Author Robyn Rolison-Hanna used to wear mink coats with pride. After all, she thought, a fur coat was a symbol of status. However, her beliefs changed in June 2007 when a group of vandals broke into the Oakwood Mink Farm near her home in Butler County, Pennsylvania. The intruders slaughtered close to 450 mink by bludgeoning them with baseball bats and stomping them to death. Close to 3,000 mink got away during this horrible act of terrorism. No motive was identified and the group was never found.
This incident was so disturbing to Rolinson-Hanna that she knew she had to something. She started researching mink farms and the fur industry. The more she read, the more distraught she became. Rolinson-Hanna immediately gave up wearing fur and decided to educate young adults about the fur industry. She wanted to reach out to this demographic as they are our next consumers. Rolinson-Hanna channeled her knowledge of the fur industry into an exciting new book called Mink.
In Mink, Rolinson-Hanna tells a heartwarming story of life through a group of mink eyes. The story begins when a very important mink goes missing, prompting other mink to go in search of their beloved friend. Events begin to unravel when they face their enemy-humans. When I spoke with the author, she indicated that although this book discusses a heavy subject, boys will love Mink because it is action-packed; girls will be drawn to the romance. It also teaches young adults about love, survival, and courage. As a former teacher, Rolinson-Hanna would like to see the book in every school across the nation.
During our talk, Rolinson-Hanna gave me some background information on the mink industry. According to her, more than 300 family farms produce close to 3 million mink pelts valued at $186 million, making the U.S. the fifth largest producer of mink pelts worldwide behind Denmark, China, the Netherlands, and Poland. The mink on these farms have been promoted as being the best cared-for of all farm animals, enjoying nutritious diets, comfortable housing, and the finest veterinary care. But studies show that the animals become psychotic and exhibit aberrant behavior after being confined to small cages. This domestication, according to the author, leads mink to self-mutilate, pace, and exhibit other psychotic behavior. Rolinson-Hanna said these mink bite themselves, gnaw at the bars of the cage, and sometimes even eat their young. She said that mink are very physical animals who are semi-aquatic and love to run, climb, swim, and dive. Their psychotic behavior is derived from the denial of these natural instincts.
The author describes mink farms as filthy quarters with cages that are packed with several mink and stacked on top of each other. She said the cages are kept outside in the cold so the minks’ pelts grow thicker. In the wild, mink prefer to eat crayfish, frogs, small turtles, muskrats, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and even rabbits. They eat as much food as possible and then save the rest in caches back at their dens. On the fur farms they are fed mostly ground, expired cheese and meat. In many cases, Rolinson-Hanna said, mink on fur farms are fed ground mink meat and bone meal, which contributes to cannibalism. Everything on a mink farm is ground and served cold.
As if life weren’t bad enough for the mink on fur farms, death is even worse. Rolinson-Hanna described to me the horrible methods used to kill mink, saying the mink are either gassed, electrocuted, or cervical dislocation is performed; none of which are humane. Although cervical dislocation is supposed to be a quick, painless death, Rolinson-Hanna said that studies have shown that it takes an average of 10 seconds to die after a neck is snapped. And although death is supposed to be confirmed before skinning, this rarely takes place leaving most mink to be skinned alive. As she told me this, I felt sick to my stomach; and this is how we should feel. Rolinson-Hanna said: “We’re supposed to be civilized. We’re not cavemen; we don’t need animal fur in this day and age. We don’t even eat their meat!”
Although these gruesome topics are left out of Mink, young adults will still finish the book with a new understanding of the lives of mink and why they should be allowed to live freely and not be kept on fur farms. Hopefully, the book will also keep them from ever purchasing fur products. Although Mink was written for young adults, anyone who enjoyed Watership Down will get pleasure from Mink. Rolinson-Hanna is currently working on the sequel entitled Mink II, the Allegheny Project.