28th April 2020 – After COVID-19 infections were found on two mink farms in the Netherlands, global animal protection organisation FOUR PAWS is calling for a rapid ban on fur farming in China and other countries. On Sunday April 26, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture confirmed the discovery of the COVID-19 virus after symptoms such as respiratory problems and increased mortality were observed in the animals. Some workers also showed symptoms but have not been tested so far.
During the 2003 SARS pandemic, the virus was detected in racoon dogs, amongst others, which are kept in their millions on fur farms.
“On fur farms, thousands of animals such as mink, racoon dogs or foxes are crammed into tiny cages under horrific conditions. Many animals suffer from injuries and diseases. Fur farms must be banned not only from an animal welfare point of view but also to stop the development and spread of dangerous zoonoses, such as the current COVID-19 virus,"
- Thomas Pietsch, Wildlife Expert at FOUR PAWS
One of Germany's most renowned corona experts, Professor Dr Christian Drosten, who directs the Institute of Virology at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, also suspects racoon dog farms as a possible source of the COVID-19 virus, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.
China as a fur hotspot
China is the world’s largest consumer of fur products, and one of the largest exporters in the world. In 2018, an estimated 21 million mink skins, 17 million fox skins and 12 million racoon dog skins were produced there. The Chinese government, however, has currently exempted the fur industry from restrictions on wildlife use as a result of the current pandemic and has listed fur animals as farm animals.
"It is not only wildlife markets that must be closed for safety reasons. The fur industry needs to be shut down too and its role in COVID-19 has to be investigated as quickly as possible," says Pietsch.
Australia and fur
Here in Australia, a 2019 joint investigation between FOUR PAWS and the Animal Justice Party found animal fur being sold as ‘faux fur’ here, misleading the public across a number of popular Victorian retail outlets.
"Fur farming is factory farming, and is a potential breeding ground for pandemics. Australia must ban all imports and sales of fur – for both the animals, and to help stop the spread of dangerous viruses," said Elise Burgess, Head of Communications at FOUR PAWS Australia, the Australian representative of the global Fur Free Retailer initiative which has signed the likes of Prada, Gucci and H&M to its fur free commitments.
A recent (2019) YouGov opinion poll found 88% of Australians who are aware of animal cruelty issues in fashion, are concerned about the welfare and treatment of animals in the fur industry.
Alongside FOUR PAWS, Victorian MP Andy Meddick and NSW MP Emma Hurst are calling for bans on fur within their states.
"By echoing their calls, together we can help to save millions of animals from a lifetime of abuse. FOUR PAWS is urging Australians to call on Premiers Gladys Berejiklian and Daniel Andrews to lead the way, and make their states the first to ban the sale of fur," said Burgess.
Over 5,000 people have already joined the call at https://wearitkind.org/ban-fur/
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.
Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Hungary, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in 12 countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au