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Mutant virus in mink raises doubts about the future of fur


Mutant Virus in Mink Raises Doubts About the Future of Fur

Versace, Gucci and Prada have all joined the anti-fur movement in recent years. But the latest body blow to the industry was just delivered courtesy of Covid-19, via a mutation of the virus found in mink.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has acknowledged that wiping out all breeding mink means the industry may not recover in Denmark, which is among the world’s biggest producers of the fur.

“My position remains that the mink have to be culled, because they pose a risk to human health,” she said in Copenhagen on Tuesday. Over 10 million animals have already been slaughtered in Denmark, according to industry estimates.

As prospects grow that mink farming could derail efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the future of Europe’s fur industry seems less certain than ever. Outside Denmark, other mink producing nations are watching closely as they figure out their next steps.

In Sweden, authorities say they have transmission of the virus among mink under control. But roughly a quarter of Swedish mink farms have had outbreaks, and the industry realizes it can’t ignore the risks. Jorgen Martinsson, the head of Swedish Mink, said in a Facebook post that “we must never hide from the difficult questions.”

The Luxury Industry

The real shift might come from within the luxury industry itself. Diana Verde Nieto, co-founder of Positive Luxury, which rates the social and environmental impact of high-end brands, says that the “spread of the virus among the mink population in Denmark is likely to be another wake-up call.”

“The world as a whole has to re-think our relationship with nature,” she said.

Even before mink became associated with coronavirus mutations, the industry was facing a bleak future. Global mink production has dropped to about 45 million pelts, almost half the all-time high of 87 million in 2014, according to Fur Europe, a lobby group for the industry in Brussels.

Perfect Storm

The organization has defended the industry, and says fur trade has played “no significant role” in spreading the disease and that mink farmers have increased screening since the pandemic began in the spring. It argues that there’s still room in the world for fur.

“The fundamental demand for natural fur is strong,” Fur Europe said in a statement last week. It says the key is renewable products, rather than “today’s ‘buy and throw away’ culture.”

As Kare Molbak, Denmark’s top epidemiologist, put it in an interview with Politiken, “Mink are very easily infected by the coronavirus, and once it’s there, it spreads at the speed of light,” he said. “We’ve seen how that then spreads to humans. That makes it practically impossible to handle the spread during a pandemic.”

“It’s a perfect storm,” he said.

— With assistance by Agnieszka de Sousa, Niclas Rolander, Anatoly Medetsky, Flavia Rotondi, Alberto Brambilla, Thomas Gualtieri, and Stepan Kravchenko

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