By Steve Rice
Stratford Beacon Herald
Kirk Rankin acknowledges that he may have been targeted by animal rights activists or whoever released nearly 7,000 mink at his St. Marys area farm overnight Tuesday.
But the president of the Canadian Mink Breeders Association responded with a firm “no” when asked if it would change anything about his involvement in the association or his outspokenness.
“I expect that I was a target,” Rankin said by phone Thursday as he continued the cleanup at RBR Fur Farms on Road 125 just north of town. “I have no doubt somebody was here in advance scouting it.”
Along with his position as president, Rankin points out that he is chairman of the Code of Practice committee, and had a visible presence at the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies meeting in B.C. earlier this year.
He also pulls no punches when he speaks about the activists, calling them “brain dead” after they released about 1,500 nursing females at Jeff Richardson’s Glenwood Fur Farm just around the corner at the end of May.
It’s a phrase he used again Thursday in response to the attack on his farm, which he believes was carried out by at least some of the same people.
“They knew the area, knew where they were going, figured out where I am and back they came,” he said. “I don’t think they (the activists) care about doing any good. They’re just out to do damage and they’re all wound up from the crap the animal rights people tell them.”
Though the estimated 6,800 mink released sometime between 11 p.m. Tuesday and 1 p.m. Wednesday is just a fraction of the 26,000 at the farm, Rankin said it was all young kits between nine and 10 weeks old.
The majority have been captured and returned to their pens, he said, but only because they “aren’t as nimble” and running like older ones. He said the survival rate in the wild of farm-raised mink that young is “zero.”
“Ever since they’ve been born their meal’s been brought right to them. They haven’t been taught to hunt or anything,” said Rankin.
Will Hazlitt from the eastern U.S. office of the North American Animal Liberation Press Front, which distributes communiques it receives from anonymous activists, called that kind of statement preposterous.
“The mortality rate on a fur farm is 100% so if you release the animals into the wild, of course some may die or not be able to fend for themselves,” Hazlitt said by phone Thursday. “But if out of 100, 25 die and 75 survive that’s certainly an improved rate of mortality as opposed to the fur farm.
“The notion that the fur farmer is somehow concerned with the well-being of the animals is farcical. He’s concerned with the well-being of the animals to the extent that he can kill them and make a profit from the product that derives therefrom. I don’t really give any credence or credibility to what a fur farmer has to say.”
Hazlitt emphasized that no group or individual had taken responsibility for the break-in on the property as of late Thursday, but agreed that Rankin’s position within the industry could “certainly be a possible motivation” for his farm being targeted.
Four stretches of fence were cut down and boxes holding the mink were damaged in the overnight break-in.
“If I broke into your house one day when you’re away and smashed the hell out of the whole house, how are you going to feel when you come home?” said Rankin, suggested that Canada needs stiffer penalties like the U.S. has had since passing the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in 2006.
“Our industry has just been playing defence and it’s about time we played a bit of offence — lobby our government to get the laws changed because what we’ve got now isn’t working. I expect (longer sentences) would help — if you’re a young guy, 18 to 25, and you spend 10 to 20 years in jail for doing something stupid like this.”
Hazlitt said that the fact that fur farming has now been banned in Europe and the number of U.S. farms is dwindling means that activists would continue to apply pressure — social, economic and political – without concern for any legislation to increase punishment for their activities.
“These underground activists are making a statement in the best way they can,” he said. “They’re engaging in economic sabotage to create economic hardship to allow these people to focus their mind on the fact that this is probably a business they don’t want to be involved in long term.”
A reward of $75,000 offered by the fur industry for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in the break-in at the Glenwood Fur Farm has brought no leads.
Rankin said Thursday that the reward might also be applied to the incident at his farm.
Rankin added that he had four different security companies come to his property after the incident at Glenwood Fur Farm, but none had gotten back to him with a quote prior to Tuesday’s incident.