This week, people all over the world are celebrating a landmark decision by the government in British Columbia, Canada, to end mink farming in the province. The measures include a permanent ban on breeding minks and a phase-out of keeping live minks on farms by April 2023. The move follows an intensive campaign by HSI/Canada, as well as our allies, the Fur-Bearers and the British Columbia SPCA, with support from infectious disease specialists, local stakeholders and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. We’re heartened that so many people have come together to put an end to this cruel and dangerous practice of farming mink for fur.
HSI/Canada and our partners have consistently called on the British Columbia government to ban fur farming in the wake of disturbing reports of horrendous animal suffering in these facilities. On fur farms in British Columbia, hundreds of thousands of semi-aquatic wild animals are intensively confined in small cages and denied their most basic natural needs. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, HSI/Canada and our coalition partners warned the provincial government that it is these overcrowded conditions that make fur farms not only terribly inhumane but also ticking time bombs for outbreaks of zoonotic diseases.
Since the start of the pandemic, COVID-19 outbreaks have been detected on nearly 450 mink fur farms across 12 countries—including three in British Columbia—leading to mass culls of millions of minks. Studies show humans can spread the virus to fur farmed mink. Once on the farm, the virus spreads quickly and can mutate. Today, the mink COVID-19 variant has not only been found among wild mink captured near fur farms, but it has also been transmitted to humans in the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and potentially the United States.
In considering the situation in British Columbia, the provincial health officer noted that "the susceptibility of mink to infection with SARS-CoV-2 creates a risk of development of variants of concern which pose a threat to public health and could undermine the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccination program in British Columbia."
British Columbia is the latest member of a growing list of nations and territories—including Estonia, Hungary and the Netherlands—that have taken decisive action to stop fur farming within their jurisdictions due to serious public health and animal welfare concerns. Banning fur farming is clearly the right decision to protect public health, and the decision will also prevent the suffering and cruel slaughter of hundreds of thousands of minks in British Columbia each year. HSI/Canada will continue to campaign to end fur farming across Canada, and we hope that the rest of the country will soon follow British Columbia’s lead to make fur farming history.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.