Farmed mink peeking out of its nest box (Truth About Fur)
Since it was learned that COVID-19 can pass from humans to mink, farmers in the United States have put in place strict biosecurity protocols to protect their animals, their families, and public health. But instead of supporting farmers through this difficult period, animal activists -- like Priscilla Feral, who wrote about "The Covid Mink Slaughter" in these pages last week -- are fanning fears that new mink-specific variants of the virus could reduce the efficacy of vaccines, and are calling for a ban mink farming and the sale of all furs.
In fact, public health authorities do not support such extreme measures. After concerns raised in Denmark led to the culling of mink there, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control concluded, in November, that the risk to human health posed by mink-related variants of SARS-CoV-2 is low for the general public.
Similarly, leading U.S. virologist Dr. Anthony Fauci said, “It does not appear at present that the mutation that has been identified in mink will affect vaccines or the immune effect of vaccines.”
Rather than culling – let alone an end to mink farming -- the USDA, the CDC, the U.S. Veterinary Diagnostics Lab, State Veterinarians, and other authorities recommend precautionary measures, including employee screening and testing, PPE, and restricted access to the animals. This is exactly what mink farmers are doing, in close cooperation with their state agriculture and health departments.
The real goal of some animal activists, however, is not to protect farms, but vegetarianism and the elimination of all animal agriculture. The real issue, some like Feral argue, is that “humans continue to treat animals as a means to a human goal and not sentient beings worthy of their own rights to live their natural lives undisturbed.”
The problem for animal activists is that most Americans do eat meat and dairy, and wear leather, wool, and other animal products. So fur is seen as a convenient thin edge of the wedge, and mink farming is condemned as “cruel” and “unnecessary”.
Cruel? U.S. mink farmers work hard to provide their animals with excellent nutrition and care, as this is the only way to produce the high quality fur that the U.S. is known for. Mink farmers follow strict operating guidelines developed by veterinarians, animal scientists and animal-welfare authorities to ensure the health and welfare of their animals.
Unnecessary? Fur today is sustainably and responsibly produced; it is a hand-crafted, long-lasting, and biodegradable, natural clothing material.
By contrast, the fake furs and other synthetics proposed by animal activists are generally made with petroleum, a non-renewable and non-biodegradable resource. These synthetics leach millions of micro-particles of plastic into our waterways each time they are washed; plastics that are now being found in marine life around the globe. Cruelty-free indeed!
Mink are raised on small, family-run farms, supporting employment in rural communities. Mink are fed leftovers from our own food production, the parts of cattle, poultry, and fish we don’t eat, and that might otherwise end up in landfills. Mink manure and remains are composted to produce organic fertilizers, completing the agricultural nutrient cycle.
As for the new risks posed by COVID-19, mink farmers take their biosecurity responsibilities very seriously, to protect their livelihoods, their animals, their families, and their communities.
When swine flu and avian flu were detected on farms, we didn’t ban pork or chicken production; farmers and health authorities worked together to responsibly resolve the problems. And that is exactly what we are doing now.
No one forces anyone to wear fur or leather, or to eat meat or dairy. But this does not give animal activists the right to attack the reputations and livelihoods of farm families. This is a time when we should be supporting farmers, not attacking them.
Alan Herscovici is Senior Writer & Researcher at Truth About Fur. On Twitter @TruthAboutFur.