Europe's largest fox fur producer is taking drastic measures to help curb H5N1 infections.
Finland, Europe's leading producer of fox fur, has begun slaughtering 120,000 foxes and mink to stem an outbreak of avian flu that has hit fur farms, the authorities announced on Wednesday.
"A culling order has been issued for 13 farms," Tuija Gadd, head of the Finnish food authority's virology unit, told the AFP press agency, adding that "Culling has already been carried out on 10 farms."
In June, several outbreaks of H5N1 avian influenza were identified among larids in Finland. The first cases in fur farms were detected in July.
Given these findings, the Finnish authorities decided at the beginning of August to cull a large proportion of the animals on farms affected by the epidemic.
Stop the spread
Since the end of 2021, Europe has been facing its worst ever outbreak of avian flu, with North and South America also hard hit.
In mid-July, 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.
Finland has around 400 fur farms, according to Ms Gadd, with a total population 1.3 million animals, mainly mink and foxes.
The epidemic seems to be "calming down", she believes, as gulls and seagulls have begun their migration southwards.
The increase in the number of cases of avian flu has rekindled calls for a ban on the fur industry in the Nordic country, with Finland producing almost a million pelts each year.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Denmark became embroiled in a political crisis after illegally ordering a mass slaughter of 15 million mink to prevent mutations of the virus.
Finland's fur industry has been the subject of increasing criticism in recent years.
An investigation last year by animal rights group Oikeutta Elaimille – 'Justice for Animals' – found that many animals being bred for fur suffer in extremely poor conditions, leaving them vulnerable to injury and disease. Some are fattened and bred to grow to several times their normal size.