To Be Free

Further to my last post about the mink and fox fur farm in Quebec that is currently under investigation for animal cruelty, someone decided that the response by the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks wasn’t good enough. The Ministry’s decision to “leave the animals where they were” – trapped, starving, injured and stressed – did not sit well with one brave soul who snuck onto the farm, on what I gather from the articles was Tuesday night, and opened the cages of some of the animals. The number of animals freed seems to vary: one report indicates 1,000 mink and another says 3,000.  Whatever the amount of the 10,000 mink currently trapped on the farm, that person has already been labelled a “misguided extremist” by a fellow farm owner and the head of the Canadian Fur Council said the act was irresponsible as many of the mink, “are not really equipped to survive in the wild,” (uh, because they were stolen from the wild and bred in captivity) “and so if people think they were acting for animal welfare, they were doing quite the opposite for these minks.”  Yeah.  As if that fur farm was doing these animals any giant-ass favours by keeping them dehydrated and starving, forcing some of them to cannibalism just to survive.

In a textbook example of stalling bureaucratic bullshit, the Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks’ response to the liberation was to ask, “for calm” and “implored the population to allow the department to do its job.” You were given a chance to do your job.  The SPCA has given you the chance to do your job since May of this year. The SPCA even offered to help house the animals while the Ministry found better care for them. But no, all they did was give the farm owner a few warnings and scheduled regular visits to the farm.  I wonder how many of those animals have died since May because of the Ministry’s inaction.

As with all responses to this kind of thing, it’s the PR rhetoric that gets up my nose the most.  If officials and the fur industry just said the real reason they’re pissed – because those animals are stolen “property” that will no doubt cut into their profits – at least that would be a real reason.  It’s when they start pulling out all this crap about the welfare of the animals, like that’s suddenly a priority to them, that truly irks me. Some of the PR classics from this recent development, as reported in the above-linked articles are:

“In addition to the possibility of dehydration and starvation, the minks could also be run over by cars” as, according to the Executive VP of the Fur Council of Canada, “the animals are drawn to the sound of car engines because it is similar to that of the machine used to feed them.”

Well, that probably won’t be a concern since it doesn’t sound like the animals were ever fed at this farm in the first place.

That same Executive also stated that, “the mink are aggressive and it is possible the released animals will attack smaller animals.”

Possible because they are STARVING, not aggressive. And AS IF they give two shits about the smaller animals.

The story also threw in the added detail that the intruder also broke the water feeding system, just to vilify them a little more.  At least they said “allegedly” in this case. Maybe the intruder did break the water feeding system in the process of freeing animals in the dark.  It sounds like the thing was broken anyway since, you know, the animals were found DEHYDRATED.

A lot of the animals that were freed on Tuesday were in the process of being recaptured and many did not make it out of the barn.  But some did make it outside.  A fellow farm owner who “helped” authorities recapture the mink on Wednesday, the same one who referred to the intruder as a “misguided extremist”, said that by freeing the mink, the intruder had “doomed these animals to much suffering and certain death.”  Well, given that it’s a fur farm, their “much suffering and certain death” was already guaranteed, regardless of an intruder or not.

Despite my disagreeing with him, I do understand where that statement comes from.  I’m not endorsing abandoning animals but in my opinion, these animals had already been abandoned. Allowing them even the remotest chance to escape so they could at least die free was the right thing to do and I salute whoever opened those cages.  Maybe most of them wouldn’t have made it.  But if they did die, it wouldn’t be because an activist set them free; it would because they were already dying, thanks to a captor who stole their chance of a life and then neglected to give them the basic provisions like food and water.  Let’s not make the intruder the guilty person here.

If you were a prisoner – and that could mean a literal prison with bars or the prison of an incurable disease – and if you were days away from death and you knew it, wouldn’t the greatest mercy you could be shown is to at least be free to die on your own terms?  In an environment of your choosing?  As you take your last breath, even if you’re alone, isn’t the bare minimum you could be given in those final moments is the very thing we all want, fight for and ultimately cherish: our freedom.

As I’ve been following up on this story today, the lyrics of John Lennon’s “Love” keep going through my head, particularly the last verse:

Love is real, real is love
Love is feeling, feeling love
Love is wanting to be loved

Love is touch, touch is love
Love is reaching, reaching love
Love is asking to be loved

Love is you
You and me
Love is knowing
we can be

Love is free, free is love
Love is living, living love
Love is needed to be loved


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