The media on 5 November was greatly agitated by the news that a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 had been found in intensive rearing of minks on Danish factory farms. This mutation weakens the ability to produce antibodies, a fact which could compromise the effectiveness of future vaccines.
At least 214 infections were confirmed leading to 280,000 people being placed under quarantine. All Danish mink were to be culled: some 17 million on over a thousand farms.
Factory farming is a perfect example of how capitalist methods are applied in animal husbandry. In the pursuit of maximum profit, factory farming minimises the cost of reproducing “mink products”, by amassing thousands of animals in very confined spaces where they are unable to satisfy their most basic needs. These animal factories require little manpower, further maximizing their productivity.
Workers, often lacking even a minimum of protection, live next to large masses of animals such as mink, which are moreover not traditionally domesticated. Animals are infected by humans and humans by animals, and the leap from one species to another, and back again, favours the development of new mutations of the virus. In the Wuhan live animal market (a dubious practice inherited from previous social formations but greatly magnified by capitalist production) it seems that the virus passed from bats to other animals and from them to humans. The increasingly close proximity of different species creates an environment for viruses to jump across species and intensive farming only takes the risk of the formation and spread of new viruses to a new extreme.
Unlike in most European countries Italy still has 13 farms containing 200,000 mink farmed for their fur and animals have tested positive for the virus and been slaughtered here as well.
Covid is undoubtedly a product of nature but it is a nature weaponised, violated, and transformed by the need to increase profits. Any hope of overcoming this process of production for profit has to question its constituent parts: profit, capital, wage labour, and the market.
We could demand the immediate closure of all intensive farms, and this is certainly achievable, except that to achieve this goal we must first go through a political or more precisely an anti-capitalist revolution. The mutation of the virus in factory farming shows that production for profit, and not for needs, is the origin of this pandemic as well as the other tragedies that humanity is experiencing. Overcoming the logic of profit is at the heart of the only serious political argument that can be made today.
7 November 2020