Overnight and into Sunday morning May 31, suspects believed to be animal rights activists broke into a mink farm east of St. Marys in an attempt to release hundreds of the farm-bred and raised animals into the wild, resulting in over 100 animals’ deaths.
After gaining entry to Glenwood Fur Farm by cutting down a rear section of the farm’s security fence, the suspects targeted nursing mothers in two of the farm’s buildings. Most of the mink that were released were in shallow whelping cages where adult females can see to their litters of young kits in adjoining nest boxes. After flipping open the lids of over 1,000 cages, the suspects fled back out through the fence, flattening a 12 foot section of the barrier so the freed mink could follow suit.
In the resulting fracas, over 100 adult female mink died due to various causes including fighting with other animals, being struck by traffic on nearby County Road 9, and illness due to exposure on the frigid, rainy night. The break-in, which affected roughly half of the farm’s adult animals, could wind up costing upwards of $200,000.
Owner of the farm Jeff Richardson, 37, didn’t learn of the break-in until early the following morning as he and his family were on holiday in Toronto. A passing motorist noticed mink running free around the road and stopped to inform a neighbour, leading to Jeff being called in Toronto, he said. The recovery process began early Sunday.
“We had no shortage of help,” Richardson said. “We had our part time staff, former staff that have moved on to other things came out, and then I think some text messages and phone calls went out to other farmers to check their own farms. They were just appalled by what had occurred and they came out to lend a hand too. I can’t thank them enough.”
Together, the 15 people had caught and accounted for over 95 percent of the over-1,500 released mink by noon Sunday, he said. By the following day, only about 20 animals were still on the loose, a number that has since been reduced to about 12.
According to Richardson and Gary Hazlewood, executive director of the Canadian Mink Breeders Association, from an animal welfare point of view, this was an exceptionally bad time of year for the mothers to be separated from their young.
“The mink kits are just 30-days old and most still rely on their mothers for warmth, shelter and nourishment,” Richardson said. “They’re not old enough to survive on their own. Whoever did this had full intention of all the litters dying.”
Hazlewood said he still expected some of the recovered mink to succumb to illness over the course of this week, possibly along with their young offspring, who spent a cold night on their own and who may now be sharing a nestbox with a stranger.
“We’ve captured them and placed them back with a litter,” Richardson said. “Likely not their own, as there’s no real way of telling. But they have a strong natural mothering ability, so they will often be able to take on kits.”
Along with Police and media from around the region, provincial officials reported to the farm Sunday, collecting some of the animal carcasses for inspection and autopsy at the University of Guelph to determine the cause of death. For the past number of years, the Canadian mink industry has worked with researchers and experts, such as those at Guelph, to ensure a national standard of animal welfare across all farms. CTV’s David Imrie, who filmed a news piece from the farm Monday said in all his years reporting in the region he’d never seen a comparable attack on a farm, with a wilful intent to cause damage.
Last year near Simcoe a similar event took place, but prior to that an Ontario mink ranch hadn’t been targeted since March 1997 near Chatham. One possible impetus for Sunday’s raid could have been “National Animal Rights Day,” an event organized for the past five years by the group “Our Planet. Theirs Too.” It took place in some North American cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Colorado Springs and, for the first time this year, Toronto and Ottawa, on May 30. According to their website, TheNARD.org, it is “an annual day observed in the US and Canada… for the purpose of giving a voice to all animals and raising awareness for their rights, until all animals are free from enslavement and their rights are established and protected by law.” The event will continue, the site says, “until the day when all animals could live on their own terms, with their families and offspring, happy and free.” May 30 was also dubbed by some groups a “Direct-Action-Everywhere Day of Action.”
Hazlewood called the actions against Richardson’s farm “disappointing and despicable.”
“If you don’t want to use our product then don’t buy it, but how can you claim to care about animals when you do something like this,” he said. “People have a right to their opinions, but what kind of society would this be if everyone took the law into their own hands to impose their views on others?”
On Thursday, Canada Mink Breeders issued a press release stating that they are offering a reward of $75,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the break-in.
Richardson said he hadn’t yet had time to process the attack, but would be looking into implementing additional security measures at the farm. “We use a security fence, but clearly when somebody is willing to commit such a heinous act of releasing nursing mothers, you know that more security is needed,” he said. “We’ll be installing a security system that would alert us immediately if someone is on the farm, going forward.”
Any person with information regarding this incident should immediately contact Perth County OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or (519) 348-9700. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).