A Waterville mink farm is awaiting the legal justification behind a possible cull of its mink, in response to fears over a new strain of COVID-19 detected internationally.
he Department of Health has handed down the recommendation in response to the risk of mink-adapted SARS-CoV-2 variants emerging, and it follows a decision by the Danish government to cull all of its mink after a form of COVID transmissible to humans was found on farms.
Mette Lykke Nielsen – CEO of Fur Europe, which includes the Waterville farm under its umbrella – claimed that the Department had also requested that no further mink breeding would unfold should a cull take place, casting doubt over the future of the Waterville farm and its 13 employees.
It is understood that there are approximately 120,000 mink between the country’s three major farms, but it is unclear how many of these are at the Waterville farm. Attempts by The Kerryman to contact Willowherb Ltd-operated company were unsuccessful.
A Department spokesperson told The Kerryman that it “collected samples from mink on each of the mink farms as part of an enhanced surveillance programme for SARS-CoV-2,” recently. “There was no suspicion of disease on any of the holdings. The results of these samples were negative for the virus.
“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.
“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.”
A Department of Health spokesperson also confirmed that no cases were identified following recent tests on workers and their families.
Fur Europe said that neither the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) nor the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) advises to follow the Danish example and voiced its displeasure.
“The order [for a cull] has not been given, the department has only made their intentions clear in the press release,” Mr Nielsen told The Kerryman.
“Our farmers are in the midst of the pelting season, and the government really needs to bring forward the legal justification as soon as possible. Denmark and Ireland are not comparable situations, and we have a hard time understanding how three healthy fur farms on the outskirts of Ireland constitute a threat to public health. It is disproportional, and it is against the international recommendations.”
The Department of Agriculture has previously said a bill providing for the phased introduction of a fur-farming ban is in the process of being prepared. This would include a prohibition on mink farming.