Breaking News
More () »

Farmer plans lawsuit after livestock killed by mink released by activists; man jailed for same crime speaks out

With thousands of mink still killing local livestock, Van Wert local Kristen Barnhart is talking to lawyers. But others are happy the animals are free.

VAN WERT, Ohio — The Van Wert County Sheriff's Office said Monday there is still no update in the investigation into who illegally released about 40,000 mink from Lion Farms USA on Nov. 15.

Now, Van Wert farmer Kirsten Barnhart said after all of the damage to local livestock, she's planning a class action lawsuit.

She said the last straw was on the morning of Nov. 28, when she entered her barn and saw the ground covered in feathers.

"Looked over, and I said, "oh, there's a chicken body layin' there," she said. "I went over and looked at it, its face is all gone, and I'm like, "yup, that's a mink."

One of her chickens was dead, and a rooster was maimed. 

While her husband was able to kill the mink, the damage was already done.
Barnhart said months of work and hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars are down the drain for each animal killed.

She was already considering filing a class action lawsuit to hold the mink farm responsible for the damage she has seen caused to her friends' and neighbors' poultry, but after she found her own chickens dead, she's prepared to move forward.

"I don't even want any money," she said. "I spent six months raising this chicken for it to die. I really just want to see the mink farm not exist is the truth of it."

She said she's planning to reach out to lawyers and believes multiple farmers will join her.

As for who actually released the mink, graffiti found at the mink farm suggested animal activists may have been responsible.

"ALF" and "We'll be back" were spraypainted on the side of one of the farm's buildings.

Barnhart said she can understand negative feelings toward the fur industry, but the damage to livestock and the local ecosystem wasn't worth the cost.

But for others, it's a small price to pay.

Joseph Buddenberg, a member of the international animal-rights group Animal Liberation Front was sentenced in 2013 to two years in federal prison after releasing about 5,000 mink from fur farms.

In a phone call with WTOL 11, Buddenberg said no animal should be put into such conditions.

"In a tiny wire cage, stacked on top of each other, filthy, cramped conditions, denied everything natural to them," he said. "And every year around the pelting season, in November or December, they're killed by means of gassing."

While many of the freed mink were shot by locals or run over by traffic, Buddenberg said he's still glad that they were freed. He said he supports the actions of the culprit or culprits and said these kinds of illegal releases are worth it for the mink that survive and can live in the wilderness, as he believes all animals deserve.

"There might be short-term ecological destruction, but in the long term, animals will retain ecological balance," Buddenberg said. "I don't think this was a negative thing. This farm might shut down because of this action and it might save hundreds of thousands of mink in the future."

Now serving as a member of the Animal Liberation Press Office, Buddenberg said the organization hasn't heard if the release was done by one of their operatives.

While Buddenberg was eventually caught by the FBI, he believes those responsible in this case will not be found.

"As for myself, I had to make a series of mistakes and the FBI did catch me and I had to two years in federal prison," he said.

Buddenberg claimed the FBI "has a very bad track record of catching these people. [Animal rights activists] exercise security culture and they're very good at what they do. I don't think they'll be caught."

WTOL 11 has reached out to Lion Farms USA for comment but has yet to receive a response.

Before You Leave, Check This Out