Main cooperative selling mink to shut as virus forces cull

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The cooperative that sells nearly half of Denmark’s mink furs, will “gradually downsize” and shut down over the next 2-3 years after the government last week ordered the culling of millions of animals to fight an outbreak of COVID-19 among the animals and staff.

Kopenhagen Fur CEO Jesper Lauge said Thursday that the discovery of coronavirus infections put the Danish mink industry “in an extreme and unusually difficult situation.”

Kopenhagen Fur employs some 300 people and sells the furs of the farms in its cooperative. There are 1,139 mink farms in Denmark, employing about 6,000 people, according to the industry. It was unclear how many of the farms would shut down, though their prospects are not good.

Danish farms together account for 40% of global mink fur production and are the world’s biggest exporter. Most of the cooperative’s exports go to China and Hong Kong, and it claims to be the world’s largest auction house for furs. Those auctions will continue.

Earlier this month, Denmark reported that 11 people were sickened by a mutated version of the coronavirus that had been observed among the mink. The country began killing farmed minks in the north of the country and plans to cull 15 million in all.

The coronavirus evolves constantly as it replicates but, to date, none of the identified mutations have changed anything about COVID-19’s transmissibility or lethality.

On Thursday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control issued new guidance to curb the spread of the coronavirus between minks and humans, warning that the transmission of COVID-19 among animals could speed up the number of mutations in the virus before it potentially jumps back to people. The agency said allowing it to spread within minks could have worrisome consequences.

In northern Greece, more than 2,000 minks are to be culled after some of the animals tested positive for the coronavirus.

Athanassios Langas of Greece’s fur breeders’ association said Friday that the animals were tested after the farm’s owners were found to be infected with the virus. Some 300 breeders have been tested for the coronavirus, with 10 found positive, he said.

More than 80 farms are located in northern Greece, with more than 1.3 million minks. So far there has been no indication that Greece will cull its entire mink population.

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Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak

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Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, Greece, contributed to this report.

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