Squeezing out the maximum amount of money from minks

Wash your hands and watch a video with cute animals once a day. This is the government-approved solution for what is probably the most dangerous Covid breeding ground in Latvia - the Baltic Devon Mink farm in Iecava municipality. Contrary to the advice of epidemiologists, the mink will not be culled. This solution will allow the maximum benefit to be squeezed out of the animals until 2026, when the industry is due to close.
22.12.2021. Imants Vīksne
©Andrejs Terentjevs/F64

The radical organisation Dzīvnieku brīvība (Animal Freedom) has been fighting for the closure of the animal breeding farms for several years and an agreement in concept has been reached with politicians. Amendments to the Animal Protection Law are being promoted in the Saeima to "prohibit the breeding and keeping of farm animals where the sole and main purpose of the breeding or keeping is the production of fur." The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development supports the closure of the sector, stating in a letter to the responsible Saeima committee that "the killing of animals for fur and the suffering caused to animals are not in line with the requirements of modern society and are incompatible with ethical norms." Of course, this is populism on the part of the politicians, because how could killing an animal to eat it be any better than killing it to wear its fur. But Dzīvnieku brīvība, co-financed from abroad, is a powerful organization because of its scandalous public actions, and politicians respect that. That is why the circus genre has been effectively abolished in Latvia and why the fur farming industry will be abolished.

The culling was swiftly averted

The strategic objective of Dzīvnieku brīvība is to achieve a total ban on the use of animal products, replacing them with plant products and synthetic materials. Ban meat. Ban leather boots, trouser belts and car seats. But this broader context is not being analyzed by politicians, and the focus is currently only on mink. With the outbreak of Covid in the mink farm of Baltic Devon Mink, one would have expected the end of the fur farming industry to come sooner and, if not all the farms, then those owned by that company to be culled immediately. But the unexpected has happened. Against the advice of the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and scientists, the Operational Group set up under the auspices of the government to combat the pandemic decided that mink would not be culled. Here is the Ministry of Agriculture's explanation:

"At the meeting of the Operational Group on December 16, when discussing the draft Cabinet decision proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture on the liquidation of the SIA Baltic Devon Mink fur farm, it was agreed that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food and Veterinary Service, in cooperation with epidemiological experts, would develop additional stricter biosecurity requirements, additional controls and stricter surveillance measures. The Ministry of Agriculture will also prepare a draft Cabinet decision on a ban on mink imports into Latvia."

Now there will be a row over compensation

The meetings of the Operational Group are not public, but there is no doubt that compensation was discussed behind closed doors. According to leaked information from Dzīvnieku brīvība, the net cost of the culling measures would be 275,000 euros. Together with a small compensation to the owners of the company, this would amount to 1.4 million euros. The Ministry of Agriculture, on the other hand, has publicly quoted a much higher figure of 20 million. But even this falls far short of the money Baltic Devon Mink is demanding for the closure of its farm. In early October, the company's chairman, Bob van Ansem, told LETA that "the company needs 50 million euros in compensation if the industry closes". The company has already hired a law firm. This is the place to talk more about the company and its business success so far. The Lursoft database shows that Baltic Devon Mink is owned by Van Ansem Participaties B.V., a company registered in the Netherlands, with two Dutch nationals listed as true beneficiaries: Van Ansem Johannes Martinus Theodorus Maria and Van Ansem Nicolaas Wilhelmus Johannes Maria. The family business owns fur farms not only in Latvia, but also in Poland, Romania and the USA. Baltic Devon Mink's annual accounts show that the mink business in Latvia is loss-making year after year.

Looking optimistically to the future

The year 2020 also ended with a loss of more than 417 thousand euros. This was covered by the parent company Van Ansem Participaties B.V. The management report blamed the pandemic. Fur auctions worldwide were canceled, and auction houses stopped paying advances to mink farms. Towards the end of the year, the situation improved and demand for fur rose again. This year, a direct cooperation agreement was signed with a company in China, and the furs were successfully auctioned in Finland. And in other wonderful news, the State Revenue Service has issued a decision to extend the tax payment deadline by three years, amounting to 517,000 euros. "The above developments allow the Company to look optimistically to the future" - this is the note on which the management report for the past year ends. But perhaps the Company now has reason to be even more optimistic.

The forced closure of the Covid-stricken farm with a compensation of 50 million euros from Latvian taxpayers' money would be a wonderful golden parachute in an industry already doomed for liquidation.

Apparently, fighting over the amount of compensation continues in government backrooms, which is why the original decision to close the Baltic Devon Mink farm has been canceled. The Cabinet of Ministers has decided to "treat" the Covid-19 outbreak on the mink farm with, figuratively speaking, homeopathic methods.

Homeopathy against the virus

The problem is complex: the virus has already crossed the species barrier on the farm several times, moving from mink to human and from human to mink. Scientists believe that this raises the risk of a new epidemiologically dangerous variant of the virus emerging. The scientists therefore proposed culling the animals, but the government opted for other epidemiological and biosecurity measures, which it considered no less stringent. Workers and mink will have to be tested and wear protective masks. A Covid QR code will be required. The mink will have to show up at least once a day on surveillance cameras. Employees will have to listen to a briefing. Hands and equipment will need to be disinfected. And mink will not be allowed to be imported from other countries into Latvia, but if they are transported within the country, the journey will have to be recorded in a logbook. This will definitely stop the dangerous virus from escaping from the Baltic Devon Mink farm!


Since January 1, 2021, mink samples are subject to laboratory testing for Covid-19 infection. Until November 11 this year, the following samples have been taken from the infected holding and laboratory tested:

(1) 151 samples of live mink and 30 samples were found to contain the virus;

(2) 156 samples of live mink and 90 samples were found to contain antibodies to Covid-19 infection;

(3) 309 samples from mink carcasses and 151 samples were found to contain the virus.

Source: Amendments to Cabinet of Ministers Regulation No 662 of September 28, 2021 "Epidemiological Safety Measures for the Containment of the Spread of COVID-19 Infection." Annotation.


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