FILE – A mink sniffs the air as he surveys the river beach in search of food, in meadow near the village of Khatenchitsy, 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Minsk, Belarus on September 4, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Sergei Grits MANDATORY CREDIT

FILE – A mink sniffs the air as he surveys the river beach in search of food, in meadow near the village of Khatenchitsy, 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Minsk, Belarus on September 4, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Sergei Grits MANDATORY CREDIT

David Suzuki, experts pen letter bashing B.C. mink farms’ role in COVID spread

Two mink farms in B.C. have had COVID-19 outbreaks

Several prominent environmentalists and experts are speaking out against mink farms in the province in a letter to two B.C. ministers.

The letter, released earlier this month by the Fur-Bearers, touches on three points: the risk of COVID-19 spread and mutation due to mink farms, the welfare of the minks and the risk they pose to wildlife populations.

“The dangers of keeping wild animals in captivity in crowded conditions in close proximity to people and domesticated animals should be all too clear given the virus’s origins,” the letter states, noting that mink farms can serve as a reservoir for the virus.

Thousands of mink have been killed both in B.C. and in other countries around the world after outbreaks at two fur farms in the Fraser Valley. According to a report from Dr Jaspinder Komal, the chief veterinary officer and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to the World Organisation for Animal Health, more than 10,000 mink were slaughtered as a result of the two outbreaks.

READ MORE: BC SPCA slams proposed changes to mink farm standards after 2 COVID outbreaks

The letter, signed by people such as David Suzuki, Order of B.C. recipient and veterinarian Dr. Ken Langelier of Island Animal Hospital and University of B.C. mathematics professor Daniel Coombs, said that B.C. needs to look at why it allows mink farming when other wild animals are not allowed to be kept in captivity in the same way.

The letter also points to a recent infected mink escaping a quarantined fur farm in Oregon.

“If the potential for native wildlife to contract SARS COV-2 from infected mink on farms as seen in the U.S. already does not qualify as a disease threat to these populations, we cannot imagine what would.”

Aside from the risk of COVID-19 spread, the letter cites the animal welfare of mink as a rising concern. It notes that mink are “highly intelligent animals who typically roam, swim, and forage over a large territory.”

The letter notes that despite countries such as Canada decrying wet markets, where live animals are sometimes kept in close quarters, active mink farms in B.C. represent similar conditions.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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