Irish Independent, Anita Guidera
Animal liberation ‘terrorists’ are being blamed for the release of thousands of farmed mink into the wild.
Desperate efforts were under way yesterday to recapture up to 5,000 mink, which dispersed into the surrounding countryside following a weekend break-in at a farm near Ardara in south-west Donegal.
Last night, anglers and environmentalists feared an environmental disaster as the release coincided with salmon spawning in nearby salmon-rich rivers such as the Owenea and the Glen.
Connie Anderson, the co-director of the farm, which has upwards of 52,000 mink in captivity, said that large numbers had been recaptured since the break-in on Saturday night.
“We have been working flat out. We have had traps out since Sunday morning. Family, friends and neighbours have come out to help us as well as the local gun clubs, and we have managed to catch a lot,” he said.
Raiders used wire cutters to access the remote farm and open more than 1,000 cages containing roughly 5,000 mink.
“Many stayed in the cages. A lot went out in the compound, but some went out the gates,” he said. He predicted that a lot of the escaped animals would perish while those that survived would “cause havoc” to poultry and wildlife.
Yesterday, residents in the wider area were reporting sightings as far as 10 kilometres away. Some are ending up dead along the roads and people are discovering them in gardens and outhouses.
Mr Anderson, who revealed that the farm had been the subject of two protests by animal rights activists last year, described it as an act of pure vandalism.
“It is an act of terrorism. They are animal terrorists. What else would you call them? It was pure sabotage and totally uncalled for, especially cutting the wire and opening the gates. That was just wrong,” he said.
The incident is under investigation by the Garda and has been reported to the Department of Agriculture.
A senior garda source confirmed that the matter is under investigation but said there was no indication from the break-in as to who may have been responsible.
Noel Carr, secretary of Slieve League Angling Club, said the release could not have happened at a worse time for salmon fishermen.
“A terrible environmental problem has been unleashed on the whole of south-west Donegal. The fish are in the pools for spawning and they are an easy target for the mink,” he said.
He criticised the Department of Agriculture for issuing mink farming licences without any requirement for an emergency plan to deal with such a crisis.
“It is now being left to voluntary angling clubs to deal with the problems this is going to create. We need to stock up on traps and try to catch as many as we can,” he said.
There are just five mink farms operating in the Republic but these are expected to be phased out by 2012 under the current Programme for Government.
Anti-fur protesters have claimed responsibility for mass releases of mink from farms across Europe and the US in recent years.