Russian mink farmers have shugged off concerns about coronavirus mutations in the animals.
While Denmark is to cull its entire mink population – as many as 17 million – after the discovery that a mutated form of the coronavirus found on mink farms can spread to humans, Russia says it has no intention of taking such action.
Danish researchers said they found that the animals can harbour new mutations of the virus that could undermine the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines that are currently being developed worldwide.
At least 12 Danes have so far been diagnosed with mink-related coronavirus.
Producers of mink fur in Russia, however, say they have not encountered outbreaks of the coronavirus on their farms and do not have plans to cull their stocks.
“We have no intention of killing our mink because of Covid-19. Our animals and staff working on the farms have been completely healthy and we haven’t seen anything unusual,” a representative of Russia’s largest mink farm, Kaliningrad-based Bagrationovskoye, told The Moscow Times.
Two other large mink farms in Russia also said they had not diagnosed any cases of the coronavirus and were not aware of any mink-related coronavirus cases in Russia.
Minks’ susceptibility to the coronavirus came first to light in April when the Netherlands reported outbreaks on mink farms.
Infected humans who work there can transmit the virus to captive mink, which are kept in close quarters ideal for rapid transmission from mink to mink, where scientists say the virus can mutate.
The altered virus is believed to then be transmitted from mink to human.
Spain and the Netherlands have also announced the culling of portions of their mink populations.
Sergei Stolbov, president of the Russian Fur Union, told The Moscow Times that no plans have been made to “eliminate the entire stock of mink in the country,” calling the connection between mink and the coronavirus “understudied and far fetched”.
Russia, which during the 1980s accounted for 40 per cent of the mink fur trade, still slaughters around 1.2 million mink annually.
Its global share of the market, however, has fallen to just three per cent.