Because two more mink have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus from a Fraser Valley farm already under quarantine from positive tests in May, the provincial government has issued a moratorium on any new mink farms in B.C., with a cap on existing farms at current numbers.
“The order is effective immediately,” according to a July 26 Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries press release.
The move, however, is not enough for anti-fur organizations such as the Humane Society and Ban Fur Farms B.C., both of which responded with a call for a permanent ban on fur farms in the province.
According to the provincial order, each farm will have to report the total number of mink, both breeding and non-breeding stock, to the provincial health officer and the medical health officer in their health region.
The two positive cases mentioned at the outset were identified through a wildlife surveillance project led by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, in co-operation with the One Health Working Group.
“One of the main objectives is to assess the potential for virus transmission to free-ranging animals from an infected premises.”
In this instance, four mink had escaped their cages and were captured on the farm.
“The Province is conducting a review of its policies and regulations with respect to fur farms, while ensuring the recommended mitigation measures are in place and enforced to protect both public and animal health,” the release said.
Three B.C. mink farms have had animals test positive since December 2020.
“All three remain under quarantine, with no mink being moved to or from the properties.”
No one knows how the mink contract the virus and ministry reps they would be investigating the source. The strain detected in those cases had been circulating in people in B.C., indicating the virus spread from people to animals, and not the other way around.
Fraser Health, WorkSafeBC and the Province continue to ensure biosecurity measures are in place to protect workers and farm families, as well as verifying each farm is taking all necessary precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, through human-to-animal or animal-to-human transmission.
The nine B.C. mink farms, all located in the Fraser Valley, employ about 150 workers. The exact locations of mink farms are not being released as per the Animal Health Act, which prohibits the disclosure of information that would identify a specific place where an animal is located.
In response to the moratorium, Ban Fur Farms BC (BFFBC) issued a statement saying that the health and safety of residents is put at risk with the findings that four mink escaped from enclosures and two tested positive.
“Following the new Public Health Order, BFFBC continues to call on the province to immediately take further action, by banning fur farming altogether,” the July 28 statement said. “The new moratorium is a positive shift to disallow new fur farms, however it does nothing to mitigate existing fur farms, which are at the center of the current COVID-19 outbreaks.”
A representative from Humane Society International/Canada (HSI/Canada) similarly sent out a statement calling on Premier John Horgan to prohibit all fur farming in B.C.
“The current provincial order allows fur farms to continue operating at existing levels, and the moratorium on increasing mink numbers ends before next year’s breeding season,” HSI/Canada wildlife campaign manager Kelly Butler said. “The unacceptable risk of outbreaks, mutations, and transmission to both humans and wildlife remains exactly the same. B.C.’s fur production facilities employ a few dozen seasonal workers, while consuming millions of tax dollars and putting public safety and surrounding wildlife at significant risk.”
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and naturalist David Suzuki have similarly called for a ban on fur farming in B.C.
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