Effects of enrichment removal on the behavioral welfare of American mink (Neovison vison)

Worldwide, millions of mink are farmed for fur but this attracts negative attention from animal rights groups who have the potential to destroy fur industries. Animal welfare research obtains data to objectively identify methods of enhancing animal health and wellbeing for improved public relations and productivity. The new Canadian National Farm Animal Care Council mink Codes of Practice re-written by the Canada Mink Breeders Association (CMBA) recognizes the importance of mink welfare for North American farms. Environmental cage enrichments are one area they address, with the Codes now requiring at least one simple cage enrichment, provided at the juvenile stage. However, we do not know how long enrichments need to remain in the cages and whether, if removed, they provide a ‘protective effect’ against stereotypies (behavioral indicators of poor welfare) or cause ‘frustration’.

The objectives of this research were therefore to (1) determine the effects of short-term enrichment removal on mink behavioral welfare, simulating enrichments being destroyed by mink with time lapses before replacement and (2) determine the effects of long-term enrichment removal on mink behavioral welfare simulating moving breeder mink to non-enriched cages after grading season.