At least eight workers and several samples from the animals tested positive for the virus at the farm last week.
The SPCA has written to B.C.’s chief veterinary officer, the provincial health officer, and the deputy minister of agriculture, food and fisheries, to suspend all mink farm licences to reduce the risk of further spread.
“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,” says the SPCA’s Geoff Urton in a release. “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.”
Minks can be farmed in B.C. because of exemptions to the provincial Wildlife Act’s ban on the keeping of native wildlife, Urton says.
“The mink who are farmed in B.C. are native species who would be far-ranging in movement in their natural settings, and are solitary, and semi-aquatic animals,” he explains. “In B.C., mink are confined to small barren wire cages, tightly packed together in high densities on farms.”
There are 13 mink farms in the province, mostly in the Fraser Valley, for fur production. According to the SPCA, more than 260,000 minks were killed in B.C. in 2018 despite opposition from about 85 per cent of British Columbians.
B.C.’s chief veterinarian banned the movement of animals and materials from the Fraser Valley farm last week after five mink samples tested positive.