The value of Canadian fur exports topped $400 million in 2017. In 2018, 1.7 million farmed mink were produced in Canada, mainly in rural communities. More than 60,000 Canadians work in various sectors of the fur trade, as trappers, fur farmers, craftspeople and in other support sectors.
The fur trade is part of Canada’s resource-based economy and one of Canada’s oldest and most historically significant industries. Four hundred years following its beginning, the commercial fur trade continues to use a plentiful Canadian resource in a sustainable and responsible manner and is an important contributor to Canada’s economy and ecology.
Farming is also consistent with international agreements such as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the IUCN (World Conservation Union).
Fur farmers, as with all farmers, must follow provincial/territorial regulations governing operational, environmental and animal care practices.
Federal, provincial and municipal governments have strict environmental regulations in place. Regulations include the distance farms must maintain from waterways, the handling of manure and compost, bio-security and pest management. Regular application/assessment processes and inspections are often a part of these systems. Environmental regulations may vary from province to province.
In Canada, farmers abide by the industry standards outlined in the National Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Mink, to ensure that animals are well cared for, and harvested humanely. The code was developed under the auspices of the National Farm Animal Care Council with the collaboration of producers, government departments, animal-welfare agencies, and veterinarians and scientists. Scientific research findings are the basis for these standards.
The code addresses animal health and welfare concerns, namely; accommodation, food and water, care and supervision, health care, hygiene and sanitation, transportation of live mink, and euthanasia. The Code contains both mandatory and recommended guidelines and is recognized under provincial animal protection laws.
Certifur Canada is a mink industry initiative undertaken in conjunction with NFACC (National Farm Animal Care Council) to develop an on-farm animal care assessment program based on the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Mink. Certifur Canada was developed in collaboration with veterinarians, animal welfare representatives, researchers, government representatives and producers. An independent auditor visits all farms participating in the program to perform an annual farm audit. The role of the third party auditor is to verify that Certifur Canada criteria are met on farm, and identify any gaps. Evidence that Certifur Canada requirements are met includes observation of animals and pens, walkabout on farm, written procedures, records, and interviews with the farm manager and workers. The goal of Certifur Canada is to strive for continuous improvement.
The Canada Mink Breeders Association is proud to support research in the areas of nutrition, animal welfare, animal health, genomics, physiology and management. A partnership has been established with the Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture to fund research from across Canada. An Industry Research Chair in Mink Genomics has been established at the University.
The Canada Mink Breeders Association is also involved in the Joint Mink Research Committee which is comprised of producer representatives from both Canada and the US to encourage and fund North American mink research.
During the development of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Mink and the subsequent audit, development research opportunities were identified.
Canada Mink Breeders Association updates its research priorities on a regular basis.
Canada Mink Breeders Association regularly attends the International Fur Animal Science Association (IFASA) conference and has organized two of these conferences.
Farmed fur associations have initiated or contributed to Canadian research and development in furbearer health, nutrition, behaviour, housing and management. The Canadian Centre for Fur Animal Research operates out of Dalhousie University. It is a centre of excellence that carries out and facilitates education, as well as research and technology development in a number of areas related to carnivorous, fur-bearing animals. Its partners include government and industry groups and has a national mandate. Farmed fur research is also conducted out of the University of Guelph.
Individual farmers also contribute by providing their farms for on-farm research projects or by conducting their own research projects under the guidance of research specialists.
1 Fur Council of Canada, Fur Information Council of America, 2012