By Carmel Hayes
THOUSANDS of mink will be slaughtered at a Laois farm, despite the fact that test samples have proved negative for a mutated strain of Covid-19.
The Department of Agriculture has informed owners of the Vasa Ltd fur farm in Vicarstown that animals are to be culled, due to the possible risk of spread of the mutant virus strain that saw millions of mink euthanized in Denmark.
It is devastating news for management and workers at the Laois farm, which has operated for more than 50 years.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan recommended that animals at Vasa and Ireland’s two other mink farms be culled ‘as a matter of urgency’.
While no samples have proved positive in Ireland and no human infections have been confirmed, the Department of Agriculture has informed farm owners in Laois, Kerry and Donegal that the mink must be culled on public health advice.
In a statement today, the Department of Agriculture said it had been working closely with the public health authorities, as well as with the operators of mink farms in Ireland, to address any potential risks arising as a result of the Covid-19 variant.
The statement said: “Mink farmers continue to operate in full compliance with all legislative and animal welfare requirements and have co-operated fully with these efforts. Testing of the mink herd in Ireland detected no positive results to Covid-19 to date.
“The Department of Health has indicated that the continued farming of mink represents an ongoing risk of additional mink-adapted SARS-CoV-2 variants emerging and, therefore, it has recommended that farmed mink in Ireland should be culled to minimise or eliminate this risk.”
Following the announcement today, mink farmers accused the Government of culling healthy animals ‘without providing any scientific or legal basis’.
In a statement, the farmers said the decision had left workers and their families in rural Ireland ‘devastated and without a livelihood’.
The statement said: “While the Irish government is leaning on the recent Danish decision to cull all animals on these farms, it neglects to mention that the Danish decision was based on a rapid increase in the number of infected mink farms.
“This increase was triggered by many farms located in the same geographical area but this is far from the case in Ireland, where there are just three farms in rural areas located in Kerry, Donegal and Laois.”
There is already a commitment in the Programme for Government to phase out mink farming in Ireland.
It is understood that the farms will be allowed to pelt the remaining animals to fill outstanding orders. The three farms produce more than 100,000 pelts a year.