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

A fake announcement from agriculture minister Lana Popham was sent out on Sept. 14
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.

A “news release” sent out Tuesday morning to media across B.C. from what appeared to be a provincial ministry got many animal rights activists’ hopes up right before the real ministry shot them right back down again.

A hoax news release made its way to the email inboxes of hundreds of journalists on Sept. 14, stating that the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries was banning fur farms, phasing them out over the next five months.

The reason cited in the fake release for phasing out fur farms was COVID-19, specifically the outbreaks at Fraser Valley mink farms seen during the pandemic. It also included a quote attributed to Agriculture Minister Lana Popham.

The ministry was quick to denounce the release as false, saying the government “continues to use enhanced surveillance to monitor, inspect and mitigate SARS-CoV-2 infections in mink farms in the province to protect the public, farm workers and animal health, as a provincial review of the mink farming sector in B.C. continues.”

READ MORE: Quarantined B.C. mink farm resumes breeding after COVID-19 outbreak

Kelowna animal rights activist Amy Soranno said it was a roller coaster of emotions, first hearing the announcement and soon after realizing it was fake and that fur farms haven’t been banned after all.

“While the news of a fur farm ban being a hoax is upsetting to hear, there remain a plethora of reasons why a ban should indeed be implemented for environmental, human, and animal concerns,” she said.

“The environmental impacts of fur farming are up to 20 times higher than those of common textiles. The risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 from mink to humans is very high, putting fur farmworkers in notoriously dangerous environments.”

Before it was discovered false, Ban Fur Farms BC, a group that has been advocating for closing down fur farms in the province, especially in the Fraser Valley region, celebrated the announcement. After learning that B.C. would not be phasing out fur farms, the group’s spokesperson Zoe Peled said the incident will at least bring it back to the public’s attention and that people can see how problematic the fur industry is.

Soranno agreed with that sentiment, saying there are a few things to consider moving forward.

“Despite allegedly heightened safety precautions, COVID-19 outbreaks are still happening on fur farms in B.C., so the only reasonable next step is to ban fur farming entirely.”

READ MORE: BC SPCA slams proposed changes to mink farm standards after 2 COVID outbreaks


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Twila Amato

About the Author: Twila Amato

Twila was a radio reporter based in northern Vancouver Island. She won the Jack Webster Student Journalism Award while at BCIT and received a degree in ancient and modern Greek history from McGill University.
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