(Canada Mink Breeders Association photo)

(Canada Mink Breeders Association photo)

LETTER: Infectious disease doctor has serious concerns about fur industry and COVID-19 risks

‘The risk to the public may be low but it is not zero and is potentially catastrophic’

(Re: OPINION: “With precautions in place B.C. mink farms do not pose COVID risk” on abbynews.com)

As an infectious diseases specialist, I have serious concerns about the way the fur-farming industry has represented the risk of outbreaks of COVID-19 among thousands of minks on high-density farms.

The risk to the public may be low but it is not zero and is potentially catastrophic.

A European Centre for Diseases Control statement clearly states that: “National authorities should consider culling mink from infected farms and destroying raw pelts in accordance with appropriate biosecurity measures.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Chilliwack mink ranch

The World Organization for Animal Health referenced in the above op-ed also addresses culling as a way to reduce the risks and states that: “The national approach to the industry will also weigh on the decision to cull, as is the example of the progressive disappearance of mink farming for fur in the Netherlands.”

In Canada, according to the Fur Council, there were 237 mink farms in 2014, down to 98 in 2018, and only 60 in 2020.

Surveys have documented that the majority of people in B.C. are opposed to fur farms.

Denmark, Ireland, Greece and Spain have also killed minks as a public health measure (rather than for fur).

The Netherlands, Austria, U.K. and other countries have completely banned the practice.

Public health authorities are taking this outbreak very seriously.

Similar to other public health interventions, the response to risks posed by mink farms involves careful consideration of public benefits, as well as available resources, risk tolerance, and societal values.

We can support fur farmers in transitioning to a safer industry, and put an end to the public health risks posed by high density fur farms.

Jan Hajek MD, FRCPC, DTMH

Medicina/Infectious Diseases

University of British Columbia/Vancouver General Hospital