Mr. Chairman and honourable committee members, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before your committee as representatives of the Canada Mink Breeders Association.
From Jacques Cartier to Samuel de Champlain, the first nations and the Hudson's Bay Company, the fur trade was and continues to be crucial to our resource-based economy. There are over 60,000 Canadians working in various sectors of the fur trade, including mink and fox farmers, trappers, designers, auction houses, manufacturers, retailers, etc. We applaud the committee for studying the perception of and the public trust in the Canadian agriculture sector. These issues are a top priority for our industry.
The fur sector is responsible and highly regulated, with animal and environmental welfare and sustainability at its core. Our operations are governed by separate codes of practice for the care and handling of farmed mink and fox. The codes were developed under the auspices of the National Farm Animal Care Council and the Canada Mink Breeders Association, in conjunction with veterinarians, animal welfare authorities, animal welfare scientists and industry experts.
Canadian mink farmers are currently being audited by third party auditors, with the expectation of all farms being certified by the end of 2019. This process provides a comprehensive and transparent approach to animal welfare in the Canadian mink farming sector. This certification is recognized by FurMark. FurMark is a global process providing public traceability of fur through the supply chain from producer to consumer. The chain point approach will demonstrate correct animal welfare, environmental safeguards and sustainability of the mink farming sector to both consumers and the general public, a significant demonstration of confidence engaging public trust. In fact, FurMark means confidence: confidence for our suppliers, confidence for our partners and, most importantly, confidence for consumers and the general public. For consumers, FurMark delivers the reassurance needed to confidently buy natural fur raised in Canada, making the Canadian certification system transparent, traceable and readily accessible.
The fur farming sector here in Canada and around the globe is experiencing increasing challenges with animal extremists and anti-animal agriculture groups. The Canadian agriculture community as a whole has been faced with pig farm protests, lamb releases, pet store vandalism, mink releases, truck sabotage, economic sabotage, personal threats and false information. A list of all mink farm incidents has been included in your package for review.
When extremists break in at night and startle the animals with bright lights and manipulate their environment, it's alarming for both the animals and the farmer. These break-ins create poor animal welfare conditions, and expose the animal to biosecurity hazards and disease. For the farmer and his family, it's an invasion of property and privacy. These activities create an environment of fear for the safety of the animals, the farmers and their families, as well as their livelihood.
Extremists encourage other extreme activities. Websites like the The Final Nail show how to get into mink farms and sheds and easy access routes to get away. Farmers are harassed by phone calls, strange letters, texts and more. They're forced to deal with smear campaigns and untrue videos that—even with court-ordered removal—remain online and continue to hurt our farmers and the trade as a whole. With the power of social media, they can go viral in minutes or days, creating an extremely false and damaging impression of our industry.
As fur farmers, we've always been grateful that the MPs in 1913 had the wisdom to amend the Criminal Code, section 460, to make entering a dwelling with a pen, a cage or den with fur-bearing animals an indictable offence. Unfortunately, this law is not being enforced to protect our farmers. We need your help.
We recommend the committee take a look at legislation in the United States entitled the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Allowing animal extremists and anti-agriculture groups to slander farmers' names with untruths and doctored videos hurts all of agriculture. This can easily be remedied with the right legislation.
We also recommend the government stand behind agriculture with supportive ads and language to change the way we talk about fur specifically, but agriculture as a whole.
As this committee is aware, fur farms play an important role in Canadian agriculture, contributing over $1 billion to the Canadian economy. Canadian mink farmers are proud of their farms and work closely with veterinarians and other experts to ensure optimal animal welfare and care. Mink farming is sustainable and environmentally friendly.
As representatives of the Canada Mink Breeders Association, we appreciate the invitation to speak to you today. Public trust in agriculture is a very important issue.