Danes start culling 2.5 million minks after virus hits farms

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - Danish veterinarians and farmers have started killing at least 2.5 million mink in northern Denmark, authorities said Monday after coronavirus was reported on at least 63 holdings.
The Danish Veterinary and Food Authority is handling the culling of infected animals, while breeders who have uninfected animals on a farm within 5 miles of an infected farm must euthanize them themselves, said Flemming Kure Marker of the government agency.
"We're moving forward, we're making it," he said of the cull that began Thursday in the village of Gjoel, west of Aalborg, adding that it could take months depending on the spread of the virus.
There were no immediate numbers of how many animals had already been killed.
On Friday, a mink farmer refused to let authorities into his farm to kill the animals and a padlock had to be cut off, police spokesman Henrik Skals told The Associated Press. Over the weekend, a handful of protesters were removed from two mink farms, he added.
The government said breeders with uninfected mink receive 100% compensation, while breeders with infected animals receive less than an incentive for farmers to keep the infection out of their herds.
Denmark is one of the largest mink exporters in the world, producing an estimated 17 million furs a year. Copenhagen Fur, a cooperative of 1,500 Danish breeders, accounts for 40% of the world's mink production. Most of the exports go to China and Hong Kong.
The coronavirus pandemic could "threaten the entire profession," said Tage Pedersen, chairman of the Danish fur breeders association. "All breeders are currently in great uncertainty and frustration about this 'meteor' that fell on our heads."
Scientists are still studying how the mink got infected and whether they can transmit it to humans. Some may have received the virus from infected workers. According to the Dutch authorities, some farm workers later retrieved the virus from the minks.
In August, the Netherlands brought forward the mandatory end of mink breeding by three years to 2021, as more and more coronavirus infections have occurred in fur farms.
In Poland, another major mink fur exporter, the ruling right-wing coalition and the opposition are deeply divided over a new law that would ban fur farming. Opponents say the law will destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of fur farmers.
___ Monika Scislowska from Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.
Follow AP's pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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