the detection of the coronavirus mutation in Denmark. However, mink farmers are said to have accused the government of culling healthy animals ‘without providing any scientific or legal basis’.
Farmers claim the decision to cull the animals has ‘left three farm families in rural Ireland devastated and without a livelihood’.
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