Finland has begun killing 120,000 foxes and minks to stop an outbreak of avian flu that has jumped from birds to mammals in fur farms, discovered in July 2023. That month, the World Health Organisation expressed concern that the increase in cases of avian flu among mammals could make it easier for the virus to spread to humans.
Tuija Gadd, head of the Finnish Food Authority’s virology unit, told the AFP press agency on 23rd August 2023, “Culling has already been carried out on 10 farms.” During the Covid-19 pandemic, Denmark killed 15 million minks to prevent mutations of the virus.
Finland is Europe’s leading producer of fur from dead foxes, and has around 400 fur farms, with a total population of 1.3 million animals, mainly minks and foxes. In 2022, the animal rights group Oikeutta Elaimille (Justice for Animals) investigated the fur industry in the western Ostrobothnia region of Finland and found that many animals suffered in extremely poor conditions. Kristo Muurimaa, from Oikeutta Elaimille, said at the time, “There are rows and rows of animals in small barren wire cages. Many are suffering from infected eyes, and other injuries like deformed legs are very common. The animals have been fattened and bred so they grow to a huge size, three or four times their natural size.”
Fur farming has been banned, made economically untenable, or is in the process of being phased out in most European countries, so Finland stands out. Claire Bass, Executive Director of the Humane Society International UK, said, “Finland is a massive outlier for all species, not just fox and raccoon dogs, and they produce about 96% of Fox fur in the EU now.”