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The Great Mink Escape

Thousands freed from fur mill in Denmark

Yesterday evening, animal protection volunteers in Denmark cut holes in the fencing around a factory fur farm, opened the cages, and released about 3,000 minks – almost half of all the animals there.

As expected, when the alert went out, most of the animals were later either recaptured or shot.

“The mink are at an age right now where they are aggressive,” police officer Thomas Anderskov said. “It means you can’t approach them without it getting dangerous. The decision was made therefore that some of them had to be destroyed.”

Fur breeder Tage Pedersen, who is chairman of the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association, said the break-in was disastrous.
“It has enormous consequences for the owner, who tends and cares for the minks every day.”

But the idea that these minks were being “cared for” is highly questionable. Last month a former member of the Danish Agricultural Council, mink breeder, and long-time chairman of the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association, Erik Ugilt Hansen, was charged with gross animal abuse against minks. The media had obtained pictures taken by Swedish animal protection groups showing severely neglected animals on his mink farm.

When police visited Hansen’s farm to investigate, the veterinarian who accompanied them reported finding animals with bloody, bitten-off tails and infected and untreated wounds on their heads, faces and bodies. Hansen stepped down as chairman of the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association shortly afterwards.

The group also provided photographs allegedly depicting suffering and neglected animals on fur farms owned by five of the seven members of the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association.

Denmark is the world’s largest producer of mink pelts, accounting for approximately 40 percent of all mink fur farming globally. Approximately 14 million minks are killed each year in Denmark by some 2,000 fur breeders. Foxes, chinchillas and rabbits are also bred for their pelts in smaller numbers in Denmark.

The animals are often killed by having electric prods inserted into their back ends, which kills them without disturbing their fur. Some are skinned alive.

Animal protection groups are criticized when they stage releases like yesterday’s both for the fact that the animals will be unable to fend for themselves and because they can impact other local wildlife.

“Most of the minks that were let out will starve to death,” forest manager Søren Strandgaard said. “They are used to being fed and very few of them will be capable of finding their own food. They don’t belong in the Danish ecosystem.”

Animal protection groups counter that the minks are no worse off in the wild than in the fur mills, and that this is the best way to draw attention to their plight.

What do you say? Is it wrong to break into a fur farm and release the animals? What would you do? Let us know in a comment here or on Facebook.