Fur farming should be history

Factory farming of animals for their fur is cruel, outdated and should be banned

Victoria Shroff

It’s time to make fur farming history. Tens of thousands of mink and other fur-bearing animals are purpose-bred, raised and then killed for the use of their fur.

The issue of fur farming is more than an “animal rights” issue as it concerns the inextricable linking of human, animal and environmental health. The viral storm caused by Covid-19 exposed these overlapping interspecies vulnerabilities. Minks are vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the virus can jump the species barrier to transmit to humans. Repeated outbreaks of Covid-19 at commercial mink farms in B.C., Europe, the U.S.A., and other parts of the world have spotlighted this cruel and unnecessary industry. Millions of minks have been killed attempting to stop the viral spread, and breed bans have now been put in place in many countries in the E.U. and beyond.

 Several voices, including The Suzuki Foundation, The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), Humane Societies, infectious disease physicians, and the Fur-Bearers, have been calling for the closure of the commercial fur farming industry. A recent article by Humane Society International outlined some of the main reasons. Canadian infectious diseases specialist Dr. Hajek was quoted: “Given the very real threat of viral mutations and the transmission of virus between animals and people in these facilities, the B.C. Government should now act decisively, prohibit and end industrial fur farming in the interest of public health and animal welfare.”

Kelly Butler, of H.S.I./Canada, stated, “The world community is taking urgent action to end fur farming because it is inherently inhumane, environmentally destructive, and poses a grave public health risk. More than 20 countries have already stopped fur farming within their jurisdictions. The B.C. government must follow the lead of these nations and end this cruel, high risk, outdated and needless industry.” Dr. Dubois, BC SPCA Chief Scientific Officer, stated, “fur farming exists in direct opposition to the values of British Columbians. The continuation of this industry would present unacceptable outcomes for both animals and people.” Grand Chief Phillip, president of the UBCIC, stated, “We are renewing our call for an end to fur farming in B.C. This industry not only goes against Indigenous values of wildlife stewardship and conservation but also has proven to be an unmanageable threat to public health.”

Are there some checks and balances under Canadian law? There are some laws and codes of practice, but many argue they do not go far enough. In BC, for example, the statute to regulate the fur farm industry is the Animal Health Act and Fur Farm Regulations.
The act defines:

  • “fur bearing animal” means a chinchilla, fisher, fox, marten, mink or nutria;
  • “fur farm” means a place where two or more fur bearing animals are kept in captivity with the intention of breeding the animals, or producing pelts, for commercial purposes

Part 3 — Health of Fur Bearing Animals — Health management plan states:

  • 7(1) A licensed fur farmer must

(a) establish a health management plan in accordance with subsection (2) for the fur bearing animals kept on the fur farm, and (b) ensure that all operators on the fur farm implement all protocols and procedures contained in the plan.

On July 6, 2021, a novel type of lawsuit concerning fur farming was filed in B.C. Supreme Court on behalf of the Fur Bearer’s. David Wu, of Arvay Finlay, one of the lawyers for the case (I am co-counsel), outlined the case in a nutshell: “The Fur-Bearer’s have launched a judicial review challenging the renewal of a fur farm licence to B.C.’s only chinchilla fur farm. The basis of the judicial review is that the licence was renewed with no animal health management plan in place. A health management plan is a requirement under the applicable regulation. The government does not dispute that there was no fur farm licence in place. Rather, it appears that the main arguments the government will advance are that the petitioners lack public interest standing and the issue is moot because the government is now working to address the lack of a health management plan. As such, whether the government can be held accountable over how it follows and enforces the regulatory scheme will likely become front and center in this case.” We expect this animal law case will go to a hearing later this year. (For further details, please see B.C. taken to court over chinchilla fur farm licence in Vancouver Is Awesome).

On July 21, 2021, under the Public Health Act, S.B.C. 2008, a moratorium was ordered on new B.C. mink farms and capped existing fur farms due to Covid-19. All provinces should follow suit, and funding programs that support the commercial fur farming industry, proven to be a threat to health, should be stopped.

A 2020 public opinion poll showed that 81 per cent of Canadians are opposed to killing animals for their fur. The overarching question is, why do we continue to allow fur farming now that the facts are in and the science is clear? The law needs to catch up by rapidly phasing out the industry and provide retraining to fur farmers. Big-name fashion houses have taken fur off their designer menus, including Prada, Gucci, Coach, and others, demonstrating an understanding of consumer demand for fur-free fashion.

Consumer appetite for using the fur coats of animals for human vanity has shrunk in the face of humane education. The killing of animals for their fur, for fashion is not socially or morally acceptable and needs to be banned. We are overdue in Canada to bring the anachronistic commercial fur farming industry to a swift close.

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