The Spanish authorities have ordered 92,700 mink to be put down after a huge number of the animals were found to have contracted coronavirus on the farm where they were kept, and where the workers were also infected.
The government of the northern Spanish region of Aragon made the decision to euthanise the animals on the Secapiel farm near the town of La Puebla de Valverde, in the northern Spanish province of Teruel in the Aragon region after a test showed 87 percent of the animals tested had coronavirus.
The head of the Agriculture, Farming and Environment Department of the regional government, Joaquin Olana, made the announcement in a press conference where he said the farm had first been “immobilised” on 22nd May when seven workers tested positive for COVID-19.
The immobilisation of the farm essentially meant no animals could leave or enter the farm.
He said the mink were first randomly tested on 28th May, with the results from the Algete Laboratory in the capital Madrid coming back negative.
Olana said that despite the negative tests the farm remained immobilised and a second test on 8th June revealed there were some positive tests but they were not “conclusive”.
A test on 22nd June found 16 percent of the animals tested were positive and a 7th July test showed that 78 of the 90 animals tested (86.67 percent) were positive for coronavirus.
He said it was unclear if the virus had been transmitted from the mink to the workers or vice versa, and that the “high grade of uncertainty” has led them to the “drastic” decision of ordering the euthanisation of 92,700 mink.
The decision is based on national laws regarding animal health and the mink will be killed using gas before their bodies are destroyed in a waste plant under strict biosecurity measures.
Olana said the animals had not shown any “anomalous behaviour, mortality or illness” despite being infected with the coronavirus.
He conceded there will be financial damage from the decision but the farm will receive some compensation. It is unclear if the compensation will be provided by the state or by an insurance company.
The Mayor of La Puebla de Valverde, Maria Angeles Izquierdo, told local newspaper El Periodico de Aragon: “I was called by the councillor and I was a bit shocked. I did not expect it because the last thing I knew was that the sampling had gone well.
“It is a disaster for the company, which is losing everything, but also a blow to the town.”
She said the farm, one of the largest mink farms in Spain, is located six kilometres (3.7 miles) from the town and is isolated from residential areas.
Juan Jose Badiola, director of the Encephalopathies and Emerging Communicable Diseases at Zaragoza University, told local newspaper El Periodico de Aragon: “We should send a message of calm to the population, yes it happened, but no need to create alarm.”
The case comes after the Dutch authorities ordered the closure of all the mink farms in the country after 17 farms were found to have animals infected with coronavirus and 500,000 of the animals were put down, according to National Geographic.
Denmark, where two mink farms were found to be infected, ordered the euthanisation of 11,000 animals on one of the farms, according to National Geographic.
According to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University, Spain has registered 258,855 cases of COVID-19 and 28,416 related deaths.