After four COVID-19 outbreaks on B.C. mink farms, tell the provincial government to act now to end fur farming! Your voice is needed to prevent animal suffering and protect the public from new viral mutations.
There is no such thing as “humane”, “ethical” or “animal-friendly” fur when it comes to fashion. The sad reality is that animals suffer when we use fur to make or decorate jackets, boots, hats, and gloves. Most people can’t tell the difference between real and fake fur, and the inadequacies in Canadian labeling laws mean you could be wearing real fur without knowing!
The BC SPCA is opposed to killing animals for clothing and fashion – wild animals suffer when raised on fur farms and can experience cruel deaths when killed in nature.
Fur farming is inherently inhumane, as wild animals are bred and stocked as products in captivity. Even after generations of hand-raising, these animals are wild in nature and still have the animal welfare needs of their wild counterparts.
Hundreds of thousands of animals are farmed for their fur in Canada each year, the most common two animals being mink and fox. In B.C., wild animals can be farmed for their fur under the Animal Health Act and the Fur Farm Regulation.
In 2018, 98 mink farms and 27 fox farms existed across Canada. In that year, over 260,000 mink were killed for fur in B.C. Currently, there are 9 mink farms and one chinchilla farm in B.C., almost all of which are in the Fraser Valley. Fortunately, there are no fox farms in B.C. at this time.
The BC SPCA recognizes and affirms the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples to harvest and trap native animals for cultural, ceremonial, and traditional purposes. Commercial fur farms actually limit the economic opportunities of Indigenous people by flooding the market with industrially raised goods and are inherently in conflict with traditional Indigenous values. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs issued their own moratorium on mink farming on April 6, 2021.
Mink are bred once per year and give birth in the spring. After being weaned from their mothers, mink are housed in small, wire mesh cages. Come winter when their fur coats are fully developed, they are killed on-site at the farm. The furs are shipped to an auction house where they are graded and sold, often to international markets. Mink oil is also harvested and commonly used as leather conditioner.
Farmed mink are the same as wild mink, but they have been selectively bred over 150 years for certain colours and traits (size, fur quality, temperament). Farmed mink keep their wild nature and instincts, and can become naturalized if they escape to the wild.
The BC SPCA does not encourage releasing farmed mink into the wild. Farmed mink in B.C. carry Aleutian virus, which may harm wild mink populations. The released animals can upset the natural ecosystem and most will not survive.
Mink and COVID-19
Mink have also been found to carry the virus that causes COVID-19. The BC SPCA warned the provincial government of the risk to public health by allowing fur farms to continue to operate during a pandemic. After the first COVID-19 outbreak on a B.C. mink farm took place in December 2020, the BC SPCA called for a moratorium on mink farming in British Columbia through an immediate suspension of all mink farm licenses. A second outbreak on another mink farm took place later that month, despite industry and government assuring the public that biosecurity measures were in place. The next outbreak was in May 2021.
The BC SPCA has met with government officials and has made repeated requests for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries to take action on the issue of fur farming. News of yet another COVID-19 outbreak in July 2021 has once again highlighted the ongoing public health threat of mink farming. As a result of this outbreak, 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. 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.
The latest positive mink were trapped on the farm after escaping their cages. The taxpayer cost of ongoing monitoring of staff and animals on fur farms is an unreported cost of the pandemic. Through a joint Federal and Provincial program called AgriStability, mink farmers were also paid $6.5 million since 2014, of which $2.6 million came from the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture. While AgriStability is meant to act as an insurance program, which farmers pay into to help them through unexpected market fluctuations, the primary purpose is to support farmers who provide food for Canadians. Farmers who receive a payment from AgriStability can receive much more than their program fees, even after participating for several years. This is money that could have gone to other farmers or even other government initiatives.
As furs are a luxury fashion product meant solely for export overseas, the market is extremely volatile and the BC SPCA believes the industry should be considered ineligible to AgriStability like cannabis producers. In 2020, the industry itself acknowledged that, “Fox, raccoon, fisher and mink did not sell in any meaningful quantities and were held with all other unsold goods for future sales.”
Around the world there have been increasing cases and concerns about the virus passing from humans to minks, and back to humans. The cramped conditions of thousands of mink on farms creates dangerous conditions for the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
Similar to mink, foxes raised on fur farms are bred once per year and give birth in the spring. After weaning, the pups are also housed in restrictive wire mesh pens. Their fur coats are ready for harvesting in the winter, at which point they are killed on-farm by electrocution.
The Code of Practice for farmed mink and fox
The BC SPCA is opposed to mink and fox farming, but we do recognize this is a legal industry. Until the fur industry no longer exists, we expect all farms to meet the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Mink and the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Fox.
The Code of Practice for farmed mink is currently being updated. Proposed changes were open for public comment from December 2020 to February 2021. Thank you to everyone who took the time to speak up for mink! Proposed amendments to the Code would allow mink across Canada to be killed by having them breathe in engine exhaust or carbon dioxide as well as halt a transition to larger cage sizes.
Although the Canada Mink Breeders Association suggests all members follow this minimum standard, there is no independent monitoring in place, meaning there is no assurance that animal care standards are being met. Learn more about farm animal welfare laws in Canada.
Other types of fur farming
Currently, only mink and chinchilla are farmed for fur in British Columbia. However, there is no ban on farming animals like foxes in our province, meaning someone could apply for a permit to start up a fox farm if they wanted to. From January to March 2021, over 7,000 people signed a federal petition supporting a nationwide ban on fur farming for all species of animals, and we hope to see federal action on this important issue.
Fur in fashion
In B.C., coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, mink, beaver, foxes and many other animals are killed for their fur. Not all items made in Canada containing fur are required to be labelled as such. This means handbags, toys, shoes or other items could be made of real fur without you knowing. Not only is fur used in fashion, but also in the cosmetic industry. Mink fur is harvested and used for human eyelash extensions, called mink lashes.
There is no guarantee that “faux” fur coats and other clothing items do not contain real fur to some extent, and some fur products imported and sold in Canada may even be made from cats or dogs.
Leg hold traps or snares often used by trappers are still legal in B.C. when used within 200 meters of a dwelling, despite their inherently inhumane nature. Even the trappers’ “humane trapping” methods allow animals to suffer for up to 72 hours on trap lines before they are checked. In June 2021, after mounting public pressure, Canada Goose joined many other international brands and committed to going fur free in 2022.