Coronavirus deaths in the Netherlands have plummeted. Still, the government has ordered the slaughter of 10,000 captive mink, the first sign of a potential US-style mass cull.
Bred in captivity for their fur, mink are subjected to some appalling conditions throughout their short lives. However, the coronavirus pandemic has introduced a new threat into the lives of these creatures. After their handlers infected mink on Dutch farms with Covid-19 in April, and after at least two farm workers caught the disease off the mink, the Dutch government ordered 10,000 of the animals to be culled on Wednesday.
Farm workers in protective clothing will gas the mink en masse, before a disposal plant takes care of the bodies and the farms are disinfected.
Animal rights activists say the cull should herald the end of fur farming in the Netherlands for good. The country is one of only 24 worldwide that allow mink farming.
However, it’s not just animals in the fur trade that the coronavirus threatens. In the US, sicknesses at meat processing plants forced some facilities to shut down, leaving farmers with no choice but to cull their herds. Tens of millions of pigs, cattle and hens have been, or will be slaughtered due to the shutdowns.
Moreover, the US recorded its first case of coronavirus in a dog last week. The disease has been found in tigers, lions and cats in the US, and early reports of animal to human transmission in China sparked fears of pet euthanasia, and led to hundreds of pet cats and dogs being abandoned in the city of Wuhan in February.
In the Netherlands, coronavirus infections have closed at least three meat processing plants in recent months. While no herds have been culled yet, the idea is not an alien one to Dutch farmers. More than 100,000 cattle in the country have been culled since 2016 as a result of EU phosphate regulations.
Hopefully, that day won’t come. Daily coronavirus deaths in the Netherlands have plunged to 15 as of Friday, down from a peak of 234 two months earlier. A total of 210 new cases were reported on Friday, down from a high of 1,335 in early April.