The problem came to light in April, when two fur farm workers in the Netherlands were found to have contracted the coronavirus from mink, which is the only known animal-to-human transmission following the initial outbreak. Photo by Mark Hicken/Alamy Stock Photo
The Netherlands is expected to kill more than 350,000 mink by gassing, in a massive cull following an outbreak of coronavirus on fur farms in the country. It is estimated that most of these—about 300,000—are pups just days or weeks old.
The killing of animals on fur farms is heartbreaking under any circumstances, because of how utterly needless and preventable it is. But this tragic cull, and the scale of it, is a stark reminder of the many problems that surround fur factory farming, impacting both animal welfare and human health, and why all production of this unnecessary commodity needs to end immediately.
The problem came to light in April, when two fur farm workers in the Netherlands were found to have contracted the coronavirus from mink, which is the only known animal-to-human transmission following the initial outbreak. In following weeks, 13 of the Netherlands’ roughly 130 fur farms reported mink infected with the virus. And the number of infected farms keeps on growing. The farms said more mink were dying than usual, and some had nasal discharge or difficulty breathing.
This month, the government ordered all mink on infected Dutch fur farms be killed to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus to humans. The cull, which began last week, has farm workers in protective clothing using gas to kill mink mothers and their pups. The animals’ bodies are then transported to a disposal center in a sealed shipping container and the farms disinfected.
It is now clear that these fur farms, where animals are crowded in close contact with each other, are reservoirs for the spread of pandemics. Organizations like ours have been sounding the alarm bell over fur farms—and the high risk for disease they pose—for years, and as tragic as this development is, it is not surprising to us.
Fur farms also pose an extraordinary animal welfare problem. Much like factory farms and wildlife markets, the animals in these operations live short, miserable lives in small, barren and filthy cages, usually without any veterinary care. A Humane Society International investigation of Finland’s fur farms last year showed many animals had eye infections and gaping wounds, including a mink with a large, bloody hole in the head. Some animals lay dead in the cages and others ate them or walked over them.
Such fur farms exist around the globe, including in the United States, where the top 10 states for mink pelt production (in order of most to least) are Wisconsin, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Washington. As part of our 11-point policy plan to reduce animal suffering and help prevent future national and global pandemics, the Humane Society family of organizations is calling for an end to all fur farming everywhere it exists around the world.
We have already made tremendous progress in fighting fur, with dozens of fashion designers and retailers turning away from this cruel product in recent years. In the United States, California has banned the production of fur and all sales of new fur products. Globally, Britain became the first country in the world to ban fur production, and it has been followed by a dozen European countries, including Austria, the Czech Republic and Norway.
The Netherlands, once the third largest fur farming country in the world, banned fur production in 2013 with an 11-year phaseout. But the tragedy now playing out in the country is an opportunity for the government there, and for governments in all fur-producing nations, to take note of the serious public health and animal welfare problems associated with fur farms and close them down without delay. With the pandemic still ravaging the globe, it simply doesn’t make sense for anyone to reinvest in an enterprise that’s fallen out of fashion and favor the world over.
Published at Thu, 11 Jun 2020 21:25:46 +0000
By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Just today, the Department of the Interior proposed another rule, again to overturn the prior administration’s rule that barred baiting of brown bears on two million acres of public lands in the state’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Dacia Doroff/iStock.com
The Trump administration has given trophy hunters the green light to commit some of the worst sort of carnage on 20 million acres of Alaska’s pristinely beautiful national preserves.
Under a new rule finalized this week, trophy hunters can, starting next month, kill hibernating mother black bears and their cubs in their dens with the aid of artificial lights, shoot wolf and coyote pups and mothers at their dens, use bait like donuts and meat scraps to attract brown and black bears, shoot vulnerable caribou while they are swimming (including with the aid of motorboats), and use dogs to hunt black bears.
This is yet another dastardly move from an administration that, from the start, has carried out a no-holds-barred assault on America’s—and the world’s—most precious wildlife. From weakening protections for native American wildlife covered by the Endangered Species Act to allowing trophy hunters to import the trophies of endangered animals like rhinos and lions, the Department of the Interior, under Trump, has consistently played into the hands of trophy hunters and other corporate interests to dismantle the progress we’ve made for wildlife over decades.
A lot of this, including the National Park Service rule finalized this week, has involved reversing protections for wildlife put in place by the Obama administration.
And they’re not done. Just today, the Department of the Interior proposed another rule, again to overturn the prior administration’s rule that barred baiting of brown bears on two million acres of public lands in the state’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Hunting of brown bears over bait is an extreme practice and biologists have been raising alarms about the loss of brown bear populations in Alaska.
We already know what the carnage sanctioned by these rule changes will look like. Before the 2015 rule, thousands of bears and wolves were shot from the air, killed over bait barrels, clubbed or shot in their dens and hunted down with lights at night. Many of these cruel practices professed to reduce numbers of iconic predators in order to boost prey species for hunters, but science has shown that nature cannot be manipulated this way without terrible results.
We have seen brown bear numbers across Alaska dwindle because of intensive management. State lands, where the egregious practices now permitted by the NPS rule are already allowed by the Alaska Board of Game, have seen sharp drops in wildlife populations. Alaska state officials should prefer their wildlife alive rather than dead because the tens of thousands of wildlife watchers who trek into the state each year put far more money into the state’s coffers than a handful of trophy hunters seeking to kill the animals do.
The Humane Society of the United States, along with a coalition of organizations, is currently in federal court defending the Obama-era NPS and Kenai rules. These changes are unlawful because Congress requires that the Department of the Interior conserve and protect wildlife in national preserves and national wildlife refuges. By opening season on the animals it’s supposed to protect just to appease a few trophy hunters, the agency—and this administration—have not only shown themselves to be extremely poor stewards of our public lands, they have let down a majority of Americans who would never sanction such cruelty against our native wildlife.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Published at Wed, 10 Jun 2020 19:39:15 +0000