Mink farming in B.C. being phased out due to COVID-19

Vancouver –

British Columbia is starting a course of to section out the farming of mink within the province, Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham introduced Friday.

The method, which is being applied due to issues over COVID-19, is predicted to be accomplished by April 2025, Popham mentioned.

Mink on three completely different B.C. farms have examined constructive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 since final November, and teams together with the BC SPCA, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and greater than two dozen infectious illness specialists have known as for the top of mink farming within the province.

Denmark ordered the slaughter of tens of millions of mink in November 2020 over issues that the coronavirus might mutate within the animals and be handed again to people. 

Popham promised that B.C. would offer help to mink farmers and their staff as they wind down their operations.

“We all know that it’s in the very best curiosity of public well being that this choice is made,” Popham mentioned. “Our authorities will work with affected farmers and staff to assist them pursue different farming companies or job alternatives that help their households.”

These affected by the phase-out can even be eligible for current authorities advantages applications, the minister mentioned.

There are presently 9 mink farms working in B.C. They make use of roughly 150 folks.

The province plans to implement a everlasting ban on breeding mink, with a ban on housing dwell mink on the current farms by April 2023 and the top of all mink farm operations, with all remaining pelts offered, by April 2025.

Provincial well being officer Dr. Bonnie Henry mentioned after B.C.’s first two mink farm outbreaks, officers believed the COVID-19 danger posed by the business was low.

“(We thought) we might seemingly be coping with one-to-two outbreaks per yr within the small variety of farms that we’ve got right here in British Columbia,” Henry mentioned.

“Since that point, nonetheless, we’ve got had one other outbreak on an extra farm that has not been capable of be cleared, regardless of elevated biosecurity measures, ongoing testing, vaccination of workers and the numerous, many various measures that we have put in place.”

Henry mentioned there may be ongoing transmission of COVID-19 between people and mink on one farm within the province, and three farms are on quarantine orders.

“Mink farming continues to be a well being hazard, for my part and the opinion of my public well being colleagues,” she mentioned. “We do not see that evaluation altering within the brief time period.”

Along with issues about mink being a attainable supply of recent, more-virulent or vaccine-resistant variants of the coronavirus, Henry additionally famous the chance that escaped mink might transmit the virus to wild animals, which might additionally pose a danger to public well being.

Mink breeders are slamming the province’s choice, calling it radical and pointless.

“We’ve had lower than 5 per cent of our Canadian (mink fur) farms change into constructive with COVID-19. I feel that’s commendable,” mentioned Matt Moses, a Nova Scotia mink farmer and former president of the Canada Mink Breeders Affiliation.

Moses believes the transfer to close down mink fur farms is politically pushed.

“This life-changing choice for our B.C. producers was primarily based on strain from activist teams and vocal minority teams,” he mentioned. “It’s not primarily based on science, analysis, or info.”

The agriculture minister denies the choice is something however an effort to curb the unfold of COVID-19.

“As we’ve labored via this choice and brought the recommendation of public well being officers, I can guarantee you this (choice) was primarily based on public well being,” Popham mentioned.

Notably, the BC SPCA additionally criticized the province’s rationale for ending mink farming.

“I feel it is an attention-grabbing option to ignore the animal welfare points,” mentioned Marcie Moriarty, the BC SPCA’s chief prevention and enforcement officer.

Moriarty added that her group is happy with the province’s choice. 

Henry mentioned the multi-year timeframe for the phase-out is meant to provide mink farm operators ample time to get the very best worth for his or her remaining inventory.

Whereas dwell mink will probably be allowed to be saved on the farms till early 2023, she mentioned she anticipates that there will probably be a “a lot diminished” quantity after the present pelting season. The province believes it may possibly handle any security danger posed by the remaining mink populations over the following yr and a half, Henry mentioned.

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