Europe is slaughtering millions of mink to curb the spread of COVID-19

  • Mink around the world are getting infected with a mutated strain of the coronavirus.
  • After hundreds of human coronavirus cases in Denmark were linked to the animals, the government ordered the culling of its entire population of 17 million mink in early November.
  • Some mink breeders and lawmakers protested the decision, demanding farmers be compensated for the slaughtering.
  • Denmark is the world's largest exporter of mink fur, and many fear that this move could mean the end of the mink industry in Europe.

Millions of mink could have COVID-19. And European authorities are slaughtering them out of fear that they'll spread a mutated strain of the virus to people.

In northern Greece, that's already happened.

"We were notified by the breeder that he was positive after he took a test," said Theofilos Katzoglou, chief veterinarian for the region of Kozani, told Reuters.

And in Denmark, too, where hundreds of human infections related to mink have farmers scrambling.

"We were told that we should gas all our mink," farmer Hans Henrik Jeppesen told Reuters. "We have no corona in the farm now, but the faster we can do it, the better."


The order to cull came from the Danish government in early November.

"We have chosen to take extensive and comprehensive measures in the current situation — culling of 17 million mink, effectively shutting down the entire industry for now in Denmark," Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said last month. "This is not a decision that has been taken lightly, but it is a necessary precaution."

Europe is slaughtering millions of mink to curb the spread of COVID-19
The Danish government gave the order to cull millions of mink in November.Reuters

But the decision wasn't entirely well received. Hundreds of Danish farmers and mink breeders have since taken to the streets to protest, driving their tractors past government offices. Backlash has also come from some lawmakers, who argue there was no legal basis for a nationwide order to slaughter and that farmers should have been compensated first.

Denmark has been the world's largest exporter of mink fur for decades, with thousands employed in the industry. For many whose livelihoods depend on the global fur market, losing an entire population of mink is devastating.

"I don't know what I should say. It's been hard for us to not have our animals," Jeppesen said. "Every day we go out to check on our animals, how they are doing, their health, and all these things. That's what we do every day. So it's not fun. It's not fun. It's not fun."


Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen felt their pain during a visit to a family's farm.

"We have two generations of really skilled mink farmers, father and son, who in a very, very short time have had their life's work shattered," she said. "And that — it's been emotional for them."

Although the Danish health ministry recently said that the virus detected in mink farms has now likely been contained, the country is still deploying its armed forces to help finish off all 17 million animals.

Denmark isn't alone in its sacrifice of mink to protect humans from the coronavirus. The Netherlands, Spain, and Ireland are culling to curb outbreaks too, signalling what could be the beginning of the end of the mink business in Europe.