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Calls for Irish minks to be culled amid Covid-19 concerns

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Mink at a farm in Gjoel in North Jutland, Denmark (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AP)

Mink at a farm in Gjoel in North Jutland, Denmark (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AP)

AP/PA Images

Mink at a farm in Gjoel in North Jutland, Denmark (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AP)

Veterinary Ireland is calling for the culling of minks in Ireland “as soon as is practically possible” after a Coronavirus mutation was detected in Denmark.

Dr Mark Dalton, spokesman for Veterinary Ireland, said it’s already contained within the Programme For Government, that mink farms should be closed.

Dr Dalton felt the fact a coronavirus mutation had been found in mink in Denmark, only further added to the necessity to close the Irish mink farms.

He told Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1, the best option was to cull the minks on Irish farms.

It was merely a matter of “when” this would take place, he added.

“Veterinary Ireland is extremely aware we’re talking about people’s livelihoods here,” Dr Dalton said. “Thereneeds to be a compensation package but there was already an imperative (to cull minks) on welfare grounds.

“And now that would very much appear to be as a precautionary principle because the downside is so potentially huge. There’s an added imperative.”

Six countries have reported coronavirus outbreaks at mink farms. These are Denmark, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy and the US.

There are three mink farms in Ireland - in Kerry, Donegal and Laois. Testing is underway at the locations, RTÉ reported. Dr Dalton said he thought the final decision on when mink farms would be closed, would be made with the Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the Department of Health.

“The reported developments are very serious,” he said. Retired mink farmer Redmond O’Hanlon said: "Mink farming was introduced into this country by two vets.”

And no evidence of cruelty had been found, Mr O’Hanlon claimed.

“The closing down of mink farms is purely ideological,” he said.

The former mink farmer claimed Veterinary Ireland had been influenced by animal rights groups, something Dr Dalton denied.

Mr O’Hanlon said the mink trade is “huge” business and he believed if Irish farms closed, along with other European farms, “China won’t close down but they’ll benefit from the lossof mink in Western countries…”

Mr O’Hanlon claimed minks are “isolated” on farms due to what he said was a risk of animal rights campaigners breaking in. Andhe blamed campaigners for releasing 3000 mink from a farm into the wild in the ‘60s. It’s estimated thereare up to 33,500 wild mink in Ireland. The animals are aggressive and are known to be susceptible to Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Dr Dalton said one of the major concerns about mink was the volatile animals living in crowded conditions.

But the virus detection in other countries had only added increased pressure to close the farms, he felt.

Mr O’Hanlon claimed minks were very well looked after.

He questioned why mink farms were being labelled negatively while hens were “in small cages all their life, just laying eggs.”

“The only slight difference is hens don’t wish to kill each other, whereas minks do,” he added. MrO’Hanlon said if all mink farm employees are tested and the animals isolated “they can continue farming without any incidence of this.”

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