The provincial government British Columbia in Canada has announced that mink fur farms are to be phased out by 2025.
The decision follows data from the BC Centre for Disease Control, which identified the potential for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to mutate in mink and be passed back to people, along with additional concerns that mutations could have an impact on vaccine effectiveness.
- a permanent ban on breeding mink;
- a permanent ban on live mink on farms by April 2023; and
- all operations ceasing completely, with all pelts sold, by 2025.
In July 2021, after three of the nine British Columbia mink farms had mink and two farms had workers test positive for SARS-CoV-2 during the previous months, the provincial health officer placed a moratorium on any new mink farms in B.C. and capped the number of animals (restricting the acquisition of additional mink) at existing numbers.
After further outreach and discussion with public health officials, animal health experts and mink producers about managing the threat of the virus, public health officials expressed concerns about allowing the farms to continue breeding, including:
- ongoing persistence of infected mink and workers at mink farms contracting SARS-CoV-2 from mink and transmitting on to broader human populations;
- the presence of the highly transmissible Delta variant and the threat of it being introduced in mink farms, even from vaccinated people;
- potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from escaped mink to wild animals, which could also pose a risk to public health;
- subsequent mutations of SARS-CoV-2 strains may lead to variants that can spread more easily or could undermine the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination program in British Columbia; and
- challenges with maintaining strict biose
“This decision follows the recommendations of public health officials and infectious disease experts about managing the threat of the virus for workers at the farms and the broader public,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. “Our government will work with affected farmers and workers to help them pursue other farming, business or job opportunities that support their families.”
The nine mink factory farms in British Columbia currently house around 318,000 mink.