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DeFazio-sponsored legislation passed in U.S.House to stop mink farming

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An amendment to the federal America COMPETES Act that bans mink farming was passed in the House of Representatives last week. The amendment was sponsored by Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio.

Mink farms have been the center of controversy since the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was discovered that the animal could be infected by the disease and they could pass it on to humans. Wayne Pacelle is the president of Animal Wellness Action, a social welfare group. He says that mink farms could spawn the next COVID variant if they continue to operate.

“So you've had millions of mink infected and what is especially significant is they’re bilateral transmitters. So they can get it from people and they can spill it back to people.”

Proponents of banning mink farms cite animal cruelty as well as the animals being COVID-19 carriers as reasons to stop the practice.

“Scientists believe that if we do not stop mink farming, or adopt extreme biosecurity measures, that it is inevitable that we will see the emergence new variant from a mink farm,” says Pacelle.

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, there is no evidence that mink play a significant role in the spread of COVID to humans, although they acknowledge that infection is possible.

The legislation would affect four mink farms that are in operation in Oregon. The farms are mostly located in Clatsop County.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.