Public Health Officer prohibits new farms and new mink until January 2022.
It’s not surprising to hear that another reinfection of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found on the same B.C. mink farm from May – the third farm in the province with positive cases since December 2020. In this outbreak, five new mink have tested positive so far, but shockingly it was first detected in two of four mink that had escaped their cages and were later captured on the farm. It is unknown if other mink carrying the virus escaped into the area around the farm, but the overall risk to wild mink and other animals contributed in part to a new public health order.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, has stated mink farming “is an activity which endangers or is likely to endanger public health” and enacted an order placing a moratorium on any new mink farms in B.C. and capping existing mink farms at their current numbers.
Unfortunately, this order comes a little late since mink were bred earlier in the year and kits (babies) were born from April to June – now tens of thousands of mink are susceptible to the virus. With each mink having an average of five to six kits, the number of mink on fur farms in our province has already ballooned dangerously.
With biosecurity measures failing again and again, and with four outbreaks on three farms despite apparent mitigation measures, the province has now said they are conducting a review of policies and regulations around fur farms. Yet no mitigation can address the Public Health Officer’s concerns 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.” As long as mink are raised in confined unnatural settings, they will be a risk to our communities. The only solution is closing down farms.
COVID-19 has shown the vulnerabilities of a luxury market industry that has been declining for decades. It’s time to close fur farms and support farmers and their employees to transition into more sustainable and safe careers. The BC SPCA will reach out to the province once again to implore the government to listen to the thousands of British Columbians who have asked for an end to this cruel industry that has been putting public health at risk throughout the pandemic.
Please take a moment to remind your MLA and the Ministry of Agriculture that now is the time to end fur farming in B.C.