Mink on many farms in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley were tested positive in the past for the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. (Langley Advance Times files)

Mink on many farms in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley were tested positive in the past for the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. (Langley Advance Times files)

B.C. government bans mink farming, activists demand more

A fox fur farm might open in Langley

On Nov. 5, the provincial government announced a phase-out plan for B.C.’s mink-farming industry but animal rights activists are hoping for more. This comes after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request found out that the Ministry of Agriculture might permit two new fur farms in B.C. to open – including one in Langley.

Currently, B.C. laws allows individuals and organizations to operate or set up fur farms provided they do not breed minks. Organizations like Ban Fur Farms BC (BFFBC) are demanding that the Ministry of Agriculture institute a provincial fur farm ban leaving no window of opportunity for anyone to breed animals for their furs.

When Zoe Peled, co-founder of BFFBC got the response to her FOI request, she was disappointed to learn about the two inquires for the potential establishment of two new farms.

“It is a great concern that in the middle of a pandemic, our government was even entertaining the option to establish new farms given their problematic relationship with the pandemic,” said Peled.

According to the copy of emails that Peled shared with Langley Advance Times, one of the individuals expressed interest in setting up a fox fur farm in Langley. The other individual inquired about farm regulations in Prince George.

A ministry official responded to the inquiries and shared the legal requirements over email. The official also discussed scheduling a pre-licensing site visit with the Prince George resident.

The Ministry of Citizen’s Services has twice imposed a 30-day extension on Peled’s second FOI request to get an update on the matter. The letter by the ministry cited COVID-19 as the reason for the delay.

“At this time, government ministries are actively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and working to balance vital priorities. As such, the Information and Privacy Commissioner has approved a 30-day extension based on section 10(2)(b),” read the letter which states Feb. 7 as the new due date for response.

READ MORE: BC plans to phase out mink farming industry by 2025

Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, stated that the move to ban mink farming was made to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from mutating – which the B.C. Centre for Disease Control said is possible given the virus’s ability to mutate in minks and be passed back to people. Peled strongly believes the activism from various animal rights groups played a significant role in putting pressure on policymakers.

While BFFBC continues the campaign, The Canada Mink Breeders Association (CMBA) claims the province is surrendering to the pressure from animal welfare groups. “It takes generations of work, including excellent nutrition and care, and abiding by Canada’sCanada’s robust mink welfare program, to develop the quality of mink that Canada is famous for,” said Rob Bollert, president of the CMBA.

Assuring those affected by the move, Popham said the government will support a smooth transition. “Our government will work with affected farmers and workers to help them pursue other farming, business or job opportunities that support their families,” she added.

RELATED: False B.C. fur farm ban announcement a ‘rollercoaster of emotions’: activist

The Fur-Bearers, another animal rights activist group is leading the movement – they took B.C. government to court last year for giving a farm licence to a chinchilla fur farm in Buffalo Creek, B.C. The documents obtained by the activist group later indicated that the owners did not follow health management plans that are required by the law.

Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Jann Arden too joined the BFFBC’s campaign this holiday season.

Arden sang a customized carol in unison with other Canadians supporting fur-farm-ban to raise awareness and celebrate the recent phase-out announcement. American Idol contender and actress Amy Jean Davis, too, was seen singing the song, which is an adapted version of the song Away In A Manager.

“I’m thrilled for any chance to join my Canadian activist friends in an action. To do a collaboration with the talented Jann Arden was a huge bonus for me, as a singer,” said Davis.

“The holidays are a time when we talk about compassion and peace… it seemed like a very ideal opportunity to bring the two subjects together,” Peled said.

The carol curated by BFFBC was released on Christmas Eve to “grab the agriculture minister’s attention,” she added.

Have a story tip? Email: tanmay.ahluwalia@langleyadvancetimes.com

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