Danger tape blocks off driveways at a mink farm in Chilliwack on Dec. 7, 2020 after an outbreak was declared. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Danger tape blocks off driveways at a mink farm in Chilliwack on Dec. 7, 2020 after an outbreak was declared. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)

BC SPCA calls for moratorium after minks, workers at farm contract COVID

More than 200 mink have died already at farm affected by COVID-19 in Chilliwack

The BC SPCA is calling for a moratorium on mink farming in this province through an immediate suspension of all mink farm licenses.

The call comes after eight workers on a Chilliwack fur farm tested positive for COVID-19. More than 200 mink have died on the farm, and samples from mink on the property have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

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

The BC SPCA, the province’s largest animal welfare organization, has written to B.C.’s Chief Veterinary Officer, the Provincial Health Officer and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, expressing concerns for public and animal health and the need to immediately suspend all fur farm licenses. Geoff Urton of the BC SPCA said the moratorium is needed to reduce the risk of further disease spread in B.C. communities, including the risk to wild animals.

“Mink themselves also stand to suffer from SARS-CoV-2 as, unlike other animals who have contracted the virus and show little-to-no symptoms, mink can become sick and die when infected,” he said. “At this time, the practice of mink farming is at odds with the Animal Health Act due to the close contact between farmed mink and farm staff.”

Urton added that mink are permitted to be farmed in B.C. through exemptions to the provincial Wildlife Act’s prohibition on keeping of native wildlife.

“The mink who are farmed in B.C. are native species who would be far-ranging in movement in their natural settings, and are solitary, and semi-aquatic animals,” he said. “In B.C., mink are confined to small barren wire cages, tightly packed together in high densities on farms.”

The BC SPCA stated that 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-CoV2.

“In addition to the threat to public health, the BC SPCA is deeply concerned about the suffering of thousands of mink raised on farms in B.C.,” said Urton. Currently there are 13 mink farms in B.C., almost all of which are in the Fraser Valley, producing fur for international luxury markets. In 2018, more than 260,000 mink were killed for fur in B.C., a practice the BC SPCA said 85 per cent of British Columbians oppose.

Urton added that the BC SPCA is opposed to killing animals for clothing, as wild-caught animals experience unacceptable harms, and wild animals suffer when raised on fur farms.

Pamela Anderson has also spoken up about mink farms following the COVID-19 cases, on behalf of PETA. Anderson called on Premier John Horgan to close down all fur farms in the province.

“The world is a much different place than it was even a few months ago. No one, including minks, deserves to die of COVID-19, and I hope to hear that you will make the lifesaving decision to shut down British Columbia’s mink farms without delay,” Anderson wrote.

The BC SPCA have started an online pledge to end fur farming, available at spca.bc.ca/mink-farming-pledge.

READ MORE: Pamela Anderson calls on Horgan to ban fur farming after COVID-19 outbreak at mink farm


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jpeters@theprogress.com

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