Chinese Fur Farms At Significant Risk Of Diseases Spreading From Animals To People, Says Humane Society International

( — An investigation of five Chinese fur farms conducted by Humane Society International found that, given the conditions, there was a high risk of the development of viruses capable of jumping from animals to humans, Reuters reported.

The farms, which house raccoon dogs, foxes, and mink, are located in the northern provinces of Hebei and Liaoning. According to Humane Society International, the farms house between 2,000 and 4,000 animals under risky conditions, including near poultry.

Veterinary professor Alastair MacMillan of Surrey University said the density of the animal stock facilitated the rapid spread of viruses through droplets and these viruses could potentially spread to humans.

MacMillan said the rapid spread of the viruses from animal to animal, coupled with the mixing of different strains of the same virus, could lead to the viruses adapting to the host animals and developing mutant strains that could present a greater risk of jumping to humans.

An analysis of data from the early weeks of the pandemic suggested that raccoon dogs could have played a role in the spread of the COVID-19 virus in humans.

Humane Society International obtained photos and video footage showing the animals packed densely in small cages. The animals could be seen repeatedly pacing back and forth, which veterinary experts say is a sign of psychological distress.

MacMillan said the footage of the fur farms was extremely worrying, especially from a public health perspective, since it is widely known that animals raised for their fur are susceptible to respiratory viruses that also infect humans.

Humane Society International’s China policy expert Peter Li said distressed animals surrounded by “piles of animal filth” and possible zoonotic diseases were “in stark contrast to the glamorous image the fur trade tries to portray.”

China’s fur trade has declined in recent years, with production falling by 50 percent from 2022 to 2023. However, there remains a robust market for fur, especially in China, where users of the e-commerce site Xiaohongshu and social media platforms like Weibo often discuss fur as a practical and desirable way to stay warm.

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