Editor’s note: This guest commentary appeared in the Thanksgiving edition of The Herald Journal but was inadvertently cut short. Here is the piece in its entirety:
As Scott Beckstead stated in his Soapbox (Herald Journal November 12, 2020), my fondest memories are also of working alongside my father and brothers on our family mink farm as his were of spending time on his grandfather’s mink farm in Idaho. My father started his farm in 1966 and pelted out in 2006.
Pelting practices have drastically changed since 1990 when Mr. Beckstead’s grandfather pelted out. Neck breaking quit being used decades ago. Working with the Humane Society of Utah, mink farmers adopted more humane pelting methods. Never once in my 36 years of working on my dad’s farm did I hear mink scream when being euthanized. Mr. Beckstead, have you ever euthanized a pet? Falsehoods that Mr. Beckstead uses are scare tactics to sway public opinion.
Mr. Beckstead advocates and works for the Animal Wellness Action and Center for A Humane Economy, Sutherlin, Ore). The center advocates for the preposterous idea of having the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and governors of top mink-producing states to buy out farmers and end mink farming. The obvious crucial question is what is next on the center’s agenda? Using the COVID-19 outbreak as an excuse to cull the entire American mink industry is just a ruse to accomplish other animal rights proposals.
Denmark’s recent cull of generational, family-owned mink farms (due to COVID-19) received backlash from citizens who called it shocking, lacking transparency, while even allies to the Danish government have called for an investigation (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54890229).
Even Denmark’s government admitted “it lacked the legal framework for a nationwide order and only had jurisdiction to cull infected mink or herds within a safety radius.” Even Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, “It is a mistake. It is a regrettable mistake,” when she apologized to parliament. The BBC article went on to say that the mink industry in Denmark expects to lose around 6,000 jobs even though there was a reported 1bn (£750m) turnover in 2018-19.
What hasn’t changed in animal farming is that it’s in a farmer’s best interest to take exceptional care of their animals (food, water, shelter, vaccinations, etc.). Both Mr. Beckstead and I agree that humane treatment of all animals is ethical and that all farmers have a moral obligation to practice thoughtful care.
It is often argued by animal rights activists that mink farming is commercial farming, but Mr. Beckstead is inaccurate. The majority of, if not all, mink farms are small and family-owned where young children and neighbors develop lifelong work ethics. Also, mink farming is environmentally friendly, all natural, where carcasses and fat are sold to commodity companies to be used in other products (some years we rendered the fat ourselves and made soap). Nothing is wasted, no harmful emissions. Moreover, according to Mr. Beckstead, most American fur is exported to China and other Asian countries and that the demand for American fur is in decline. Asia has usually always been the biggest importer of American mink for decades. That is not a new trend. I am not a businesswoman or an economist but I do know that markets are always in flux, not just the mink industry.
I have to wonder what impact Mr. Beckstead’s article would have had on his grandfather. I know the article would have saddened and crushed my father (who received anonymous letters from animal rights’ activists that called him a murderer and threatened him and his family’s safety). A murderer? I will continue wearing my natural mink coats and cherish my memories of our family farm. Oh, how I wish I could have one more day working on the farm with my father.
Only viable and reasonable laws that protect animals from abuse and maltreatment (as most states already have) can work for all sides. At issue is how all sides define what is humane. It always has been.
Sherese Merrill is a retired teacher living in Providence.