The FBI arrested two people Friday for releasing mink from farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin as part of a cross-country campaign to "terrorize" the fur industry.
According to a federal grant jury indictment, Joseph Buddenberg, 31, and Nicole Kissane, 28, of Oakland, California, caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage as they released almost 6,000 mink from farms and destroyed breeding records.
A news release from the FBI says their spree started during the summer and went into fall 2013, with the indictment alleging they snuck onto farms in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Idaho, and Pennsylvania during multiple trips – and on one occasion released a bobcat from a farm in Montana.
The pair have been charged under the Conspiracy to Violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
The Star Tribune reports that the pair are allegedly responsible for a break-in at the four-generation Myhre ranch near Grand Meadow, southeastern Minnesota in October 2013, when around 450 animals were released.
It came a few days after similar action at a fur farm in Wisconsin, that left the owners scrambling to catch their mink with fishing nets.
Another of the crimes described in the indictment alleges that the pair smashed windows and glued the door locks to a furrier business based in Minneapolis, while on another occasion they vandalized and attempted to flood the home of a North American Fur Auction employee in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
The unemployed pair sold items on eBay and Amazon to finance their trips and withdrew large amounts before they left, only using cash for purchases.
"Whatever your feelings about the fur industry, there are legal ways to make your opinions known," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. “The conduct alleged here, sneaking around at night, stealing property and vandalizing homes and businesses with acid, glue, and chemicals, is a form of domestic terrorism and can’t be permitted to continue."
Wisconsin is the country's largest mink producer, according to the USDA, with more than 1.1 million pelts produced in 2014, with the average pelt costing $56.30.
Minnesota is the fifth largest, producing 244,520 in 2014. The farming of mink and other furs is criticized by animal rights groups who claim it is cruel, with the pelts in demand in the fashion industry.