B.C. mink breeders are suing the province, saying a ban on production early in the pandemic was not within the government’s powers and should be overturned.
”The province incorrectly assessed the risk associated with mink farming, failed to meaningfully consider available mitigation measures and instead chose an unreasonable solution,” said a petition to B.C. Supreme Court, filed Feb. 15.
The petition said that, in December 2020 and May 2021, mink and workers at three farms tested positive for COVID-19. Hundreds of mink deaths were reported. As a result, health orders were focused on farms.
The petition said farmers worked with provincial and local authorities to look after their animals, employees and their communities. The farms employ dozens of people in the Fraser Valley. Together, they produce close to 250,000 pelts annually.
Last November, Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a ban on mink farming with a timeline for ending the industry. The province's plan includes a permanent ban on live mink on farms by April 2023. All pelts, meanwhile, must be sold by 2025.
“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," Popham said at the time.
Special interest groups
The BC SPCA in December 2020 called for a moratorium on B.C. mink farming through an immediate suspension of all mink farm licences.
The petition said the BC SPCA and anti-fur groups “have a long history of anti-fur farm rhetoric.” It further asserts both groups had been lobbying Victoria for a ban.
“It is clear that their political agenda supersedes any concerns regarding public health and management of risk,” the petition said. ”This is but a thinly veiled attempt to end the fur-farming industry under the auspices of animal and public health when in fact it is an attempt by the province to distance itself from the fur-farming industry and appease special interest groups.”
The Canadian Mink Breeders Association and BC Mink Producers Association assert those decision are ultra vires — or beyond the provincial government’s jurisdiction.
The petition said mink are susceptible to disease such as influenza, SARS-CoV-2, Aleutian disease, distemper, mink virus enteritis and salmonella.
With proper biosecurity measures in place, it said, those can be a threat to animal and human health.
The petition says there was no meaningful consultation by the B.C. government before the decision to ban the industry was made. It said no other province has taken such action.
The ministry was not immediately available for comment