Who Let the Minks Out?

(Image via wbay.com)

Staff Writer: Maya Arruda

Email: marruda7@umassd.edu 

For the people of Australia, rabbits are some of the most destructive beings in all the land.  

It sounds like an exaggeration; but, the Australian rabbit population has devastated the land for generations, feeding on farmers’ crops and generally running rampant without any natural predators to keep them in check. 

For those who aren’t history buffs, the whole problem, like many other current problems can be traced back to Great Britain. 

The British, with all their vaunted foresight, decided that filling their nice, fancy island prison colony with rabbits for recreational hunting would be a smashing idea. 

They brought animals to their other colonies, too, such as domestic farm animals to the Americas, and some invasive species, too, like the Cinchona trees moved from South America to India by the British.  

Rabbits in Australia, however, have been one of the most well-known instances of how humans can absolutely wreck an ecosystem if they don’t think things through. 

Since Australia had no natural predators for rabbits, the rabbit population was left to grow relatively unchecked, which has caused and continues to cause massive ecological damage to the country today.  

It doesn’t take the British to damage the ecosystem. 

Pet owners with non-native pets releasing them can cause just enough damage if there are no local predators to keep the populations in check.  

Which brings us to Ohio, 2022, and the mink invasion.  

Minks are a very adorable carnivorous species of rodent, like rabbits (since rabbits have been observed to ingest meat in stressful circumstances, even if the fresh meat just came out of the womb-the more you know). 

However, unlike rabbits, minks are indigenous to the Ohio area, which means mink are not an invasive species in the area.  

American minks eat freshly killed animals, with very little discrimination as to what is for dinner. Minks are also known to hunt and eat animals bigger than them. 

The minks tend to target farm animals, like chickens, and fish. They are known to be vicious and violent creatures wrapped in a deceptively fluffy package.  

Not like the invasive vs. native species classification matters much when an estimated 40,000 farm-raised minks were released into the wild. 

According to a tweet by the Van Wert sheriff’s office, 25,000 to 40,000 minks were let out of their cages at Lion Farms USA in Hoaglin in an act of breaking and entering and vandalism on November 15th, 2022.  

While most of the minks were caught again, up to 10,000 minks are still roaming free. Though not for long. 

Many of the escaped minks found their way onto the US 127 highway and were promptly introduced to what happens when an object with an extremely high momentum meets a tiny, squishy rodent. 

Local hunters have also taken to personally giving each and every mink an Ohioan vibe check.  

Minks are farmed and killed for their fur as well as their oil. Mink oil is commonly used in multiple varieties of commercial products. 

Mink farms have been under fire for providing inhumane conditions for the minks, including a lack of open space and access to sunlight. 

In an official report by the Humane Society in 2021, minks were stored in small wire cages and showed behavioral signs indicating a mental decline. 

A longer article on mink farming and the conditions can be found here

According to an official report by the Fur Commission USA, the mink farming industry in the United States alone has an estimated $80 million profit. America is the leading mink farming country in the world. 

Most USA mink farms are located in the Midwest, like Ohio. 

It should be noted that there are guidelines already in place for the humane treatment of minks on farms in the United States. 

The most recent incarnation of these guidelines is the 2019 Standard Guidelines for the Operation of Mink Farms in the United States, broken into four different books that can be found here as a pdf at the bottom of the page. 

It should be noted that following these guidelines is not compulsory for a mink farmer but rather just strongly recommended.  

There was some fuss about the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in mink farms during the pandemic as mink can be infected with and infect others with Covid-19. As mink are held together in such close quarters, there was a high chance of disease passing through entire farms, in both the mink population and the farm workers. 

Mink populations were entirely culled during the start of the pandemic in other countries, particularly Denmark, but this drastic response became unused as the pandemic continued, focusing on the treatment of the mink rather than the extermination of the virus.  

Based on the social rights activism surrounding mink farming and the behavior of the more notorious animal rights groups, it is very plausible that the culprit behind the Ohio mink flood of ‘22 is a member of or affiliated with the animal rights organization PETA or something similar to it. 

Though this is just speculation as the culprit has yet to be caught by police.  

PETA is known to be responsible for similar instances of animal rights-motivated breaking and entering as well as vandalism in the past. 

One such instance was when PETA members broke into a restaurant and stole their supply of lobsters, releasing the saltwater marine creatures into a freshwater river and causing mass lobster casualties. 

PETA has multiple other scandals that have turned the organization into an internet culture punching bag, and rightly so. 

Unleashing thousands of minks upon an unprepared ecosystem without the consideration of how unleashing a population of predators in a rural wooded ecosystem would affect the food web in that ecosystem is the sort of poorly thought-out moral activism that would be expected from an organization like PETA. 

Due to the poor timing of the release – with winter coming just around the corner – it can be expected that the mink population would cause extreme ecological damage that could last for many years if left unchecked. 

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