Magic Valley Mink Farmers on Alert

By Mychel Matthews –


BURLEY • Local mink farmers are keeping a low profile since a recent “call to action” posted online by the radical Animal Liberation Front.

The ALF on June 1 released the fourth edition of its 58-page instruction manual, “The Final Nail: Complete Guide to Destroying the Fur Industry.”

“The Final Nail is a blueprint for committing a felony,” said Michael Whelan, executive director of Fur Commission USA based in Oregon.

“It’s terrorism — that’s exactly what it is,” Whelan said. Some mink farmers sleep with “guns by their bedsides. This is their livelihood being threatened.”

The Magic Valley is home to 10 mink farms, and Idaho has 19 others, notes an ALF news release.

All 10 local farms are on ALF’s self-described hit list.

Indeed, the Final Nail’s directory lists every mink farm in every state — including a “most wanted” list of targets.

The list details specifics about each business, with a guide to the farms’ security measures, instructions on how to avoid getting caught, addresses and clear directions to mink sheds and other specifics to help saboteurs.

The manual targets mink farms almost exclusively, as a large number of animals can be released quickly.

The Final Nail promises “to spark a wave of attacks and ‘animal liberations’ at fur farms nationwide,” the ALF news release said.

The anonymous “activists behind the Final Nail are not carrying out the raids themselves – they know better,” said Whelan. The writers are trying to incite illegal activity. They target young, impressionable kids looking for a cause, he said.

“(These kids) are not heroes,” he said. “They are criminals.”

In addition to local fur farms, the hit list includes Jack Rose, a physiology professor at Idaho State University. Rose occasionally conducts medical research on minks at his lab at the university’s Department of Biological Sciences in Pocatello.

The Final Nail is not new, Rose noted. “It’s been a problem for many years.”

He said he hadn’t known he was listed in the new directory of targets. But shutting down animal lab research would “set medicine back 100 years.”

The ALF website boasts that the Final Nail has raided 93 fur farms nationally since its inception in 1996, resulting in the liberation of 130,000 animals.

Rose said releasing domesticated animals into the wild is not an act of liberation.

“These are domestic animals, not wild, and they can’t fend for themselves,” he said. Most released mink will die within days if not recaptured.

Meanwhile, the U.S. fur trade is bigger than ever, Whelan said. More than 3 million pelts were harvested last year, bringing $350 million to mink producers. Most of the country’s furs go to China, he said.

ALF claims its greatest success was in 2000, when 14,000 mink were released from a fur farm in New Hampton, Iowa.

Closer to home, 5,000 mink were turned loose from a fur farm in Preston, Idaho, in 1997, and 7,000 more were released at a farm in Kayesville, Utah, in 2008, according to the Final Nail.

Releasing mink from cages is not the only way to sabotage a fur farm, say the Front Nail writers. ALF also encourages activists to interrupt the farm’s food supply and to destroy breeding records.

“The Animal Liberation Front has also caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to property being used to destroy life, by continuing an effective campaign of ‘economic sabotage’,” wrote the authors.

While the author’s rights are protected by the First Amendment, acts of sabotage against animal farms are a felony under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, signed into law in 2006.

Cassia County Sheriff Jay Heward said he plans to talk with local fur farmers about taking additional steps to protect their property.

“I would recommend installing more lights out in the yard and putting locks on buildings,” Heward said. “Do whatever it takes.”

Twin Falls County Sheriff Tom Carter said he has talked to local fur farmers in the past about the potential for attacks. He recommends the farmers stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

ALF claims the longest sentence served for a mink release is 2½ years.

The fur industry refutes many claims made by the radicals and calls their manual a “terrorist’s handbook.”

“Animal rights zealots continue to make sensational accusations against the fur industry…,” says the Fur Commission USA’s website. “Their goal is to destroy the livelihoods and reputations of hundreds of family farmers, but their claims have no basis in fact.”