By JOHN O’CONNELL
BURLEY, Idaho — Following a recent attack on a Burley mink farm, in which at least 3,800 animals were set free, the head of Fur Commission USA is warning members such crimes tend to occur in bunches, and they should be extra vigilant.
The intruders, who remain at large, cut through fencing on the night of July 28 to break into the fur farm, owned by Fur Commission USA board member Cindy Moyle, whose family owns or is involved in about a dozen Idaho mink farms.
An anonymous account by people taking credit for the break-in was posted two days later on the North American Animal Liberation Press Office website, which offers a safe venue for animal activists working under banners such as Animal Liberation Front to discuss attacks on the fur industry. According to the posting, the intruders set up “roving surveillance of the on-site night watchman.” They also boasted of destroying farm breeding records.
Fur Commission USA executive director Michael Whelan said about 60 neighbors were on the scene within two hours of the discovery helping to round up mink. In a press release, Cindy Moyle thanked her neighbors for their help.
“The people who did this have no idea how stressful it is for the animals. The mink are domesticated and have no idea how to find food or water for themselves,” Moyle said.
Though the posting suggests the freed mink will “live out their new lives along the Snake River watershed,” Whelan said most of them succumb to dehydration after a couple of days in the wild. He said 90 percent of the Moyles’ mink were re-captured, but several were hit by cars on a nearby dirt road, and stress could cause further mortality.
“I’ve been talking with ranchers, not only in Idaho but in Utah and the rest of the country about it,” Whelan said, adding the FBI and local sheriff have responded. “It’s a serious crime. It falls under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. When these individuals are caught, they’re going to face lengthy prison sentences.”
Nicoal R. Sheen, Los Angeles press officer with the North American Liberation Press Office, said it’s become necessary for animal activists to “liberate innocent beings” because legal protests haven’t worked. She likened those who risked breaking into the Burley farm to supporters of the Underground Railroad combating slavery.
“We do support and approve of actions that liberate animals from the confines of oppression,” Sheen said. “Actions like this in the past have shut down fur farms.”
Whelan said attacks tend to take place in late summer, just before school resumes and when mink are active and more likely to disperse.
Whelan said past crimes against fur farms have mostly involved idealistic college-age students on “eco-terror road trips.”
“They scout these farms, sometimes months beforehand. They take down the watchman’s schedule, how often people are on the farm, where fencing might be vulnerable,” Whelan said. “It’s our experience it’s a small group of individuals, and they’ll commit multiple crimes. In 2011, the last time we had an attack on a farm, there was one in Oregon, one in Idaho, one in Washington and two in Iowa, all within a two-week period.”
Whelan said the Moyles are increasing their security, and he’s been advising members of the need for secure fencing, cameras, signs and regular activity on the farm.
“We’re urging the installation of alarms, and a lot of these guys do have night watchmen,” he said.