following is the story of just one of the many mink farm raids that have taken
place in North America in the past year and one-half.
Late one night, I
sat on a small patch of grass under the stars, listening to the dried leaves rustle
in the wind. A few moments had passed when I saw the headlights of a small vehicle
turn the corner and head towards me. After loading my gear into the trunk, I climbed
into the front seat and exchanged anxious smiles with the driver. She gave my
hand a quick squeeze before steering the car (rented in an untraceable manner)
back onto the road. We were on our way.
As we drove, the sun came up. Stopping
only to eat and refuel the car, we continued driving all day. A few hours after
the sun had disappeared, we met up with another man, well known to us and trusted
wholeheartedly. Together we headed to a dark clearing near a small lake and sat
and discussed our plans.
Afterwards, taking special care to be sure we
didn't have unwelcome company, we hit the road and headed for our final destination.
Using detailed maps, we made many, many turns off the main road. We found the
address we were looking for and quickly found some thick brush where we hid the
car from sight.
We had brought with us a radio scanner which had already
been programmed to monitor all the local and state law enforcement frequencies.
One of my comrades double-checked that it was working and that the controls were
set appropriately, secured it in her jacket pocket, and inserted the small earphone
in her left ear, leaving the other ear unobstructed. Throughout the reconnaissance
and the raid, she would listen carefully in case the farmer or a neighbor reported
any suspicious activity or in case an undetected alarm caused an officer to be
dispatched to the farm.
We also made sure that no one was carrying any
loose articles, wearing jewelry or anything else that could inadvertently be left
behind. The last thing we did was hide the door key near the car so no one person
would be carrying it. (If that person should run into trouble, the others would
have no mode of transportation.) Our pockets were empty except for the scanner,
flashlight, and gloves. We were ready to go.
team knew how important it was to be familiar with the area, so we scouted around
on foot for about an hour. Of course, while on or near roads, anytime we saw or
heard a car in the distance we hit the ground or bush and made ourselves invisible.
We located a creek which ran through the area nearby and out to open, wilder spaces.
We also made note of the darkest areas for hiding and which side of the country
road was least lit. We set up an emergency rendezvous point in case we were separated.
the wind was just right, it carried the stench of the fur farm to us--an overwhelming
assault on our senses. When I inhaled I could taste the blood and filth, I could
hear the cries of pain, I could see the suffering, and I could feel the terror
of this place. It was (and is) pure evil.
We cut across several large fields
to get to the back fence of the mink farm. When walking in open spaces, we hunched
over and let our arms hang down so that, if anyone was watching, we wouldn't look
human. As we traveled, we often had to pull strands of barbed wire apart and squeeze
through to get past perimeter fences. We made friends with the many cows and other
animals we passed on our way towards the farm.
After checking for alarms,
trip wires, and video cameras, we easily climbed the back fence and entered the
concentration camp. Still watching carefully for alarms, etc., we hurried through
the many sheds. Our presence brought the many thousands of mink to attention.
They became very excited, rustling around in their tiny cages and "talking"
to each other with short, high-pitched squeaks. With our small flashlights, we
could see their curious little faces and inquisitive eyes--truly beautiful animals!
I imagined the fate that would have awaited them if we had not come to intervene:
their necks snapped or their lungs filled with gas after a few more months of
enduring the psychological and physical torture of being imprisoned in this hell.
We took note of the cages: four rows in each shed. Filthy, corroded cages which
provided no bedding for mink who normally nest in the wild. Simple latches held
most cages shut, but some (the breeders) had a piece of heavy-gauge wire twisted
around the wires of the cage, securing the doors.
Our reconnaissance told
us what we needed to know and we retreated to the back of the field that ran behind
this farm. We sat under an old willow tree for a few hours, watching the compound
to see if anyone was aware of our intrusion. On this evening we would leave the
animals behind, but we would return. We hiked through the fields and creeks, back
to the vehicle, and drove for about an hour. We then camped for the remainder
of the morning.
At mid-morning we rose and began to further discuss a plan
of action, detailing tools we would need and delegating duties. We had brought
with us a radio scanner, dark disposable clothing, flashlights, wire cutters,
gloves, spray paint, and ski masks. We would need to purchase packaged envelopes,
paper, and stamps (to send a communique after the action), as well as back-up
batteries. We fueled up the car and drove by our target once (and only once) during
the daylight to further familiarize ourselves with the surroundings.
rest of the afternoon and evening was spent taking apart all our equipment and
wiping it down inside and out. We went over every detail of the plan in our heads
and prepared ourselves mentally for whatever we might encounter, including any
consequences we might face.
It began to rain. We double-checked our inventory
of equipment and then set out. We made our way back to the concentration camp,
again making sure we were not followed. Just like the night before, we checked
and secured the scanner, emptied our pockets, and hid the key to the vehicle.
Again, we followed the road part way, diving to the ground with the coming of
headlights, and then crept through the dark, still fields, towards the many mink
awaiting their freedom.
We opened the cages. After
opening roughly one dozen cages in the dark, I paused for a brief moment to shine
my flashlight across them and caught sight of a shiny, sleek figure, hopping out
of her hellhole. The mink scurried across the ground and out of the barn. While
I wanted to focus and appreciate each and every animal as he or she found the
way to freedom, I knew I couldn't do so at the expense of those who would be left
behind. I had to spend every moment on the farm opening cages to allow as many
as possible a fighting chance at a natural life.
I continued my work, frantically
unlatching and cutting wires. While I worked, several mink ran across the top
of the cages while others scurried about my feet, squeaking with joy. Before long,
these feisty critters were all over the place, running this way and that, playing
and fighting with each other. Now and then I would briefly stop my work to separate
two of the little guys and shoo them towards the outer fences where they would
find their freedom. RUN LITTLE GUYS, RUN!
A SUSPICIOUS NOISE
I heard--or thought I heard--a slamming noise. "The mink have woken the farmers,"
I thought. "Here he comes." I looked to the end of the barn towards
the farmer's house. Struggling to adjust my focus for such a distance in the darkness,
I made out a light colored, upright figure. Were my eyes playing tricks on me
or was someone standing there? I grew very uneasy and almost nauseous, as I imagined
"Farmer John," angry as a wasp evicted from her nest (but much more
dangerous), standing in the doorway, holding a rifle. I prepared myself for the
worst and tried again in vain to focus on the end of the shed.
than sorry, I reminded myself, and quickly left the shed. I looked for my partners,
and, not finding them, my anxiety increased. I moved across the adjacent field
and hid in some thick, dark bushes, and watched the farm for about 20 minutes.
I saw nothing out of the ordinary and no lights were turned on, so I eventually
crept back and cautiously re-entered the compound. I ducked into the sheds where
my friends were working, to be certain that all was well. I found them working
away undeterred. I went back to my shed and continued opening the cages.
work was exhausting and I could feel my bones ache with the monotony of the routine.
But I kept going--I could never live with myself if I didn't open as many cages
as was humanly possible. I lost count at 500.
TIME TO MOVE ON
finished my shed and checked on the others to see if they needed help. Finding
their sheds empty, I moved on to the next one, and we finished that one off together.
Sadly, we came to our pre-designated cut-off time. Though there were many more
sheds full of prisoners, we had to leave--the farmers would wake soon and the
rise of the sun would provide no cover for ours and the minks' escape.
marked some of the now empty sheds with spray paint and then retreated. As we
fled, we chased many mink to the holes cut in the fence. Once on the other side,
we stopped for a moment to watch the many dark figures gliding and scampering
through the fields towards the creek which would lead them to their new prospective
Using the moon as our guide, we found our way back to our hidden
vehicle. We briefly shared our experiences as we walked--one of our team had been
bitten while attempting to open a cage. All of us had found several mink dead
and decaying in their cages.
We piled our soaked, sore, and muddied bodies
into the car. We made frustrated faces at each other as we were excited but knew
we could not talk in the car. We drove silently back down the dark roads to our
campsite, where we sorted out our things, throwing all clothes and shoes into
the campfire, and placing tools into bags to be discarded safely and immediately.
talked a little more about our experiences, including what we could do better
next time. We made plans to meet again, and shared warm hugs before embarking
on our long journey home. During the following day's drive, we heard news reports
of the raid on the radio. We smiled proudly with the satisfaction that many mink
had a chance at freedom that day, that the fur trade had just become a little
less profitable, and that "Farmer John" just might go out of business.