The end of the Dutch mink farming industry - one of the largest in the world

30 June 2020

The Dutch Party for the Animals’ proposal to ban mink farming was adopted by the Dutch parliament last week. This will put a stop to the Dutch mink farming industry: the world's fourth largest after China, Denmark and Poland. This spring, COVID-19 broke out in 17 mink farms in the Netherlands. Almost 600,000 minks were gassed to death prematurely to prevent further spreading. Although the government wanted to allow mink farmers to continue farming new animals, the Lower House made a clear statement: the empty mink cages will not be filled again.

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The Party Chair of the Dutch Party for the Animals, Esther Ouwehand about the successful achievement in the Lower House.

“This is an enormous breakthrough: finally they will put an end to the killing of animals for their fur in the Netherlands,” according to Esther Ouwehand, the Party Chair of the Party for the Animals. “Apart from the mink farming industry being morally reprehensible it is also untenable because it is a threat to public health. Since its incorporation, the Party for the Animals together with animal rights organisations in the country has been fighting for an end to this export-oriented fur industry, where thousands of animals at a time are grown under stressful circumstances in small wire mesh cages until they are big enough to be gassed to death and skinned.

Already in 2012, the Dutch Parliament agreed with a ban on fur farming, but “the transitional period was stretched time and again thanks to the successful lobby of mink farmers”, according Ouwehand; the farmers were allowed to phase out their business operations until 2024. “Unfortunately, many mink farmers seized this opportunity to quickly expand their business significantly.” This term was cancelled last week. The empty cages will remain empty and all the farms - estimated 128 - have to be closed by the end of this year. “By ending the mink farming industry now instead of in 2024 millions of minks will be saved from a miserable life.”

The import and export of minks have also been provisionally banned thanks to the transport ban on minks which was imposed on the insistence of the Party for the Animals and will apply as long as the COVID-19 virus is around. “Apart from the horrendous animal abuse caused by this industry, it has now also become clear that minks can get the virus from humans and transfer it among each other and to humans.” The virus was also found in a mink farm in Denmark, one of the two other major producers of mink fur in Europe. All 11,000 animals were culled. “We should abstain from keeping thousands of animals, creating a reservoir in which the virus can persist. This is not only our opinion, it is also the opinion of virologists”, according to Ouwehand.

Not only minks appeared to be susceptible to the virus, also rodents like hamsters and rabbits are. “Our motion requests a ban on the professional - large scale - farming of all animals that are susceptible to the COVID-19 virus and that form a potential reservoir.” The fact that this motion was adopted, can therefore also have consequences for the dozens of rabbit farms in the Netherlands where hundreds of thousands of rabbits are fattened for the production of meat.

Esther Ouwehand at a protest against the mink farming industry. Foto: Bont voor Dieren

Worldwide fur production
This ban in the Netherlands is a step forward in the fight against the worldwide fur industry. Denmark has not yet decided to close the mink farms, but the production of fox fur is being phased out in that country. Increasingly more countries have put an end to their fur industry in recent years. The closure of the Dutch mink farm industry will result in a reduction of approximately four million pieces of fur less on the market a year. And last week, the Australian Animal Justice Party achieved a great success with a local ban in Inner West Council, partly the result of a successful campaign by this party.

Nevertheless, approximately 100 million animals a year are killed for the fur industry, including foxes and rabbits as well as minks. The Party for the Animals and its sister parties will continue to fight for a complete ban on the production, import and trade of all kinds of fur - in the Netherlands, Europe and beyond. The production of this luxury product is unethical and has a harmful effect on the environment while causing social grievances at the same time, as Marianne Thieme explains in this lecture. Now that the fur industry has turned out to be a reservoir of infectious diseases, the Dutch Party for the Animals is hoping that the world will follow its lead and that all remaining fur producing countries will stop this barbaric practice.