Pe­ti­tion rais­ing a stink about mink

Fur farmer says ex­pan­sion plans ad­dress common com­plaints

The Compass - - OPINION - BY LOUIS POWER The Tele­gram

Some cabin own­ers and res­i­dents of the Pla­cen­tia Junc­tion area think a pro­posal to build a mink farm off the Ar­gen­tia Ac­cess Road stinks.

That’s ac­cord­ing to John Dev­ereaux, a St. John’s man whose fam­ily owns a cabin near the pro­posed site. He said cabin own­ers and full-time res­i­dents in the area are very much against the plan.

“You’ve got all th­ese peo­ple who have built up their cab­ins for them, for their gen­er­a­tion, for their kids, and now you’ve got some­one com­ing in build­ing this big in­dus­try right next door, which is go­ing to ruin what they’ve built up,” he re­cently told TC Me­dia.

Vik­ing Fur Inc., which op­er­ates a mink fur farm in Cavendish, plans to ex­pand its op­er­a­tions by build­ing a new farm about 10 kilo­me­tres south of the Trans-Canada High­way.

The land cov­ers 165 hectares and is al­ready used for agri­cul­tural pur­poses.

“You won’t be able to sit out on your deck be­cause of the flies,” said Dev­ereaux. “You won’t be able to sit out be­cause of the stink. You won’t want to go up if any mink es­cape, which they of­ten do. That’ll af­fect the lo­cal bird pop­u­la­tion; it’ll af­fect poul­try farms in the area.”

The pro­posal is the sub­ject of an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view. The orig­i­nal dead­line to sub­mit pub­lic com­ments was Dec. 31, 2014, how­ever, the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion an­nounced that same day it was ex­tend­ing the dead­line to Jan. 16, 2015.

Vik­ing Fur pres­i­dent Peter Noer told TC Me­dia he is aware of the pe­ti­tion and the con­cerns it raises.

He said to ad­dress the odor and fly is­sues, the company in­stalled a $2.2-mil­lion sys­tem at the Cavendish lo­ca­tion this year, es­sen­tially turn­ing the farm into an en­closed liq­uid ma­nure sys­tem. The plan is to im­ple­ment the same sys­tem at the new farm, too.

“That has just been im­ple­mented this year now, so it’s sort of out­side the fly sea­son, but our ex­pe­ri­ence with sim­i­lar sys­tems over­seas seems to elim­i­nate the fly is­sues dra­mat­i­cally.”

As for the smell: “of course, at cer­tain times when the wind is in the right di­rec­tion, and in the spring when we’re haul­ing out the ma­nure out on the hay land, you will be able to smell it. I would be ly­ing if I said you couldn’t smell it.”

He said the farm will be en­closed with a solid fence to pre­vent mink from es­cap­ing the farm, and pointed out that mink are nat­u­ral to New­found­land.

“I’ve been here 10 years and there was a lot of mink on the is­land be­fore I came, in the wild, and farmed mink as well,” he said.

To those against the prac­tice of rais­ing mink for fur, Noer said the in­dus­try is strictly reg­u­lated in Canada, and Vik­ing Fur op­er­ates within the rules. He said the company is open about its business, and any­one is wel­come to get in touch.

“If you have a chicken farm, or a cow farm, or a mink farm, you have to be open and hon­est, and be proud of what you’re do­ing and show it to the pub­lic so ... at any given time you can have any­body in see­ing what you’re do­ing,” he said.

Vik­ing Fur ex­pects more than 20 jobs would be cre­ated by the ex­pan­sion.

But Dev­ereaux says the prov­ince just doesn’t need to invest in mink farm­ing.

“We’re a prov­ince who claims value in new things and in­no­va­tive things, but mink farm­ing isn’t ei­ther of those things. It’s not new and it’s not in­no­va­tive. So I don’t think we need to invest and pro­mote in this in­dus­try when we could be do­ing lots of other things that would be bet­ter for ev­ery­one in­volved,” he said.

“If it gets built, it’ll neg­a­tively im­pact ev­ery­one who lives and re­sides and spends time in that area and I can’t think of any­one who would want this in­dus­try near them.”

En­vi­ron­ment and Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Dan Crum­mell is sched­uled to an­nounce his decision on the project by Jan. 19

A pro­posed mink farm near the Pla­cen­tia Junc­tion area is now the sub­ject of an on­line pe­ti­tion en­cour­ag­ing the provin­cial gov­ern­ment to re­ject Vik­ing Fur’s ap­pli­ca­tion to use a 165-hectare prop­erty.

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