Image Courtesy of Washington Post

By Noah Slayter

It’s quite possibly the cutest and furriest prison break ever. 

Hundreds of mink were maliciously set loose in Rockefeller Township, Pennsylvania. On Sunday,  September 17, 2023, between midnight and 6:50 a.m., a fence was cut loose just south of Route 890. Since that date, mink have been found, according to the Washington Post, beside highways, underneath buildings, and within nearby woods. “‘It’s the most friendly infestation you could think of,’ said Luke O’Brien, who lives nearby in Sunbury, Pa.” 

A former member of the “Animal Liberation Front” (ALF), has made remarks on the prison break, saying that this is “certainly consistent” with previous ALF retaliations against animal cruelty, such as the release of 3,000 mink on a Wisconsin Farm in August of this year. Another similar ALF event was the “freeing” of 10,000 mink in Ohio, in which protesters spray-painted “AFL” and “we’ll be back” on the walls of the farm. In both the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin events, somebody cut a chain link fence open to allow the Mink to abscond themselves.

Image courtesy of the Washington Post

The recent releases of the furry friends have incited a serious debate on fur farming. Many animal rights activists highlight the severity of this practice by comparing the tight enclosures that the mink live in, to their normal five-mile range in the wild. Entrapped, these animals are born in “February or March and are killed in November for their fur, leading a ‘miserable existence’ for eight to nine months.” Initially, it was thought that 8,000 mink were loose since many mink enclosures were opened. However, it is much more likely the actual number is not in the tens of thousands but rather “in the hundreds,” according to the mink farm. 

Currently, mink farming is a $59.9 million industry (as of 2021), with over 1,000 mink killed each year, each pelt costing approximately $41.5, according to Fur Commission USA. The US Fur Commission is an ethics board for and maintained by mink farmers to uphold both economic and moral norms for all practicing mink farmers. It is widely believed that these animals are skinned alive, which is not true, according to the Fur Commission USA. Mink are collected not just for their skin (though this is their primary use) but also for their subcutaneous oil, which is used in leather conditioning,  facial moisturizers, and other cosmetics. 

To reap their economic value, mink are killed by farmers either through the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) or carbon monoxide (CO1). They are placed in a box, and pure gas fills the room, killing them; this is seen as the most humane way to kill mink. CO1 is considerably more humane than CO2 since mink are diving animals and thereby more tolerant of CO2, causing the mink to suffer longer (four to five minutes) than carbon monoxide gas. The main issue with other methods of slaughter is that mink are not domesticated and have an innate fear of humans, thus making it hard to “handle” them, so injection or electrocution is largely out of the picture unless previously sedated. This requires a licensed professional and the chemicals are specific regulations due to their toxicity to humans thus fur farms rarely use these methods, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In fact, since mink have had significant trouble being domesticated, they do not make for good pets and will bite humans attempting to capture them. There is currently a hotline to report mink sightings for the Rockefeller Township. According to State Senator Lynda Schlegel, “Authorities are advising residents not to approach or attempt to catch mink without a safe and proper trap.”

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