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PETA calls for shutdown of Utah mink farms after COVID-19 infects animals

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A mink walks in front a farm in Spain.

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Animal rights activists have asked that Utah officials shut down all of Utah’s mink farms after several of the species tested positive with the animal virus of COVID-19 earlier this week.

It’s “a move that would protect the health of workers and Utah residents, as well as sparing countless minks a miserable death for fur,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a letter to the Utah Department of Health on Thursday. She said other foreign governments have taken the action when faced with a similar situation.

“Filthy fur farms — or animal factories — are packed with sick, stressed and injured animals and are breeding grounds for disease,” Newkirk wrote, adding that mink farms are configured in a way that creates “the perfect conditions for the spread of contagious diseases.”

At least five mink at two Utah farms are known to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the animal virus linked to COVID-19 in humans, but the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is awaiting results on more tests, possibly involving more Utah mink farms.

The state is the second-largest producer of mink pelts among more than 200 farms in the U.S., according to the USDA, which reported Utah farms produced 556,710 pelts in 2019.

It is the first detection of the novel coronavirus in the species in the U.S., though the virus has been found in other animals, including four cats and two dogs in Utah, as well as in other states, according to the national laboratory. At least one tiger and one lion at a zoo in New York were also found to have SARS-CoV-2 in early April.

“At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.