A Fighting Chance
A First Hand Account of a Mink Raid
The 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
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.
Our 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.
When 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
The 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
Suddenly 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
Better safe 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.
The 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
I 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.
We 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 homes.
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
We 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.