Washington, DC—US Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, was joined by 20 colleagues today on a letter urging the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list American mink as an injurious species under the Lacey Act. This listing would prohibit the importation of live mink and mink pelts into the United States.
The letter references a petition submitted by wildlife protection groups to the USFWS in November 2021. The petition argues that listing American mink as an injurious species under the Lacey Act would help reduce the significant risks that farmed mink pose to humans and wildlife and would help combat the COVID-19 global health crisis. Mink are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and outbreaks have been confirmed on at least 18 fur farms in multiple US states, with more than 20,000 mink reported dead from the disease.
The threat of mink farms or infected wild mink populations becoming reservoirs for the virus could jeopardize efforts to contain the pandemic. Mink can pass the virus to humans, and such cases have been confirmed in Denmark, Poland and the Netherlands. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people at a farm in Michigan were infected with a mutation of SARS-CoV-2 found in mink, suggesting that mink-to-human transmission of unique variants occurred within the United States.
Furthermore, farmed mink regularly escape from captivity and threaten the viability of wild mink populations due to the risk of disease transmission, hybridization and competition for resources. Wild and free-ranging mink in close proximity to fur farms with COVID-19 outbreaks have tested positive for the virus.
“Mink farming poses a serious threat to wildlife, ecosystems, and human health,” Huffman said. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen an alarming pattern of COVID-19 mutation in mink farms. With these risks in mind, it’s critical we do everything we can to get ahead of outbreaks that could wreak havoc on our communities and the greater public health. Listing American mink as an injurious species is an important step to prevent further mutations and outbreaks that are running rampant in these facilities.”
“Thank you, Chairman Huffman and colleagues, for urging the administration to address the clear hazard that farmed mink pose to citizens and wildlife,” said Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute. “We must use every tool available to combat this pandemic and mitigate future outbreaks. The clock is ticking—the USFWS must act swiftly to list American mink as an injurious species.”
Animal Defenders International President Jan Creamer said: “Our investigations have exposed the suffering of animals farmed for fur. Mink suffer mentally and physically on fur farms. They live in barren cages, crammed next to one another in unhygienic conditions; their immune systems are impaired by stress. These factory farms can easily give rise to new mutations of COVID-19.”
“Mink raised on fur farms suffer immensely for an industry that profits off of animal exploitation,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Mink typically spend their lives in cramped, unsanitary wire cages, conditions that have led to the rapid transmission of COVID-19 among mink populations and outbreaks at several mink farms. We are grateful to Chairman Huffman and his colleagues for calling on the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list American mink as an injurious species; urgent action is needed to protect animals and prevent further spread of COVID-19.”
“Millions of mink are raised in captivity for fur each year,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Mink are susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and can transmit Covid-19 to each other, humans, and to other wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must act now to protect human and animal health. Kudos to Rep. Huffman for leading congressional efforts calling on the agency to list mink as an ‘injurious species’ under the Lacey Act. We shouldn’t be trading public health for the vanity of a fur coat.”
According to Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA, “Ending the gross exploitation of wild animals in captivity has long been the mission of Born Free USA, and there is no doubt that mink on fur farms suffer abominably in the name of outdated and cruel fashion. The conditions these wild animals are forced to endure are so poor and unsanitary that these farms have become a proven incubator for the COVID-19 virus and its mutations, further exacerbating the global health crisis we’ve been combatting for over two years. We are so thankful to Chairman Huffman for once again championing sound science, human health, and animal welfare, and we urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move forward with listing American mink as an injurious species.”
Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128
Animal Defenders International
[email protected], (323) 804-9920
Mike Heymsfield, Animal Legal Defense Fund
[email protected], (707) 364-8387
Karen Lauria, Born Free USA
[email protected], (917) 783-3480
Melissa Smith, the Humane Society of the United States/Humane Society Legislative Fund
[email protected], (231) 360-7676
The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.
Animal Defenders International is active worldwide to end the suffering of animals in captivity and protect wild animals and their environments. We investigate, produce evidence and reports, educate and raise awareness, and conduct large-scale seizures of wild animals in captivity in collaboration with governments. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to learn more about our campaigns and how you can help.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.
Born Free USA works to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs. We oppose the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and campaign to keep them where they belong—in the wild. Born Free USA's primate sanctuary is one of the largest in the United States and provides a permanent home to monkeys rehomed from laboratories or rescued from zoos and private ownership. Visit bornfreeusa.org to learn more.
Humane Society Legislative Fund works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues and support humane candidates for office. Formed in 2004, HSLF is incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code as a separate lobbying affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States. Visit us at hslf.org, read our blog at hslf.org/blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States fights the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, we take on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing and other cruel industries. With our affiliates, we rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals every year through our animal rescue team’s work and other hands-on animal care services. We fight all forms of animal cruelty to achieve the vision behind our name: A humane society. Learn more about our work at humanesociety.org. Subscribe to Kitty Block’s blog, A Humane World. Follow the HSUS Media Relations department on Twitter. Read the award-winning All Animals magazine. Listen to the Humane Voices Podcast.