Activists release hundreds of mink from ranch in southeastern Minnesota

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS and PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: October 8, 2013 - 10:47 PM

Animal activists targeting the industry released animals from southeastern Minnesota ranch.

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Mink are valued by the high-end fashion industry for their fur. Pelting season is drawing near.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Animal activists’ efforts to free minks and cripple a facet of the fur industry this week hit Minnesota, the nation’s fifth-largest mink producer.

Hundreds of mink were set loose from a southeastern Minnesota ranch this week, just days after Wisconsin fur farm owners scrambled to catch their own mink with fishing nets following a similar action they called “devastating.”

The four-generation Myhre ranch east of Grand Meadow, Minn., was targeted late Sunday or early Monday. Workers, friends and fellow farmers helped retrieve the 450 or so mink, owner Einar Myhre said.

By Tuesday, dozens were still missing.

“Very few of them will survive in the wild because they’ve never been taught,” he said. “We just picked up a dead one on the road this morning that got hit.”

Myhre is expecting difficulties with some of the mink that have been retrieved because “when they have been on the ground and been in the creek, they’ll get sick and we’ll lose them.”

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi said Tuesday that investigators believe “at least two people” released the mink and are responsible for burglary and property damage. No arrests have been made, Amazi said.

Each mink is worth about $100, the sheriff said, so “it’s a substantial loss.”

The release was one of at least nine around the country in the past several months involving the fur-bearing mink, according to Animal Liberation Frontline, a website run by a former Animal Liberation Front member who tracks these actions. “The U.S. fur farming industry is under a total siege right now,” the site claims.

“This is being done solely to save animals,” said Peter Young, who runs the website and lives in Santa Cruz, Calif. “Our focus is to get the greatest number of animals out in the most efficient way possible.”

Still, activists “celebrate” the closure of farms after these “raids,” said Young, who served two years in federal prison for releasing mink on six farms, including in Wisconsin. “The best possible scenario is that … the farm has to shut down.”

Animal activists target mink ranches partly because “the industry is defeatable,” Young said by phone. “It’d be much harder to bring down the meat industry, for example.”

Myhre sees these activists as nothing more than “lawbreakers who think they are doing a good thing. I don’t go to their house and start a fire. I don’t think they should come to my place to release livestock that I have raised.”

While some activists claim mink are kept caged in inhumane conditions, Myhre said that “we exceed the standards” set by the industry.

“We’ve got an [industry] certification here,” he said of the 53-year-old ranch that his father started and now counts Myhre’s two sons and a grandson among its operators.

“A vet comes about every other year and checks the site and does an inspection, and sees that there are big enough pens, that they are raised in a clean and humane manner, that there is adequate food and water,” he said.

Mink have also been released from farms in Idaho, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Montana and Utah. A farm in New Holstein, Wis., was targeted Friday, when about 2,000 mink were let loose.

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