The spotlight is once again on the fur industry in Europe following the killing of millions of mink in a mass culling in Denmark after there was an outbreak of coronavirus at farms in the country.
All mink would be slaughtered, the country’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced earlier this month. With the country farming up to 17 million of mink, Denmark is the biggest mink producer of the world. However, a quarter of its 1,000 mink farms has been hit by Cvoid.
A significant health risk for humans is posed by this “reservoir” of disease, said officials. There are also worried that a future vaccine could be compromised if there are mutations in the mink-related strains of the virus.
But there was an outcry after the government admitted its order had no legal basis which was reflected through images of mass graves of minks and farmers in tears. Since then the country’s agriculture minister has resigned. In order to protest about the handling of the crisis, hundreds of tractors drove into central Copenhagen on Saturday.
While the country’s parliament has backed the proposed to impose a ban on mink farming until 2022, the talks for compensating the famers is currently on going.
Approximately 10 million infected animals of all 288 infected herds have been culled, authorities. It is also believed that those healthy minks that remained have also been killed. An entire industry in Denmark based on mink was wiped out in a very short period of time putting about 6,000 jobs are at risk.
“It is a de facto permanent closure and liquidation of the fur industry,” said Danish Mink Breeders Association chairman Tage Pedersen in a statement. “This affects not only the mink breeders, but entire communities.”
A “controlled shutdown” over two to three years has also been announced by Kopenhagen Fur, the largest fur auction house of the world, and will not be reopened till this season’s pelts and older stockpiles are sold out.
The auctions largest fur auction house attracted thousands of buyers at one time, mostly from China. Last year, the auction house traded in 25 million Danish and foreign furs.
But there were signs it was struggling even before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the business.
The price of mink pelts has reduced by two third compared to its price last year when it cost over $90 (£69) each. That has impacted the local farmers and this pattern can also be seen in other parts of the world. While China is the biggest fur importer by far but it has also become a major producer.
This competition has driven prices down, said Else Skjold, head of fashion at the Royal Danish Academy. “A lot of new farmers went into the market and so there was simply an overflow of fur.”
Europe does not have any significant fur farming business. According to industry group Fur Europe, there were 4,350 fur farms in 24 countries in Europe as of 2018. After Denmark, the biggest producers of fur in the continent were Poland, the Netherlands, Finland, Lithuania and Greece.
Prices of fur have shot up since the cull began.. “People were concerned that there might be a shortage,” says Mark Oaten, chief executive of the International Fur Federation (IFF). Denmark accounts for at least a quarter of the global mink trade.
The gap will likely be filled in by foreign competitors, says Skjold. “They will invest hugely in expanding mink farming in China, I suspect.”
There is however a rising trend among consumers against the use of fur in fashion and use of fur has been stopped by numerous fashion brands and replaced it with synthetic alternatives.
Fur farming was banned in the United Kingdom in 2003. Production of fur has also been stopped in Austria, Germany and Japan while it is being phased out in other countries.
But as consumers in Europe rejected fur for fashion, they were replaced by customers from China.
“Towards the 2000s you could see the Chinese market grow. Fur represents that you’ve entered the middle class,” says Else Skjold.
(Adapted from BBC.com)