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AR group claims responsibility for mink release

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Animal rights group claims responsibility for mink release

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
By Jesse Fruhwirth
Standard-Examiner Staff

KAYSVILLE -- Minks released during a sabotage Sunday were fighting with each other through cage walls as they adjusted to their new neighbors Monday. Most had been recaptured after the weekend incident now being claimed by activists of the Animal Liberation Front.

Josh Lodder, a member of the family that owns the ranch, said early Sunday morning a worker at the mink farm in west Kaysville saw "the land as a black ocean" of mink.

Cages had been opened and holes had been cut in the ranch's perimeter fence late Saturday. About 7,000 escaped and about 6,000 were recaptured Sunday. Monday, Davis County Animal Control responded to multiple calls to pickup captured or hiding mink.

Mink farm sabotage is misguided, said Lodder, even for an activist bent on animal freedom. He said sabotage hurts the animals themselves more than the mink rancher. The captive mink have never gathered food and water or swam, nor have they been exposed to pathogens they avoid on the cloistered ranch.Most will be recaptured or die in the wild, he said. As of Monday, about 90 percent had been recovered, Lodder said. Many released did not leave their cage and even more did not leave the ranch grounds.

"Their goal is to make you go broke, (but) no mink rancher goes broke because (most) mink don't go anywhere," Lodder said. "It's a joke, a disaster and a mink rancher's worst nightmare. ... They kill the mink for a 10 percent loss and a headache (for the rancher). It doesn't make sense."

Jerry Vlasak is a spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office. On Monday, his office relayed to the media a communiqué they received supposedly from Animal Liberation Front activists. "Three members of the Animal Liberation Front entered a massive mink prison in Kaysville, Utah," the communiqué states. "We found and destroyed all breeding records. We also vandalized the trucks and various forms of equipment, including destroying the electrical fence and cutting about a hundred holes in the fence's perimeter."

Vlasak said his office condones but does not coordinate or involve itself in such actions. He said Lodder's explanation that almost all the released mink have been recovered and those that are not recovered will die is probably false and is definitely trite. "That's typical for the fur industry," he said. "They always say the exact same thing."

Vlasak said released mink can thrive in nature. In the wild, mink are solitary, wetland animals.

Niki Harris reported the recaptured mink that had traveled the furthest -- over three miles -- from the Lodders' ranch. It was spotted hiding in the undercarriage of a vehicle by kids in the neighborhood. Not knowing of the incident, Harris thought it was a lost family pet and let it stay under the car while she took another vehicle grocery shopping. When she came back, the mink was still hiding. She had since learned of the loose mink and called animal control.

This is the sixth mink farm sabotage in North America this year and the second in Utah reported by the office. Last month, around 300 mink were released from a farm in South Jordan, again by individuals claiming allegiance to the Animal Liberation Front.

Vlasak criticized the housing practices used at mink farms and also condemned the practice of caging wild animals for luxury fur garments.

At Lodder's ranch, each mink pair -- a brother and sister housed together from a young age -- shares a metal cage that is roughly 18 inches tall, 18 inches wide and 30 inches long. An adjoining "nest house" gives the creatures a small wooden box in which to cuddle and stay warm. Lodders have 18,000 mink on the farm. Each cage is lined up against the other forming two long rows of cages, each in roughly 20 buildings.

The FBI learned that activists had claimed responsibility for the Lodder release from the media around 3 p.m. Monday. Juan Becerra, spokesman for the Salt Lake City field office of the FBI, said the information does not change their investigation. "That (South Jordan) case continues to be investigated," he said. "Obviously this adds to our investigation, so we'll have to look into similarities."

Mink pelts are a $41 million per year industry in Utah, according to a news release from Fur Commission USA. There are 66 farms in Utah that raise more than 620,000 mink annually, the release states. The commission has offered a $100,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction. To provide a tip, call the FBI at 527-1400.

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