Mink-farms will be no more in BC after researchers discovered a connection between minks and COVID-19.
The announcement came Friday afternoon from BC’s top doctor, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham based on recommendations from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).
The provincial health order makes 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.
There are nine operating mink farms in BC.
“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 Popham.
“Our government will work with affected farmers and workers to help them pursue other farming, business or job opportunities that support their families.”
According to the BCCDC, the virus is able to transmit and mutate through mink and be passed back to people.
These mutations can have an effect on vaccine effectiveness.
Public health officials expressed concern to animal health experts and mink producers about the link between minks and COVID-19.
Their main concerns involved the potential for minks to infect and spread the virus to humans or other animals, the challenges with maintaining strict biosecurity measures and monitoring programs over the longer term, and mutations of COVID-19 within minks.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said how they’ve been monitoring mink farms and she believes the risk is too much to keep them operating.
“Public health has been monitoring and managing outbreaks related to mink farming along with the Ministry of Agriculture and WorkSafeBC, but as this remains an ongoing public health issue, we believe the risk is too great for operations to continue as they were,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer.
“Public health supports the government’s decision to take this action at this time for the safety of the broader population.”
Farmers will be supported by the government while they make the transition out of mink-farming. Fraser Health, WorkSafeBC and the province will continue to ensure biosecurity measures are in place to protect workers and families on the farms while the farms begin to cease operatations.