by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
What really smells in Newfoundland
Awwwww ... those poor people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador, I should explain to non-Canadians, is the name of our easternmost province, although “Newfoundland” is a very large island, while “Labrador” is a vast region located up the northeast coast of the mainland. The island part, at least, has a problem. Mink farms. Last week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), using provincial access to information legislation, uncovered an otherwise apparently secretive report on the smelly side of a burgeoning local industry, “farming” mink for the fur trade.
Newfoundland, major political thrust behind Canada’s annual black-eye loathed everywhere as “the Canadian seal hunt,” was built on the backs of another wild animal, the Northern Cod. For close to five centuries cod was the most important source of income on “the Rock”, as Newfoundland is nicknamed. Cod production went swimmingly until after 1949, when the Rock officially joined Canada and the fishery came under federal jurisdiction. In 1992 that once inexhaustible fishery went belly-up, with major moratoria imposed on most cod fishing, far, far too late to save the fishery. (I strongly recommend reading Who Killed the Grand Banks, the untold story behind the decimation of one of the world’s greatest natural resources, by Alex Rose, published by John Wiley & Sons, 2008, ISBN 978-0—470-15387-1.)
From scallops to snow crabs fisherfolk have scrambled in this traditionally “have-not” province to earn a living. While recent oil discoveries have turned it into a “have” province, profits don’t necessarily reach impoverished rural areas, hence mink farming, which has increased sixty-fold between 2001 and last year’s count of some 60,000 animals.
The report found, says the CBC, “... the majority of fur farmers bury dead animals at local landfills. As well, the researchers found that some farms have piles of manure that are not properly covered, not all farmers are cleaning cages properly, and some forms do not have a large enough buffer zone with their closest neighbours.”
Um ... what about the mink? Mink are in the same family as skunks, and produce strong odors, especially under stress. You can spend, as I have, a significant part of your life in wild mink habitat and never smell that odor, but there is nothing “natural” about mink “farms,” better described as concentration camps. I have no shred of sympathy for any townsfolk complaining about the stink of mink farms, it is what happens to the mink that makes me want to retch. It’s the fur industry that stinks.