The country’s farmed mink population will be culled over fears of the further spread of Covid-19 through a variant strain of the virus after a mutated form of the virus was detected in a Danish mink farm.
It’s understood the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan wrote to the chief vet at the Department of Agriculture in recent days outlining concerns over a variant strain of Covid in mink, which is feared could represent a “significant” an ongoing risk to public health if this strain was to become the dominant strain.
It comes as more than 2,000 people here have died from Covid and pharmaceutical companies report positive vaccine trial results.
There are three remaining mink farms in Ireland, home to around 120,000 mink, located in Donegal, Laois and Kerry and it’s understood that the three farms will be allowed to pelt, or remove the fur from their mink, but that no further breeding of mink can take place on the farms.
A statement from the Department of Agriculture said: “The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been working closely with the public health authorities as well as with the operators of mink farms in Ireland to address any potential risks arising as a result of Covid-19.
“Mink farmers continue to operate in full compliance with all legislative and animal welfare requirements and have co-operated fully with these efforts. Testing of the mink herd in Ireland detected no positive results to Covid-19 to date.
“The Department of Health has indicated that the continued farming of mink represents an ongoing risk of additional mink-adapted SARS-CoV-2 variants emerging and, therefore, it has recommended that farmed mink in Ireland should be culled to minimise or eliminate this risk.
“The Department of Agriculture continues to engage with the mink farmers to consider the next steps.”
Mink farming was due to be discontinued under the Programme for Government and the Department of Agriculture had planned to test mink on the country’s three mink farms to see if the virus was present, but it’s understood the call by the Chief Medical Officer has expedited this move.
Last week Veterinary Ireland called for the culling of the country’s mink population “as soon as possible” after a Covid mutation was detected in Denmark.
Dr Mark Dalton, spokesman for Veterinary Ireland said the fact a coronavirus mutation had been found in mink in Denmark, only further added to the necessity to close the Irish mink farms.
The Danish agriculture minister stepped down this week over the country’s handling of the situation and an illegal order by the government to cull the country’s farmed mink population. Denmark is one of the world’s largest producer of mink and home to 17m mink.