HSVMA Statement on Fur-Farmed Animals
and the Risk of Disease

(Revised August 2021) - As veterinary professionals with expertise in the field of animal health and welfare, we acknowledge severe animal welfare deficiencies inherent in the fur trade, including the ways in which the animals are cruelly trapped, housed and killed.  We also have serious concerns about disease transmission through susceptible fur-farmed animal populations, such as mink, fox and raccoon dogs, as well as contagious disease spread between animal species and humans.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19 disease in people. SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks that have been reported on fur farms during this current global pandemic in the United States, Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy Spain, and other countries reveal that this industry is not only cruel and unnecessary but also represents a serious public health risk. Of particular concern is that genetic analysis has shown that workers at mink farms have introduced SARS-CoV-2 to mink and that the animals have spread the virus back to people.

We already know that welfare standards on fur farms are poor and now we also know that farmed mink can be a persistent source for the virus and continued infection in people, posing a public health threat,” said Dr. Gail Hansen a public health veterinarian.


More than 100 million wild animals worldwide, including mink, foxes, and raccoon dogs, are killed for their fur every year.  The majority (around 85%) are raised intensively on battery-cage fur factory farms.  

The living conditions in high-density fur operations fail to satisfy many of the most basic needs essential for the animals’ mental well-being; thus, farmed fur-bearing animals are more likely to exhibit stereotypical behaviors and cannibalism.  Not only are these captive wild animals highly stressed and thus immune-compromised, but they are extraordinarily crowded and in close contact with each other’s respiratory secretions and excrement. 

Fur farms also often lack naturally mitigating factors—such as abundant sunlight, genetic variability, and healthy distance between animals. For these reasons, fur farms provide potential channels for diseases to propagate from one fur-bearing species to another, and conditions in which viruses may genetically recombine into forms potentially virulent to humans.

COVID-19 Pandemic and Fur Farms:

The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by the virus called SARS-CoV-2. Mink, foxes, and raccoon dogs are susceptible to infection with the related SARS-CoV-1 viruses. The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease in people has had a particularly devastating impact on mink, who experience respiratory problems similar to people and die at alarmingly high rates. During this global pandemic, the virus has spread through fur farms around the world and in Denmark the government-ordered killing of more than 17 million animals to try to stem the outbreak. Meanwhile, in the United States, outbreaks on farms in Utah, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Michigan have resulted in the deaths of thousands of mink. Government reaction has ranged from the Dutch government’s decision to move up a ban on fur farming by three years to March 2021 to relative inaction by the U.S. government.

Industry figures say there are 245 fur farms in 22 U.S. states. Given the high rate of infections on mink fur farms around the world any and all of these could face a potential outbreak and potentially pose a public health hazard.


Risk of Transmission between humans and mink: As with many facets of this deadly disease, there is still much that is not known about the spread of SARS-CoV-2 on fur farms. However, we do know infected workers have introduced SARS-CoV-2 to mink and that mink have passed the virus and mutated variants back to people. Based on these factors, the mink farms present a public health hazard. Increased hygiene and use of personal protective equipment on mink farms (the method used in the U.S.) have not been sufficient to protect people from COVID-19 from mink. In addition, farmed mink with the virus have escaped and also put wild animals at risk of getting the virus.

Mink Suffering Significantly from the Disease:  SARS-CoV-2 has a unique feature that makes it particularly likely to cause illness and has a special attraction for cells in the respiratory systems of mink as with people. As a result, mink, who are already stressed from the unnatural living conditions, experience severe respiratory distress before dying. This is particularly problematic on the US farms where the animals are not being culled and are therefore dying from the disease. In Denmark they found that mink rapidly became susceptible to re-infection by SARS-CoV-2, even those that had recovered from the virus earlier.

Mink farms could create a reservoir for the disease:  Given the way fur farms are set up in outdoor-caged facilities, SARS-CoV-2 virus not only circulates on the farms but that the farms can also spread to the virus to mink and other species in the local environment.  In the US, both wild and presumed escaped mink were found with the virus most likely acquired it from nearby infected farmed mink . This creates the potential for a reservoir for the disease, creating a long-term risk of the virus recirculating not only in mink and other animals, but in people as well.

Vaccination for mink: The U.S. farmed mink industry, rather than following the lead of several European countries that have suspended or eliminated mink fur farming to protect public health, is instead hoping a vaccine will control the virus in farmed mink. There is a vaccine for animals that USDA has made available for mink, but as with people no vaccine is 100% effective. In addition, the vaccination rate and efficacy among humans may influence the disease in mink. Even if the mink vaccine is very effective in reducing disease in the mink, it is unlikely that it would completely stop infection. And no human disease has ever disappeared when the disease in animals plays a role in transmission, as is the case with this virus

The World Organization for Animal Health has a background document with more information on SARS-CoV-2 in animals use for fur farming which can be accessed here.