The Welfare of Farmed Mink (Mustela Vison) in Relation to Behavioural Selection: A Review
Abstract:Animal welfare is a major issue in Europe, and the production of mink, Mustela vison, has also been under debate. One common method of solving animal welfare problems is to adapt the environment to fit the behavioural needs of the animals. In comparison with other forms of husbandry, the mink production environment has remained relatively unchanged over the years and provides for some of the most obvious needs of mink. Whether today's typical housing conditions adequately meet the welfare requirements of mink is currently a topic of discussion. An alternative approach to improving welfare is to modify the animals so that they are better adapted to farming conditions. In large-scale animal production, handling of the individual can be a sporadic event, making an animal's inherent characteristics for temperament and adaptability important factors to consider with respect to its resultant welfare.
In this review we present and discuss experiments on behavioural selection for temperament, and against undesirable behaviours, such as fur chewing, in mink. Fur chewing behaviour can be reduced by selection, apparently without any negative effects, whereas only a little is known about the nature and consequences of selecting against stereotypic behaviours. Long-term selection experiments have shown that it is possible to reduce fearfulness in farmed mink. Using a relatively simple test, it is possible for farmers to add behavioural measurements to their normal selection criteria and thereby improve the welfare of farmed mink.