BC’s factory fur farms are a petri dish for global pandemics and must be banned, says HSI/Canada

Humane Society International / Canada

Raccoon dogs and foxes intensively farmed for fur in Asia, filmed November-December 2020.

MONTREAL—The World Health Organization has published its report, WHO-convened Global Study of the Origins of SARS-CoV-2, and identified fur farming as an area of interest in the search for the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The joint WHO-China study suggests that wild animals intensively bred on farms for fur fashion and other purposes could have become infected at the farms and then been transported to a wildlife wet market where the outbreak began.

Market traders in China display, sell and butcher a variety of wild and domestic animal species including mink, raccoon dogs and foxes, which are known to be susceptible to SARS viruses. Millions of these animals are farmed for fur in China and other regions, including Canada.

The report states that introduction through an intermediary host is considered to be “likely to very likely” as a possible pathway of emergence. One of the specific recommendations in the report calls for surveys for SARSr-CoVs in farmed wildlife that have the potential to be infected, including “those bred for fur such as mink and raccoon dogs in farms in China, in South-East Asia, and in other regions.” The report further noted “SARS-CoV-2 adapts relatively rapidly in susceptible animals (such as mink). The increasing number of animals shown to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 includes animals that are farmed in sufficient densities to allow potential for enzootic circulation.”

In 2018 (the most recent year for which data is available), over 1.7 million mink and over 2300 foxes were killed on Canadian fur farms. To date, there have been two COVID-19 outbreaks on factory fur farms in Canada, both occurring at mink farms in British Columbia.

Kelly Butler, wildlife campaign manager at Humane Society International/Canada, said: “We are calling on the BC government to take immediate action to end factory fur farming in British Columbia. These facilities cause horrendous animal suffering and were opposed by the vast majority of people in BC before they were exposed as reservoirs for COVID-19. Countries the world over are closing their factory fur farms in response to the grave public health and animal welfare threats they present. There is simply no excuse for the BC government to turn a blind eye to these tangible threats and allow these inhumane, dangerous and economically nonviable fur factories to continue to operate.”

Dr Peter Li, China policy expert at Humane Society International, said: “The WHO report provides a stark and sobering warning about the devastating public health risks of exploiting wild animals in unsanitary, overcrowded and inhumane factory farm systems be that bamboo rats and badgers for human consumption, pangolins for traditional medicine, or raccoon dogs and mink for fur fashion. Cramming millions of animals together in these abusive industries creates a perfect petri dish for pandemics, and unless we ban farming for fur and the wildlife trade, we will continue to play Russian roulette with global public safety.”


  • Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been documented on at least 422 mink fur farms in 11 different countries in Europe and North America since April 2020, including Canada (2 farms), Denmark (290 farms), France (1 farm), Greece (23 farms), Italy (2 farms), Lithuania (2 farms), Netherlands (69 farms), Poland (1 farm), Spain (4 farms), Sweden (13 farms) and the United States (16 farms).
  • The few fur farms operating in BC exist solely to produce fashion items. They provide negligible employment, damage local environments, pose a significant public health risk and consume millions of tax dollars in government handouts.
  • In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, just under 270 000 mink were killed on fur farms in BC.
  • 85 percent of British Columbians oppose the killing of wild animals for fur (Research Co, 2020 ).
  • In 2014, a British Columbia fur farm was the subject of an investigation by the BC SPCA that uncovered deplorable conditions and egregious neglect and animal suffering. Many animals were missing limbs, digits and ears, and one animal—mysteriously paralyzed—had to be euthanized on site.
  • Numerous BC scientists have called on the BC government to take action on fur farming.

Download photos and video from the China fur farm investigation


Media contact: Michael Bernard, deputy director of Humane Society International/Canada: mbernard@hsi.org; 613.371.5170

Record low sea ice cover, ongoing pandemic are urgent reasons to suspend the slaughter

Humane Society International / Canada

Michael Bernard/HSI Canada

MONTREAL—In the wake of the lowest sea ice formation in recorded history off of Canada’s East Coast, Humane Society International/Canada is urging the Canadian government to stop the commercial seal hunt. Canadian government scientists anticipate mass mortality of newborn seal pups as their sea ice habitat melts before they are strong enough to survive in open water. Furthermore, allowing hundreds of sealers to operate in cramped conditions on sealing vessels during a global pandemic presents a clear threat to public health.

“Climate change is causing rapid deterioration of the sea ice cover off of Canada’s East Coast. For the ice breeding seals who are the targets of the commercial seal hunt, it is a disaster,” stated Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada and a first-hand observer of Canada’s commercial seal hunt for eighteen years. “No responsible government would allow the few pups who survive these unprecedented ice conditions to be slaughtered just to produce fashion items. Moreover, no responsible health authority would allow this senseless, shameful hunt to proceed during a global pandemic. We are calling on the Canadian government to do the right and responsible thing and stop the 2021 commercial seal slaughter in Atlantic Canada.”

Canadian government scientists clearly state that the sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off of Newfoundland will continue to deteriorate, and that the resulting mass mortality of pups will have a severe impact on the harp seal population. A precautionary approach to wildlife management clearly precludes commercial hunting of an ice dependent species whose ice habitat is quickly vanishing.

Notably, climate change makes commercial seal killing methods even more inhumane. Veterinary studies have strongly emphasized the severe suffering that results from shooting seals in or near open water, given the high wounding rates documented in the Canadian seal hunt, and the ability of wounded seals to escape beneath the water’s surface (where they die slowly and are not retrieved). As ice conditions deteriorate, almost all commercial sealing will happen in these conditions. Moreover, when seals are shot in open water or on ice too fragile for a sealer to stand on, they are retrieved with gaffs (long wooden poles with metal hooks) without the sealers first being able to physically confirm death. This results in many seals being impaled, while conscious, on metal hooks and hoisted onto bloody boat decks before they are beaten to death.

If the Canadian government refuses to stop the slaughter for good, at the very least, commercial sealing should be suspended in 2021. Failing even this basic precautionary measure, the Canadian government must, at a bare minimum, issue variance orders to:

  1. Cancel all quotas allocated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence region given the exceptionally high pup mortality that will occur in the region
  2. Delay the opening date of the Newfoundland hunt given poor ice conditions will likely delay birthing (as was evidenced in 2011, another year with poor sea ice conditions)
  3. Prohibit the killing of moulting newborn seals (ragged jackets) to prevent mass slaughter of these exceptionally young pups (as was documented in 2011)
  4. Prohibit shooting and clubbing of seals in or near open water as a measure to reduce the number of struck and lost animals during the slaughter
  5. Prohibit gaffing or hooking of animals without prior physical confirmation of death.

Download seal hunt video and photos here and here


Media Contact: Michael Bernard, Deputy Director, HSI/Canada: 613.371.5170; mbernard@hsi.org

Humane Society International / Canada

In 2019, Bill S-214, The Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, died on the order paper, which means that cosmetic animal testing is still legal in Canada. Help continue the fight!

Humane Society International / Canada

“Agricultural gag” bills would make it easy for Big Ag to hide the abuse that routinely happens on factory farms.

The COVID-19 Animal Response Program has delivered over 75,000 kg of pet food to those most in need

Humane Society International / Canada

Brown rat

MONTREAL & TORONTO – As COVID-19 continues to directly impact peoples’ lives, Humane Society International/Canada and Friends of HSI have teamed up with over 40 community groups, charities and foundations including: the Eric S. Margolis Family Foundation, PetSmart Charities of Canada, the Salvation Army, Fred Victor, Toronto Community Housing, Chiots Nordiques and the Emmanuelle Gattuso Foundation to provide emergency help to companion animals in Canada through our innovative COVID-19 Animal Response program launched in April.

The program provides critical assistance to those who are in urgent need of help caring for their animals as a result of the pandemic, both in Montreal and Toronto as well as in remote First Nations communities. Over the coming three months, support from the Canadian Red Cross and the Government of Canada will allow this program to expand in Ontario.

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada, stated: “This has been a challenging and difficult year for both people and the animals who depend on them. Our Animal Response team has been working tirelessly to help people who are struggling to provide for their animals and who have nowhere else to look for help. We have witnessed firsthand, through our presence in the community and by meeting animal caregivers from all walks of life, how devasting the impacts of this crisis have been on people and their companion animals. Animals hold a special place in the lives of people, and we are so grateful to be able to help keep dogs and cats with their families throughout this pandemic.”

HSI/Canada and Friends of HSI’s COVID-19 Animal Response program is currently the only emergency program for animals operating nationally and has provided the following services to date:

  • Provisions of over 75,000 kgs of companion animal food to individuals in need (those contending with reduced mobility, quarantine or lost income) through mobile pet food banks and dozens of central distribution sites in the GTA and the Greater Montreal area. HSI/Canada is working in partnership with food banks and community service organizations such as Salvation Army, Fred Victor, Mission Bon Accueil, Toronto Community Housing and many other incredible community groups to help provide these much needed resources during the pandemic.
  • Distribution of over 16,000 kgs of pet food to impacted First Nations communities that are even more severely isolated by lockdowns and quarantine, in partnership with Chiots Nordiques.
  • Emergency sheltering of dozens of animals to assist partner shelters with increasing demands as well as hospitalized individuals.
  • Transport and fostering of animals in need of urgent veterinary services.

John Tory, mayor of the City of Toronto, said through a letter to FHSI: “Thank you, again, for your generosity and for stepping up to help in the City’s efforts to fight COVID-19. Your generosity will help ensure that our city comes back from this emergency stronger than ever.”

Members of the Toronto – GTA public impacted by COVID-19 and in need of urgent assistance in caring for their companion animals are encouraged to reach out by email at: onresponse@hsicanada.ca.

While individuals with companion animals impacted by the pandemic in the Greater Montreal area could contact: qcresponse@hsicanada.ca.

Media Contacts

Toronto: Elana Trainoff, community liaison, COVID-19 Animal Response program, Toronto: etrainoff@hsi.org or 647-285-3575.

Montréal: Ewa Demianowicz, senior campaign manager, HSI/Canada: edemianowicz@hsi.org or 514-575-3499.

Provincial and federal action is needed now to phase out cruel fur farming and protect Canadians from potentially devastating disease outbreaks

Humane Society International / Canada

Kristo Muurimaa/Oikeutta Elaimille

MONTREAL—In the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak among workers and animals at a factory fur farm in BC’s Fraser Valley, Humane Society International/Canada is once again calling on provincial and federal governments to end fur farming in Canada. Of those holding an opinion, 78% of Canadians support a national ban on fur farming (Insights West, 2020). Yet in stark contrast to Canadian opinion, a 2020 CBC News analysis revealed that more than $100 million in federal and provincial funds have been allocated to the mink farming industry since 2014 alone.

Eight workers and at least five minks at the BC factory fur farm have contracted SARS-CoV-2. In other major mink producing nations, including Denmark, significant outbreaks of COVID-19—and alarming mutations of the virus, as well as transmissions to people—have been well documented in factory mink farms. These outbreaks have led to the decision to slaughter more than 15 million minks in horrific ways, along with the quarantining of hundreds of thousands of people. Clearly, the millions of minks that are intensively confined in Canadian factory fur farms are highly susceptible to contracting, mutating and transmitting SARS-CoV-2, which can result in outbreaks in human populations and undermine medical progress.

Kelly Butler, wildlife campaign manager for HSI/Canada, stated, “Factory fur farms cannot begin to meet the most basic of needs of the wild animals they imprison and kill for fashion and they create a strong opportunity for transmission and mutation of zoonotic diseases including COVID-19. It is unconscionable that our federal and provincial governments continue to allow and subsidize this cruel industry and put the health and safety of Canadians at risk simply to serve the whims of the fashion industry.”

Multiple investigations of Canadian fur farms in recent years have exposed the horrific conditions on factory fur farms. In one of these, the chief scientific officer to the BC SPCA discussed her 2014 observations at a BC fur farm, stating, “70,000 mink squirmed in cages the size of two shoe boxes as heaps of their own excrement mounted on the floor beneath them. Many were missing limbs, digits and ears, and one animal—mysteriously paralyzed—had to be euthanized on site.”

Nearly two million animals are slaughtered on fur farms in Canada annually. Fur farming has already been banned in 12 countries, and is effectively banned or being phased out in many others.


Media Contact: Michael Bernard, HSI/Canada, deputy director: 613.371.5170; mbernard@hsi.org

Canada’s pork industry wants to extend its timeline to phase out cruel intensive confinement systems from 10 to 15 years

Humane Society International / Canada

Aumsama, iStock.com

MONTREAL—Humane Society International/Canada, a leading national advocacy group for animal welfare, is deeply concerned about the pork industry’s delay in phasing out gestation crates, which are used to confine mother pigs for nearly their entire lives. These crates, also known as sow stalls, are commonplace in Canada’s pork industry and are so small that the animals cannot even turn around.

Riana Topan, HSI/Canada’s campaign manager for farm animal welfare, says: “Pigs are intelligent, social creatures and they should be given the opportunity to move around freely, to socialize, explore and play. We urge the pork industry to quit stalling and to adhere to its original timeline of phasing out gestation crates by 2024. This kind of delay, which will compromise the welfare of hundreds of thousands of animals, is a stark reminder of why the animal agriculture sector should not be allowed to self-regulate.”

The Canadian pork industry committed to a transition away from sow stalls in 2014, after immense public pressure from Canadian consumers who are increasingly concerned about animal welfare. Over 32,000 Canadians participated in an industry driven and government sanctioned Code of Practice development process in 2013, through which stalls were scheduled to largely be replaced with group housing systems by 2024, with gestation stalls permitted for up to 35 days of pregnancy. HSI/Canada hailed the move as an historic achievement for farm animal welfare in North America at the time. Unfortunately, the pork industry is stalling and now says the transition cannot be completed until 2029.

Within Canada, the federal government only regulates animal transport and slaughter. There are few laws to ensure humane animal treatment on farms. Instead, there are industry-specific Codes of Practice, which are created by the industry-dominated National Farm Animal Care Council and enforced by the industries to which they pertain. These Codes of Practice are not legally binding.

NFACC develops and reviews these Codes regularly and the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs is currently being revised, with comments being accepted until Nov. 19, 2020. The most contentious proposed change extends the timeline to phase out gestation crates from 2024 to 2029. The original agreement was to switch to group housing systems, which are better for animal welfare, five years earlier than the proposal currently under consideration.

HSI/Canada is calling on the Canadian pork industry to follow through on the commitment it agreed to in 2014. HSI/Canada further calls on the federal government to better regulate the pork industry and to divert any existing industry subsidies towards eliminating gestation crates. We also urge food companies—including Canada’s grocery industry—to uphold their existing commitment to have crate-free supply chains by 2022.


  • The federal government does not regulate the treatment of animals on farms. Most provinces have animal cruelty legislation, but they typically contain exemptions for “generally accepted” agricultural practices. This lack of animal welfare laws and the Code of Practice system allow the industry to self-regulate, perpetuating cruel practices.
  • The NFACC Codes of Practice are developed largely by the industry they pertain to and are not enforced with third-party oversight.
  • Pigs routinely suffer in the pork industry: they often live in bare physical and social environments and are forced to undergo mutilative practices like tail docking, teeth clipping and castration without adequate pain relief. Piglets can be “euthanized” using blunt force trauma, where their heads are hit against a flat, hard surface or they are hit with “a sharp, firm blow with a heavy blunt instrument to the top of the head over the brain.”
  • A national poll conducted by Environics Research Group in 2013 revealed that an overwhelming 84% of Canadians support a phase out of the use of gestation crates for breeding sows.


Media contact: Riana Topan, HSI/Canada, campaign manager: 613-315-0775, rtopan@hsi.org.

Humane Society International / Canada

Wildlife killing contests legally take place in British Columbia every year. During these contests, animals are senselessly killed to accumulate points towards winning cash and/or prizes.

Humane Society International / Canada

Wildlife experts have stated that killing wolves will not save caribou; caribou are struggling as a result of habitat loss due to industrial development.

Fifty of the traumatized dogs to receive specialized care at shelter near Montreal

Humane Society International / Canada

Ewa Demianowicz, HSI HSI/Canada and Friends of HSI have welcomed dogs saved from a dog meat farm in South Korea (farm 17). A total of 50 dogs will be cared for by the team.

MONTREAL, QC—A total of 196 dogs have been rescued by Humane Society International from South Korean dog meat farms and slaughter facilities. Over the past  weeks, the HSI Animal Rescue Team quarantined in solitary confinement at a government-approved facility in Seoul before being allowed to head to a dog meat farm in Haemi to rescue 170 dogs, including golden retrievers, a poodle, Korean jindos and mastiffs, Pomeranians, terriers and a Labrador. These dogs, and an additional 26 dogs rescued from previous dog meat farms and slaughter operations, have been transported directly to the United States.

Fifty of the dogs are coming to the HSI/Canada and Friends of HSI emergency shelter located just outside of Montreal, where they will receive the love, veterinary care and rehabilitation therapy they need prior to be placed in forever homes.

Ewa Demianowicz, Senior Campaign Manager for HSI/Canada, said: “We are so pleased to welcome these 50 survivors of the South Korean dog meat trade into our emergency shelter. At last these dogs can receive the specialized care they need to recover from the horrific trauma they have endured. Our expert team will work with these dogs around the clock to make sure each and every one of them gets a second chance and a forever home.”

Nara Kim, HSI/Korea’s dog meat campaign manager, stated at the scene of the dog meat farm rescue: “Every dog meat farm I’ve visited has a horrible stench of feces and rotting food, but there was something different about this dog farm, it had a smell of death. The conditions were truly pitiful, and when we found these dogs they had looks of utter despair on their faces that will haunt us forever. Many of them are covered in painful sores and wounds from neglect, some have inflamed eyes and peer out blindly from their cage. I feel almost grateful they can no longer see this horrible place they live in, and when they finally receive veterinary care and can open their eyes, they will never have to endure this hopelessness again.”

This marks the 17th dog meat farm that HSI has permanently closed down, and coincides with the publication of a new opinion poll showing growing support in South Korea for a ban on dog meat consumption. The poll, conducted by Nielsen and commission by Humane Society International/Korea, shows that 84% of the population say they don’t or won’t eat dog, and almost 60% support a legislative ban on the trade.

Key poll findings:

  • 84% of South Koreans haven’t consumed dog meat or say they are not willing to consume it in the future.
  • 59% of South Koreans support banning dog meat, an increase of 23.9% from 2017, with opposition to a ban at an all-time low (fewer than half (41.4%) of the population.
  • 57% of South Koreans believe dog meat consumption reflects poorly on Korea, increasing from 37% in 2017.


  • Dog meat is most popular in South Korea during the Bok days of summer in July and August.
  • Recent crackdowns by authorities to curb the dog meat industry include the shutting down of Taepyeong dog slaughterhouse (the country’s largest) by Seongnam City Council in November 2018, followed in July 2019 by the closure of Gupo dog meat market in Busan (South Korea’s second largest dog meat market after Moran market, which has also closed), and a declaration in October last year by the mayor of Seoul that the city is “dog slaughter free.” In November 2019 a court found that a dog farmer who electrocuted dogs was in violation of the Animal Protection Act, a judgement that could have huge implications for an industry that relies almost entirely on electrocution as a killing method.
  • At each dog meat farm closure, HSI has a veterinarian test for the presence of the H3N2 virus (“canine influenza”), at the time the dogs receive their rabies, DHPP and coronavirus vaccines. HSI then quarantines the dogs on the farm or at a shelter for at least 30 days, and the dogs are health certified again prior to transport overseas.

For photos: click here, and then select “create account” at the top of the page; fill out your information, and an administrator will approve you right away. If you encounter any difficulties, do not hesitate to reach out to the media contact below.


Media Contact: Ewa Demianowicz: 514-575-3499; edemianowicz@hsi.org.

Nielsen online research conducted August/September 2020. Total sample size 1,000 people across six major cities in South Korea (Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan) weighted and representative of South Korean adults (aged 18+).

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