Did you know Wisconsin is the largest mink pelt producing state in the U.S. with more than 1.3 million pelts sold annually? I had no idea. Why don’t we hear more about mink farming? Well, it turns out animal activist groups are a large threat to mink farmers. In addition to spreading lies and misinformation, these groups release mink from farms. What they don’t understand however, is they are causing unnecessary pain and suffering for these animals.
The Tour –
Having absolutely no background knowledge in how mink are raised or the fur industry, I didn’t know what to expect on my farm tour. When I arrived at the farm, a guy came to greet me while his wife and children were busy in the yard with farm duties. I will not use his name or the location of his farm, because as I previously mentioned this could make him a target for animal activists. Before I went in the mink barn, I put on a plastic suit over my clothes to prevent me from carrying in outside pathogens that could make the mink ill. While the mink are vaccinated against a number of diseases, there are some diseases that do not have vaccinations. Therefore, it is essential to follow procedures to reduce the likelihood of bringing in outside pathogens.
Note: This is one of the reasons that animal activists who release mink are doing more harm than good. Once the mink leave the barn, there is potential for them to be exposed to diseases that can be fatal even with medical treatment.
Inside the barn, I immediately noticed that the animals were extremely clean – a sign of the high level of care they receive. Since they are raised for fur, it is important to keep them clean. Wood shavings are used as bedding because it acts like dry shampoo to keep them dry and comfortable.
I found a mink’s diet to be very fascinating. There is a nutritionist on staff, from the local feed co-op, who makes sure the feed contains the essential nutrients that mink need at each stage of life.
Throughout the year, the diet continuously changes to meet the varying nutritional needs of a growing mink. Mink food includes cheese, chicken, liver or grains and is different than other livestock feed because it is ground up and stored in a cooler, since it contains perishable food items. Many of the feed ingredients mink farmers utilize would otherwise end up in a landfill because they have been deemed unfit for human consumption for reasons ranging from the product nearing its expiration date to a product that was not made correctly. This saves thousands of pounds of food from being wasted. Mink farmers have really led the way with the reuse and re purpose trend we have seen pop up lately.
Mink are fed twice a day. An interesting fact that the farmer shared is that some mink prefer eating more in the morning, while others prefer more in the evening. Feeding them twice each day, ensures that the mink are well fed regardless of feeding time preference.
Note: Another reason that releasing mink is harmful is that these animals are domesticated and do not have a hunting instinct. They know the farmer will provide food and they rely on that food source. Once released, they are not able to catch food and many starve.
The last aspect of raising mink that I learned about was the process of harvesting the fur. I discovered this is done in a humane manner and the farmer does everything possible to ensure the mink do not suffer. There is never a time when a mink has its fur removed with it is alive. Just like other livestock farmers, animal welfare is a top priority throughout the mink’s entire life, including the end. While it may not be an easy topic to talk about, I think it is important to share this information.
Activist Pressure –
I have already mentioned the main reasons why releasing mink causes unnecessary pain and suffering – disease exposure and starvation. In addition to the mink suffering, the farmer and his family struggle as well. Imagine you showed up to work one day and someone had raided your office building and you most likely wouldn’t be getting a paycheck for the year. That would be a difficult situation to manage. For some, it would mean making major life changes. That is essentially what is happening to mink farmers when their animals are released. There is a very good chance they will never recover their animals and often times, there are many animals that are recovered that die from the stress they experienced during the release.
Don’t let these animal activist groups fool you, they are not doing anyone any favors.
My Take Away –
My takeaway is that you should go straight to the source for accurate information. The farmer who showed me around his farm was passionate about his role in the agriculture community. His excitement rubbed off on me.
He was willing to answer my questions and never made me feel uncomfortable for not knowing more about mink farming. I walked away confident that mink farmers provide quality care to their animals and are always looking for ways to improve. After all, mink farming is still farming.
For more information on how mink are raised or the fur industry, visit the U.S. Fur Commission’s website.
Sarah Marketon serves as the Director of Communication for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. She is a Minnesota native and an active member of the swine industry, which sparked her interest in helping farmers share their story. She is passionate about answering consumers’ questions about how food is raised and encouraging farmers to engage in those conversations.