Gaining a permit to establish a mink farm in Nova Scotia should require a provincial environmental impact assessment. This condition, if it were fact, would have avoided years of conflict, bad press and prolonged conciliation. It also wouldn’t have “exposed” Nova Scotia’s seemingly undercover, prominent, and (in my opinion) unusual mink industry. An industry which serves as Nova Scotia’s biggest agricultural export, earning $140 million a year, covering half of Canada’s total exports of mink fur (3).
Though Nova Scotia had been farming mink (for fur exports) since the 1930’s (3), it only became a headline issue in 2008. It was then that the Nova Scotia Department of Environment released an evaluation of various lake water qualities in the southwestern watersheds (7). The survey determined that there was significantly deteriorating water quality, which coincided with increasing nutrient trend in area lakes (4) and elevated levels of fecal coliforms (5).
With this area hosting approximately 40 mink operations (and counting) (5), it didn’t take long for environmental groups and concerned citizens to suggest the proliferating mink farms as a likely cause. With their operations being completely unregulated, citizens have taken it upon themselves to investigate and lay blame:
(Video taken August 12 2012: Little Lake Doucette, Municipality of Clare, Digby County, by YouTube user: ‘Mink Stink”)
With now more than 40 applications for permits submitted to expand or open new farms in one county alone (1), individuals have sought legal representation; mink farming has prompted a local law firm to initiate the preliminary phases of a class action lawsuit over the contamination from the industry (7).
Nova Scotia has a Fur Industry Act (passed in 2010, a joint effort between government and industry), and caused much outcry from citizens due to their exclusion from its formation (5). The regulations of the Act have yet to be finalized, and when they do, they will allow for 3 more years before obligatory compliance (7).
A mink farm’s development does not need to be cleared by Environmental Nova Scotia or confirm to any environmental assessment regulations (it falls under the Department of Agriculture) (2), therefore it is still operating unregulated, with no certain end date. The reactive Fur Industry Act demonstrates retroactive policy formation and lagging governance. More inclusive environmental assessment regulations would have averted this issue and perhaps the industry would still be the province’s best-kept secret. Now, it is known for its intensive water contamination practices and is all in order to satiate a growing demand for the furs in the Russian and Chinese markets (1).
Markets that are, according to some, growing in popularity:
Fur is fashionable and no longer taboo. The world’s top designers are using fur in their collections, and fur garments are a soughtafter status symbol…”- Dan Mullen, President of the Nova Scotia Mink Breeders’ Association (6).
(1) Delaney, Gordon. “Law firm targets N.S. mink farms”. The Chronicle Herald. July 11 2012. http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/116078-law-firm-targets-ns-mink-farms
(2) Province of Nova Scotia. Environmental Assessment Regulations. Environment Act. September 15 2009. http://www.gov.ns.ca/just/regulations/REGS/envassmt.htm
(3) Taber, Jane. “Nova Scotia’s mink farms are booming- but the neighbours aren’t pleased”. The Globe and Mail. August 17 2012. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/nova-scotias-mink-farms-are-booming-but-the-neighbours-arent-pleased/article4487797
(4) Taylor, Darrell. “A Water Quality Survey of Ten Lakes in the Carleton River Watershed Area Yarmouth and Digby Counties, Nova Scotia”. Water & Wastewater Branch, NSE (Nova Scotia Environment). October 2010.
(5) Tri County Watershed Protection Association (TCWPA). “The impacts of the mink industry on freshwater lakes in Nova Scotia: An overview of concerns”. David Suzuki Foundation. April 25 2011. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/search/?q=mink&x=0&y=0
(6) Waalderbros, Kim. “Mink Revival”. Guide Canada. June 2012. http://www.furisgreen.com
(7) Wagners. “Mink Farms/Yarmouth County”. Wagners, a serious injury law firm. 2012. http://www.wagners.co/lawyer-attorney-1817579.html