Published: Sun, November 22, 2020
Science | By

Coronavirus: Ireland plans mink cull

Coronavirus: Ireland plans mink cull

The mass cull was ordered after it was discovered that a mutated version of the coronavirus found among minks in Danish farms can be transmitted to people, though there is no evidence so far that it is more unsafe or resistant to vaccines.

The Department of Agriculture previously said it had maintained contact with Irish mink farms and while a testing regime was to be implemented, no Covid cases had yet been identified.

But the country's department of health "indicated that the continued farming of mink represents an ongoing risk of additional mink-adapted (coronavirus) variants emerging", he said in a statement.

The government has scrambled to build political consensus, and said Tuesday that a parliamentary majority was now backing its decision to cull the minks.

In 2019, the Irish Animal Liberation Front claimed to have breached security at the largest mink farm in Laois and "liberated" about 300 animals, but the owners said no minks escaped.

This comes after a mutated strain of the virus was found on a mink farm in Denmark.

Following the announcement today, mink farmers accused the Government of culling healthy animals "without providing any scientific or legal basis".

Instead, Ireland's efforts to suppress the spread of the coronavirus is spurring an early end to the fur trade.

"No further cases of mink variant with cluster 5 have been detected since September 15, which is why the State Serum Institute assesses that this variant has most likely become extinct", the ministry said in a statement.

Since then, all minks on farms in these areas have been killed, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (FVST) said, but it noted that there are still 25 farms suspected to have unconfirmed cases of Covid-19. Meanwhile a number of media outlets reported that at least a dozen people had been diagnosed with something called "mink coronavirus".

Nationally, the proportion of Covid-19 cases in humans that came from mink is falling, the institute said. The AP reports at least 11 people were sickened by a mutated version of the virus.

There is already a commitment in the Programme for Government to phase out mink farming in Ireland. Farmers will be compensated for the initial cull but it's understood that the farms will not reopen afterwards.

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