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Danish fur farmers dealt blow

Citing virus mutation, government to kill 15 million minks by JAN M. OLSEN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | November 6, 2020 at 1:52 a.m.
FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 9, 2020 file photo, minks in a farm in Gjoel in North Jutland, Denmark. Denmark’s prime minister says the government wants to cull all minks in Danish farms, to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting the new coronavirus to humans. She said Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, a report from a government agency that maps the coronavirus in Denmark has shown a mutation in the virus found in 12 people in the northern part of the country who got infected by minks. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Danish fur farmers say they've been dealt a major blow after the world's largest mink fur exporter decided to destroy all 15 million minks in Denmark's farms, to minimize the risk of them retransmitting the coronavirus to humans -- a decision that has also raised eyebrows among health experts.

"I do not think there is a mink profession in the future," breeder Frank Andersen told Danish broadcaster DR on Thursday. "I hope that they have evidence behind [their claim] and that it is the right decision," said Andersen, who has run a mink farm with his father for the past 15 years near Hjoerring in northern Denmark, and has about 15,000 animals.

The government said Wednesday that a mutation in covid-19 has been found in 12 people who got infected by minks in the northern part of the country, announced plans to kill all minks in the country and promised to compensate farmers.

But Fur Europe, a Brussels-based umbrella organization representing national associations in 28 European countries, said there was no indication mink farming was an important factor in transmitting the virus. The group urged Denmark to release its research for scrutiny among international scientists.

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"Experts and public authorities agree that mink farming plays no significant role in the spreading of covid-19," the group said.

Medical experts were also puzzled by the Danish claim of a mutated virus.

James Wood, head of veterinary medicine at Cambridge University, said the true significance of the reported mutations in Denmark "[has] not yet been evaluated by the international scientific community and [is] thus unclear."

The coronavirus evolves constantly and, to date, there is no evidence that any of the mutations have affected covid-19′s effects on people.

Denmark, which produces an estimated 17 million furs per year, "is clearly taking a precautionary stance," said Ian Jones, a professor of virology with the University of Reading in England.

Last month, Denmark started culling millions of minks in the north of the country after covid-19 infections were reported among the stock there. Nationwide, at least 207 out of the 1,139 fur farms in Denmark have now been infected.

In the Netherlands, another mink fur producer, only minks on a farm found to be infected are killed. Infected minks have been found at a total of 69 Dutch farms and well over 1 million animals have been killed.

Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40% of the global mink production. Most of its exports go to China and Hong Kong.

Information for this article was contributed by Mike Corder and Maria Cheng of The Associated Press.

Mink breeder Thorbjoern Jepsen holds up a mink, as police forcibly gained access to his mink farm in Gjoel, Denmark, Friday,  Oct. 9, 2020. The culling of at least 2.5 million minks in northern Denmark has started, authorities said Monday after the coronavirus has been reported in at least 63 farms. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration is handling the culling of the infected animals while breeders who have non-infected animals on a farm within 8 kilometers (5 miles) from an infected farm must put them to sleep themselves.   (Henning Bagger /Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
Mink breeder Thorbjoern Jepsen holds up a mink, as police forcibly gained access to his mink farm in Gjoel, Denmark, Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. The culling of at least 2.5 million minks in northern Denmark has started, authorities said Monday after the coronavirus has been reported in at least 63 farms. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration is handling the culling of the infected animals while breeders who have non-infected animals on a farm within 8 kilometers (5 miles) from an infected farm must put them to sleep themselves. (Henning Bagger /Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
Peter and Trine Brinkmann Nielsen put their flag to halfmast at the Norden mink farm, after the government called for the culling of minks, in Boerglum Kloster, Denmark. Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020.  Denmark's prime minister says the government wants to cull all 15 million minks in Danish farms, to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting the new coronavirus to humans. She said Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, a report from a government agency that maps the coronavirus in Denmark has shown a mutation in the virus found in 12 people in the northern part of the country who got infected by minks. (Claus Bjoern Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
Peter and Trine Brinkmann Nielsen put their flag to halfmast at the Norden mink farm, after the government called for the culling of minks, in Boerglum Kloster, Denmark. Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. Denmark's prime minister says the government wants to cull all 15 million minks in Danish farms, to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting the new coronavirus to humans. She said Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, a report from a government agency that maps the coronavirus in Denmark has shown a mutation in the virus found in 12 people in the northern part of the country who got infected by minks. (Claus Bjoern Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 9, 2020 file photo, minks in a farm in Gjoel in North Jutland, Denmark. Denmark’s prime minister says the government wants to cull all minks in Danish farms, to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting the new coronavirus to humans. She said Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, a report from a government agency that maps the coronavirus in Denmark has shown a mutation in the virus found in 12 people in the northern part of the country who got infected by minks.  (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)
FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 9, 2020 file photo, minks in a farm in Gjoel in North Jutland, Denmark. Denmark’s prime minister says the government wants to cull all minks in Danish farms, to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting the new coronavirus to humans. She said Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, a report from a government agency that maps the coronavirus in Denmark has shown a mutation in the virus found in 12 people in the northern part of the country who got infected by minks. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)
Employees from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the Danish Emergency Management Agency transport contatiner at a mink farm, in Gjoel, Denmark, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020.  The culling of at least 2.5 million minks in northern Denmark has started, authorities said Monday after the coronavirus has been reported in at least 63 farms. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration is handling the culling of the infected animals while breeders who have non-infected animals on a farm within 8 kilometers (5 miles) from an infected farm must put them to sleep themselves.   (Henning Bagger Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
Employees from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the Danish Emergency Management Agency transport contatiner at a mink farm, in Gjoel, Denmark, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. The culling of at least 2.5 million minks in northern Denmark has started, authorities said Monday after the coronavirus has been reported in at least 63 farms. The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration is handling the culling of the infected animals while breeders who have non-infected animals on a farm within 8 kilometers (5 miles) from an infected farm must put them to sleep themselves. (Henning Bagger Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
Peter and Trine Brinkmann Nielsen put their flag to halfmast at the Norden mink farm, after the government called for the culling of minks, in Boerglum Kloster, Denmark. Thursday, Nov. 5,  2020.  Denmark's prime minister says the government wants to cull all 15 million minks in Danish farms, to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting the new coronavirus to humans. She said Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, a report from a government agency that maps the coronavirus in Denmark has shown a mutation in the virus found in 12 people in the northern part of the country who got infected by minks. (Claus Bjoern Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
Peter and Trine Brinkmann Nielsen put their flag to halfmast at the Norden mink farm, after the government called for the culling of minks, in Boerglum Kloster, Denmark. Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. Denmark's prime minister says the government wants to cull all 15 million minks in Danish farms, to minimize the risk of them re-transmitting the new coronavirus to humans. She said Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, a report from a government agency that maps the coronavirus in Denmark has shown a mutation in the virus found in 12 people in the northern part of the country who got infected by minks. (Claus Bjoern Larsen/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
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