At the beginning of November, the Canadian province of British Columbia (B.C.) declared it will phase out mink-farming.
While this is a clear victory for the animals and animal rights, officials made this decision following health officials and infectious disease experts’ recommendations to close down mink breeding farms due to their links to COVID.
Since the start of the pandemic, mink-farming has been a public-health risk. This is due to the fact that minks are able to contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus and spread it to humans. More than this, there were strong worries about the virus mutating in minks and how these mutations could have an impact on vaccine effectiveness.
Back in July of this year, following three of nine B.C. farms (all located in Fraser Valley) having mink test positive and two having workers infected with the virus during the prior months, a moratorium was placed on the opening of any new mink-farms and a limit was placed on the acquisition of additional mink to the existing number at the time.
There was also the case of a mink escaping from a quarantined facility, leading to concerns about the possibility of transmission of the virus to wild animals. Now, with this new phase-out proposal, the following measures are being added: a permanent ban on breeding mink; a permanent ban on live mink on farms by April 2023; and all operations closing down completely by 2025, with all pelts sold by then.
These deadlines will allow for the nine remaining mink farms to plan their closures accordingly. During this transitional period, Fraser Health, WorkSafeBC and the province will continue to ensure all the necessary health and safety measures are in place to keep workers and their families protected from exposure, and guarantee the farms are taking all the precautions to reduce the spread risk of the virus. The B.C. government has also pledged to work with the farmers and workers impacted by these shutdowns in transitioning into new agricultural jobs, trades or careers.
This connection between mink-farming and outbreaks of COVID-19 has been seen repeatedly across the world since the beginning of the pandemic. During the past 18 months, COVID-19 infections have been detected on almost 450 mink fur farms, spread across 12 countries. In Europe, Denmark and Sweden were the primary countries hit, leading to the Danish prime minister ordering the execution of all mink on fur farms when a mutated strain of the virus passed from the animals to humans. In Sweden, the virus was identified on 13 of the country’s 40 mink farms leading them to suspend mink fur farming during 2021.
There have also been concerning incidents in the U.S., with several cases on mink farms in Oregon, Utah and Michigan, and a similar escape situation as in B.C. This led to a bipartisan proposal to ban mink fur farming across the country in order to avoid mutations of the virus.
This decision is without a doubt a great step in improving animals’ rights and it’s about time countries start closing down their fur farms, but we can’t say it isn’t disappointing that it had to come to this point for things to change. Notwithstanding that this is a great achievement, it’s unfortunate that there had to be a worldwide pandemic, endangering public health, animal welfare and wildlife. It makes you wonder when the decision to shut down mink fur farms would have arrived if COVID hadn’t been around as a catalyst.
You can read more about this news on British Columbia’s official webpage.