The Netherlands, the first country to report a coronavirus outbreak on its mink fur farms, will close all such farms by March next year, two and a half years ahead of a previous deadline.

The decision, reported today by the Dutch national news service NOS, follows an outbreak on 41 such farms in the country, making them major hotspots for the spread of the pandemic. As a result of the outbreak, an estimated two million mink, most of them pups, have been gassed to death.

According to NOS, mink on the nation’s 120 remaining fur farms will not be preventatively culled unless new outbreaks occur, and mink on unaffected farms will be slaughtered for their pelts in November this year. Breeders are not permitted to restock and by March 2021 all remaining mink operations will be bought out by the government.

The Netherlands is the world’s fourth largest producer of mink fur, behind only Denmark, Poland and China. Today's announcement will spare suffering for millions more animals who would have been raised and killed for their fur had these farms remained in business until the original 2024 deadline. The nation had already closed down fox and chinchilla fur production in the 1990s, so the closure of mink farms next year will end all fur farming on its soil.

We welcome the decision from the Dutch government, which couldn’t have come a day sooner. The pandemic has been a grim reminder that we need to change how we treat animals, especially those who are confined in small spaces on fur farms, factory farms and wildlife markets. All eyes are now on other fur-producing nations, including the United States, Denmark and Spain where mink on fur farms have also tested positive for the virus. With consumers, retailers and designers turning away from fur, there is no reason for any country to continue supporting a commodity that’s associated more with animal cruelty and less with fashion.