Ought to Europe be afraid of its mink farms?
Mink could be contaminated by SARS-CoV-2, however it’s unclear whether or not they can go the virus on to people. What is understood for certain is that people can go it on to them. Nevertheless, attributable to doubts about the specter of animal to human transmission with these animals, varied European international locations have culled hundreds of thousands of the mink on their farms. Final November, for instance, Denmark even introduced it might cull all 17 million of them.
The Greek strategy
Within the north of Greece, a key actor in Europe”s mink farm and fur trade, issues are totally different. In Western Macedonia, one of many nation’s poorest areas, individuals rely closely on the fur trade. At the least 1.5 million mink are farmed there.
We visited one of many 80 farms within the Kastoria space. We have been solely allowed in underneath strict circumstances which included a unfavorable PCR check for the complete crew.
Nicole Baudin, a mink breeder on the farm, tells us that they have been “very shocked that these animals have been so delicate to the COVID virus”. After they realised that was the case, the individuals working there instantly began sporting masks and cleansing their palms.
Now, they aren’t allowed to work with greater than two individuals to a shed. She says that they’ve tried to do as a lot as they’ll to maintain COVID out of the realm. As such, all mink farmers at the moment are vaccinated there.
These measures, in addition to common exams on mink, are strongly suggested by the European Centre for Illness Prevention and Management (ECDC) to stop contamination of the animals in what it calls a “high-risk” atmosphere.
To date, the farm we visited has not been contaminated.
Nevertheless, a minimum of 15% of Greek farms have. That’s lower than within the Netherlands, but it surely’s broadly in step with huge fur producers like Denmark and Sweden. Regardless of this proportion, sick animals are not being culled within the area. They continue to be remoted underneath shut veterinary supervision. Zoi Thomou, a vet, tells us how they function:
“If we discover COVID-positive animals, then the farm enters a quarantine protocol. We do not kill animals anymore. We assist the sick animals in any means we are able to.”
In accordance with her, they already know that sick animals can develop immunity. “After some time, the virus will not be even there”, she provides. Nevertheless, she does recognise that extra analysis is required.
Employment and the financial system assist clarify Greece’s totally different strategy. The fur trade is likely one of the greatest sources of employment within the Western Macedonia area. It is second solely to the vitality sector.
Within the city of Kastoria alone it gives 60% of the 35 000 inhabitants with jobs. One of many foremost causes for that is that fur crafts are an historic custom within the space, relationship again to the Byzantine Empire.
We go to one tannery in Kastoria that processes round a million pelts a yr. Its proprietor, Akis Tsoukas, is the present President of the Kastorian Fur Affiliation. He claims that with out the fur trade, the area would collapse.
He tells us that “there’s the breeding sector after which there’s the processing sector, which produces ready-to-wear garments, ready-to-wear coats. There are over 2000 corporations within the space. Some are small household companies, some are huge corporations”.
Huge retailers there are even in a position to present as many as 500 jobs, as fur coats are designed and manufactured by expert artisans.
On the time we have been on location in Greece, some 18 000 fur coats have been destined for Russian, Ukrainian, Monegasque and Swiss markets. It is huge enterprise. Greece’s fur exports are price round 200 million euros a yr.
Dimitrios Kostopoulos is a fur vendor in Western Macedonia. In his opinion, “there’s a actual want for furs. Furs can’t be changed by some other materials or clothes”.
Well being vs Economic system
Nevertheless, the pandemic has pressured native authorities to stroll a high-quality line between making certain public well being and defending the earnings of many households.
Georgios Vavliaras is the area’s Vice-Governor for enterprise growth. To him “it’s a monoculture farming state of affairs as a result of all the opposite sectors additionally reside from the fur and develop round it”. He tells us that shedding the trade can be extraordinarily troublesome for them. Having stated that, he’s nonetheless attempting to persuade individuals to show to different sectors. The objective, he provides, “is for younger individuals to remain within the space and work”.
The animal activist argument
Greece’s strategy to mink farming hasn’t gone with out criticism. Historically against fur farms, environmental teams argue that the COVID-19 pandemic is making animal struggling worse.
At a refuge for injured wild species close to the town of Thessaloniki, we meet Stavros Karageorgakis, an skilled on animal ethics. He’s a long-time opponent to fur farming.
In accordance with him, the pandemic has made confinement circumstances worse for the mink, “they merely can’t keep away from catching the virus as a result of they’re trapped in small cages, with only some inches of area”. He believes that with totally different dwelling circumstances, they may develop immunity by means of different means.
Moreover, environmentalists argue that financial progress doesn’t justify the trade’s standing in Greece. They are saying that fur farming has been prohibited or is being phased-out by varied EU members, it doesn’t matter what its financial potential.
It is true that in some international locations, legislative proposals to ban fur farming are at the moment being thought-about. Greece will not be considered one of them.
An age-old battle
Animal activists insist that tourism, agriculture and the service sector can fill the hole of a possible shutdown of the fur trade in Greece. To Stavros, that is the place the European Union should come into play. He believes that it ought to ban the fur trade in all member states. “In fact locals want motivation and encouragement as a result of they are going to be hit financially. They should be provided options by means of acceptable applications”, he provides.
Then again, to individuals like Nicole Baudin, “some individuals use all the things, each event, to be in opposition to fur”. If it is not COVID, it’s the cages or it is the best way animals are handled.
Retailers, farmers and artisans need to protect their earnings. Authorities are working to guard each public well being and employment. Environmentalists are preventing for animal welfare. The pandemic in Greece and in different European international locations has exacerbated the already advanced debate on fur.