BC SPCA calls for mink farming moratorium after more than 200 animals die from COVID-19
Denmark has ordered the slaughter of all of the country's minks, estimated at up to 17 million. (AFP)
VANCOUVER -- After more than 200 mink died on a B.C. farm following a COVID-19 outbreak, the province's SPCA is calling for a moratorium on the practice of raising the mammals for fur.
Last week, B.C.'s Ministry of Agriculture revealed at least 200 mink had died at a fur farm in the Fraser Valley. The likely cause of death is the coronavirus, though officials were still awaiting test results as of Friday.
On Monday, the BC SPCA called for all mink farm licences to be suspended.
"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.," Geoff Urton with the SPCA said in a news release, adding there are 13 farms operating in the province producing fur for luxury markets.
"The mink who are farmed in B.C. are native species who would be far-ranging in movement in their natural settings … in B.C., mink are confined to small barren wire cages, tightly packed together in high densities on farms."
The animal welfare agency said the moratorium is needed to stop the spread of COVID-19 to other communities and 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," Urton 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."
So far, the provincial government has refused to divulge the name of the farm, unlike a number of poultry plants and other B.C. businesses that have experienced outbreaks. On Friday, the ministry cited "public safety reasons" for the decision to keep the company name private.
Eight workers at the farm have tested positive for the disease.
The BC SPCA says more than 260,000 mink were killed in the province in 2018 for fur.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Andrew Weichel and Melanie Nagy