By Lisa Curry
Last week, someone invaded a mink farm near Boyers, Pa. They nearly hacked the heads off the farm owners’ two sheepdogs, one of which was reported by the newspapers as being 19 years old. They set free 2800 minks. Some 440 of those – nursing mothers and kits – they stomped to death. News reports said the FBI was investigating the crime as a possible act of domestic terrorism by extreme animal rights activists.
“What the hell kind of animal rights activist stomps on helpless baby animals?” I asked my husband, who shrugged in response.
I understood why they would kill the dogs, even though I thought it was a terrible thing to do – especially when I read in the paper that the family’s three small children were inconsolable over the loss of their pets. The dogs would have barked at the intruders and might have alerted the farmer.
But it was only when the news reported that the family had recovered some of the escaped minks that I understood why the mothers and babies had been killed. The babies couldn’t run away, and the mothers probably wouldn’t have left them. Whoever did this really didn’t want that farmer to recover any of his minks. Apparently, they needn’t have worried too much. Even the minks that have been recovered can’t be used for breeding now, because they aren’t tattooed or otherwise identified and, thus, can’t be matched with the pedigrees that were posted on their cages. According to news stories, the mink farm was the family’s livelihood. Nobody would insure their minks – because of the risks from animal rights activists – so now they’re pretty much wiped out.
Bad things happen every day – far worse things than this – and to human beings, not just dogs and minks. Still, this incident disturbs me.
Maybe it’s because I happen to like members of the weasel family. I’ve never met a mink, unless you count playing dress-up in my grandmother’s mink stole when I was five.
But my family had a pet ferret when I was a teen. Tootsie loved to play with our miniature dachshund and had a weakness for ice cream and harmonica music. She also liked soap. During the decade of her lifespan, we never had a bar of soap in our bathtub without teeth marks in it. Overall, she was a delightful creature, although my sister would have begged to differ the day my mother accidentally let Tootsie out in the yard when my sister’s pet duck was already out there. The ferret killed that duck faster than my mother could say, “Oh no, Tootsie!”
One of my coolest outdoor experiences ever was when I encountered a fisher on a weekend at Deep Creek, Md., with some of my fellow Stiffs. I had no idea what it was. I had to call my father, the outdoorsman, and describe this mutant, three-foot-long ferret, and he told me what it was. I later learned that a fisher’s primary prey is squirrels. Imagine that. That’s a big animal to be fast and agile enough to hunt squirrels.
I think the people who live around Boyers, where those emancipated and no doubt hungry minks are lurking, had better watch out for their ducks, chickens, bunnies and other small animals.
Maybe even more so the reason this mink massacre disturbs me is because it hits close to home – literally. I grew up near Chicora, Pa., less than 20 miles from that mink farm. My family also had a farm. We didn’t raise fur-bearing creatures; just cows, horses, goats, pigs, chickens and rabbits. However, we occasionally raised calves to about twelve weeks old, at which point we took them to the livestock auction, where the meat buyers snapped them up for veal. Veal calves are cash cows, if you’ll pardon the expression, worth more per pound at that age than at any other point in their bovine lives. And if you already have the cows, milk to feed the calves is free. Raising veal isn’t too popular with the animal rights crowd either.
Luckily, we were never targeted by animal rights activists. If we had been, I can guarantee you our dogs – not sheepdogs, but coonhounds, which were loud enough to raise the dead and savage enough that our UPS man just tossed our packages out of his truck at 35 mph – would have wakened my father. And my father – the outdoorsman, card-carrying NRA member of the “you-can-take-my-gun-when-you-pry-it-out-of-my-cold-dead-hand” ilk – wouldn’t have hesitated to shoot anyone who came on his land and tried to decapitate our dogs, free our cows and kill our calves.
Even less popular with animal rights activists is what my grandfather did back in the early 1950s, long before I was born. He raised rabbits and guinea pigs, which he sold to his friend Jonas Salk for laboratory research. Thanks to Dr. Salk and Grandpa’s rabbits and guinea pigs, we don’t have to worry about polio anymore.
The Fur Commission USA has established a fund to help the DeMatteis family, owners of the mink farm, rebuild. I’m going to make a donation. I hope they raise enough money to restock their mink farm, install a security system and buy their kids a couple of nice coonhound puppies.