As coronavirus hits European mink farms, British Columbia must enact biosecurity measures to protect workers, nearby residents and wildlife on 13 mink farms that have gone uninspected since at least 2018.
European media have reported that at least four mink farms in the Netherlands have tested positive for coronavirus, yet emails to BC’s Ministry of Agriculture and the provincial veterinarian requesting follow-up on biosecurity and testing of BC farms as recently as April 28 have gone unanswered.
“We know mink farms in Europe are testing positive for coronavirus, and we know that agriculture officials have not even inspected BC’s mink farms since at least January 2019,” says Lesley Fox, Executive Director at The Fur-Bearers. “Freedom of information requests show that there were no inspections on any of the province’s 13 mink farms from January 2019 through March 2020. Not only does this fact show a lack of interest in upholding newly implemented codes of practice for the industry, but it shows a concerning lack of interest for the health of the animals on these farms, the workers who are exposed to them, and the communities in which they’re situated in a time of pandemic.”
The Fur-Bearers contacted the Ministry of Agriculture in March regarding the possible spread of coronavirus through mink farms, at which time the Ministry stated they had no plans to test or consider action on these possible transmission points. A follow-up email on April 28, which included information highlighting the mink farm tests in Europe, has gone unanswered.
“Throughout all of 2019 and most of 2020 so far, the Ministry of Agriculture couldn’t get out to inspect 13 farms on which they say in official correspondence ‘strict animal health standards are followed,’” Fox adds. “For an industry documented having deplorable conditions in Canada and around the world, with scientific evidence showing they can play a role in the transmission of a virus that’s shut down our global economy, and is notoriously known for having escapees from their facilities, it is upsetting and disturbing that the Ministry isn’t taking clear, public action to protect British Columbians.”
British Columbians and others are encouraged to use the form below to contact Ministry of Agriculture Lana Popham and Minister of Health Adrian Dix to demand inspections and biosecurity measures are put in place pending testing.