In this Dec. 6, 2012, file photo, minks look out of a cage at a fur farm in the village of Litusovo, northeast of Minsk, Belarus. Some mink farmers are concerned about COVID-19 spread through their mink. There have been outbreaks in mink farms in Europe and millions of mink had to be culled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Sergei Grits

Canada’s mink breeders increasing security to protect animals and industry from COVID

Canada’s mink breeders increasing security to protect animals and industry from COVID

HALIFAX — Canada’s mink breeders are increasing safety measures on their farms to avoid the devastating COVID-19 outbreaks that have plagued their European and American counterparts.

Infections on mink farms in Europe and the United States have revealed the animals are susceptible to COVID-19. Canada’s breeders are worried the pandemic could destroy the industry, which is already suffering from a drop in fur prices and losses from the Chinese market.

Merv Wiseman, vice-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Fur Breeders Association, says mink farmers won’t hesitate to cull their animals if an outbreak occurs on farms.

“This would be a loss that could potentially ruin an industry,” Wiseman said in an interview Wednesday, adding that some breeds of minks “are irreplaceable.”

Breeders in Denmark euthanized 2.5 million minks following COVID-19 outbreaks, while mink farmers in Spain culled almost 100,000. In the U.S., nearly 10,000 minks across Utah died of COVID-19 as the virus spread rapidly across farms in the state.

Canada’s 70 mink farms have remained untouched by the novel coronavirus. But Wiseman said what really worries him is whether government help will be around if animals become infected and need to be killed.

“We see no commitment from the government to say that they would provide an adequate compensation package both to cover the costs of an extensive culling as well as covering … the cost of the loss,” Wiseman said.

Newfoundland and Labrador Agriculture Minister Elvis Loveless said in an email the province has “a suite of programs and services in place to support fur farmers.”

Loveless also said the province was in contact with breeders “regarding susceptibility of mink to COVID-19, enhanced biosecurity measures required to protect mink … and requests to report respiratory signs in mink for disease investigation.”

Pandemic aside, the country’s mink breeders have been struggling with low fur prices for the last few years, Alan Herscovici, with Canada Mink Breeders Association, said. Pelts sell for about $50 when a few years ago they hit a high of about $130, he said in an interview Wednesday.

His association sent a memo to the country’s breeders last month warning them to reinforce security protocols. Farmers should avoid unnecessary contact with the mink and should stay away from the animals and their feed if they feel sick.

Matt Moses, president of the Nova Scotia Mink Breeders Association, said the industry has been feeling the effects of the pandemic since January — when the virus was active in China.

“Our main markets are China and eastern Asia, and they were dealing with the outbreak very early in the year,” he said in an interview Thursday.

The economic hit to China’s retail sector coupled with subdued Chinese New Year celebrations — an important time for mink sales — dealt blows to Canada’s industry, Moses said. Travel bans also limited in-person mink auctions, he said, adding that online sales aren’t effective for such a tactile product.

He said the pandemic has delayed breeders’ hopes for a rebound in the mink industry. “(The) price recovery that we were hopeful for in the industry was pushed off due to the slow retail season.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2020.

– – –

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver as Liberal on Wednesday February 8, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon headed for minority government as two main parties in a tie

Liberals came into the election looking to build on their surprise 2016 majority win

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. Sajjan took aim at recent Chinese military expansions into the South China Sea this evening even as he faced questions about the Liberal government’s ties to Beijing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Sajjan targets Chinese claims in South China Sea, battles Tories over Beijing ties

HMCS Calgary shadowed for at least part of the voyage as it passed near the disputed Spratly Islands

Transport trucks approach the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. North American trade is facing a “critical moment” in the ongoing aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, say Canadian business leaders as they embark on a concerted campaign to fortify ties with the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Canada-U.S. trade faces ‘critical moment’ that demands urgent action, businesses warn

Will fall to Canada to ensure its best interests are represented

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Children at the Port Angeles Boys & Girls Club practice social distancing throughout the day to minimize the spreading of germs and potentially the coronavirus. Photo courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula
Opinion: Teach young people these five principles

At all ages, young people may be the subject of mean behaviours… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: MLAs need to think about all Albertans

I was surprised to find more than a dozen UCP MLAs were… Continue reading

Most Read