After just 207 animals testing positive for a mutation of coronavirus in Denmark, 17 million mink from more than 200 mink farms killed in just a few days’ time, and the Kopenhagen Fur shutting down; this massacre that is surely not the first to happen, bears the question: “How many plagues will it take for humanity to realize the ways how the fur industry is hurting us and the world we live in?”
An analysis by Boğaziçi University Sustainable Development Goals Student Hub.
by Yağmur Es
After just 207 animals testing positive for a mutation of coronavirus in Denmark (which produces 40% of the world’s mink fur), 17 million mink from more than 200 mink farms killed in just a few days’ time, and the Kopenhagen Fur (largest fur auction house of the world) shutting down; this massacre that is surely not the first to happen, bears the question: “How many plagues will it take for humanity to realize the ways how the fur industry is hurting us and the world we live in?”
It is the concern over the vaccine development that this strain has caused that can be seen as the main initiator for the immediate action as “if a strain of the virus changes too much from the one that is circulating within humans at the moment, that might mean that any vaccine or treatment that will be produced soon might not work”. But there are many reasons why even if two conditions (mink farms and COVID-19) did not come together, the root of the problem would still be expected to crash as such an industry cannot be sustained. The officials say, the virus (which began at a wholesale animal market in the first place) spread from human handler to mink, mutated, and then spread back to humans. Therefore, it is an animal industry that caused the spread of the virus and another helping mutate it and spread it farther more. Leaving humans and their actions at the center of the problem.
Since it will take a much longer time and space, I will focus solely on mink farms and how the mink fur industry is failing animals, humans, and the world because apparently, even after the spread of COVID-19, there is a demand for mink fur. As Kaufman, whose family company of furs has been active for more than a century says, “With furs, if it’s not made one place, it’s made some place else. Demand is there and need for the product is there. If Copenhagen doesn’t farm the skins, Russia will. If Russia doesn’t, China will. Either way there is gonna be a supply because there is demand.”
Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
I will touch upon this topic shortly just because so many other media outlets’ news about this revolved around the issue. So many mink farms having to close their doors and let go of their supply of livelihood, it left so many workers in an abyss without a certain hope for the future; joining the 400 million possible job losses caused by COVID-19 in the second quarter of 2020. Thinking about the other possible scenarios, the industry also puts the worker’s life at risk as there were already more than 200 workers being infected with mink-related COVID-19 before the massacre took place.
Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
The fur industry claims to be “natural” and “sustainable” and standing against the synesthetic alternatives, puts forward arguments of their products being more long-lasting and having a lower ecological impact. But according to a report done by CE Delft: “Compared with textiles (such as cotton and polyesters), fur has a higher impact on 17 of the 18 environmental themes, including climate change, eutrophication and toxic emissions” making the climate change impact of 1 kg of mink fur is five times higher than that of the highest-scoring textile (wool). When one thinks about the number of animals killed for each item (300 minks for one fur coat) and adds the pace of production into the picture, the problem of disposing of the dead animals also arise (pun intended) as we saw from the example of zombie minks of Denmark, which brings me to my next point.
Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land
One of the biggest worries about this phenomenon was what would happen if this COVID-19 strain was to pass upon to wildlife populations. But in fact, the wildlife is being indirectly affected even if the minks are dead. The pollution that the fur industry causes, do not stop once the fur farms are closed or the product is made. “Both incineration and burial produce vast quantities of harmful toxins that pollute the air. Many of the substances used to keep fur from decomposing over time are also highly toxic and have been shown to poison rivers and streams”. Minks, like foxes and raccoons, are wild and undomesticated animals so trapping them causes serious welfare-problems. They self-mutilate, get infected wounds, and even resort to cannibalism presenting a much uglier face than the one shown in stores through coat trims or pompoms. If we want to protect the wildlife it should not be because they might present a danger to public health but for their sake and they should not be protected only from COVID-19 but from humanity as minks got the disease from farmers in the first place.
Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action
The carbon footprint of fur is 28 times higher than polyester due to animal feed and emissions from manure. One does not expect the farms which use CO₂ to kill the animals “humanely” to care about the results of their actions on a bigger scale.
About the killing of the healthy minks along with the ones with COVID-19 the country’s foreign minister Jeppe Kofod says “we would rather go a step too far than take a step too little to combat Covid-19”. The right step (rather than “too little” or “too far”) for the health and prosperity of humans, animals, and the Earth would stop not producing fur in the first place. In the conclusion of Sophie Johnson’s article on The Ecologists, she says “COVID-19 has proven that the time when it’s acceptable to cram thousands of animals in tiny spaces is over”. I agree with her and even dare to add that if we want to strive for a better and sustainable future, industries like that of fur (which are unsustainable at their cores) should also become unacceptable.