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Whistleblower Charged after Exposing Abuse On 5 Ontario Mink Farms

Undercover footage on five fur farms in Canada confirms that animals are still living in misery and suffering

From June to August, 2017 Malcolm Klimowicz, an animal activist and cofounder of KOALA, (Kitchener Ontario Animal  Liberation Alliance) walked on to multiple mink farms in Ontario and filmed the heartbreaking conditions that he found. He ­documented injured and dead minks confined in tiny, filthy wire cages, with piles of feces, puddles of urine, and crawling maggots. Minks were frequently overcrowded in the barren cages, and many suffered from open wounds and displayed repetitive behaviours that indicate severe psychologica ­distress. “I took all this footage and I gave it to the police last year, hoping they would do something on behalf of the ­animals,” said ­Malcolm. But sadly, despite evidence of ­unimaginable cruelty in violation of federal and provincial laws, the fur farms escaped prosecution. The only charges laid were against Malcolm ­himself. So far he has been charged with 3 counts of break and enter–criminal charges that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. ­Prosecutors in Oshawa, ­Ontario have withdrawn the charge, however he still faces similar charges in Collingwood and Kingston. Malcolm has released the video footage in order dispel any myths that the ­Canadian fur industry is in any way ­humane or that there is any form of ­government or industry oversight of animal welfare in Ontario. “I walked through swamps, hopped electric fences and barbed wire, hid from security guards, and was chased by attack dogs to obtain these videos. I even discovered a puppy mill.” says Malcolm. “There have been no inspections of any fur farm in Ontario by any ­government agency in the past six years. When we ­approached ­government officials with ­concerns about animal welfare on these factory farms we were told there are NFACC codes of practice in place to protect ­animals. From June to August, 2017 I covertly inspected five of the 40 mink farms in the province and found not only that the codes were consistently being violated, but animal neglect and cruelty could be overtly seen in the recordings.. This is not just a case of one bad apple farm. This is the fur ­industry ­standard. I witnessed cages caked with feces, dead and ­injured ­animals, open wounds, food mixed with urine and ­excrement, ­overcrowding, stereotypical behaviour, and ­infestations of maggots and ­insects. It felt like I was in a ­horror movie. I kept noticing the ­resemblance these farms have to puppy mills –  cramped wired cages stacked one after the other. Then I found an actual puppy mill. I guess it was not surprising that someone who treats minks that way would also keep dogs in the same terrible conditions. I had to stand in puddles of urine and feces just to be able to record these videos. The saddest part is that some of the things I ­witnessed are actually still legal. I could barely breathe due to the ­ammonia fumes from the animals’ waste. The mink are getting eye ­infections and respiratory ­infections but there is no ­regulation to stop that. Even if there was adherence to the NFACC codes, the animals would still be ­suffering frustration and inactivity from this malicious form of captivity. This is why countries around the world ­continue to make fur farming  ­illegal.”

I witnessed cages caked with feces, dead and ­injured ­animals, open wounds, food mixed with urine and ­excrement, ­overcrowding, stereotypical behaviour, and ­infestations of maggots and ­insects. It felt like I was in a
­horror movie.
Malcolm Klimowicz

Minks go insane, a condition called zoockosis, as a ­result of intensive, long-term confinement. Photo taken from Malcolm Klimowicz’s footage of Ontario fur farms

It is my professional opinion that the mink at these farms are suffering from extreme conditions of cruelty and neglect. The appalling filth and insect infestations present in the facilities show an obvious disregard for even the most basic principles of sanitation and promote the spread of disease and risk of injury.

Veterinary Expert, Dr. Ingrid Taylor

The majority of Canadians (over 66%) support a ban on fur farming and 95% demand better animal protection laws.

If you agree, please contact your MPP.

 

Killing animals for their fur is ­considered controversial and ethically questionable. Many countries such as the UK, ­Austria, Germany, Japan and more already have fur farm bans. Many retailers and clothing designers including Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, Armani, and Gucci have recently ­implemented fur free ­policies and have switched to using ­synthetic fur. And fashion magazine ­Instyle went fur free in April of 2018. KOALA is part of a province wide ­coalition of groups and individuals fighting to ban fur farming in Ontario. More ­information can be found at www.endfurfarming.com.  View the horrific conditions that mink face in Ontario fur farms Too squeamish to watch the video? Here’s an overview: Minks are solitary, semi-aquatic animals who can occupy ­thousands of acres of wetland habitat in the wild. They are ­devoted mothers but on fur farms they’re deprived of proper nesting materials and enough space to care for their young. Minks are crammed into small cages with wire floors that dig into their feet and they’re forced to live amid their own waste. Their food is just dumped on top of the cages. Malcolm’s video footage taken at Walt Freeman mink farm, 20 km outside ­Kingston, clearly shows heaps of excrement crawling with ­maggots that has obviously been decaying for months, making it a prime breeding ground for disease. Minks imprisoned in ­Aspden Mink Ranch in Tilsonburg can be seen frantically ­pacing back and forth while others gnaw on the rusty wires of the cages. They’ve gone insane, a condition called zoockosis, as a result of the intensive, long-term confinement. Severely crowded conditions on Ontario’s fur farms lead to fighting, ­injury and death.The video clearly shows a mink with a huge, gaping head wound, others – at Richie fur farm in Elmvale– with ears ripped off.

Malcolm was tipped off by hikers who stumbled upon a hidden factory farm owned by Robert and Christel Schwirtz. They expressed concern  about a smell of rotting flesh coming from what appeared to be mink sheds.  Acting on that ­information Malcolm ­entered the farm after dark with a high definition camera. What he saw was shocking. He witnessed mink being fed food mixed with urine and excrement, forced to live with dead, decomposing bodies in cages covered in feces and rotten food. Canada’s leading advocate for animal protection, Animal Justice, points out “police and prosecutors frequently pursue animal advocates for exposing animal suffering while ignoring the crimes of the animal abusers, including Save Movement founder Anita Krajnc, acquitted of criminal mischief for giving water to thirsty pigs. The Krajnc trial made global headlines and exposed millions of people to meat industry cruelty. If the remaining charges against Mr. Klimowicz go to trial, the ­prosecution will undoubtedly have the same effect, increasing public awareness of horrific cruelty inherent in the Canadian fur industry”. Malcolm is accepting contributions toward his legal ­defence.  ­Supporters are invited to stay tuned for details on future court dates. He can be ­contacted at 226-929-1990 Email: groupinfo.koala@gmail.com

The Villager has received a letter expressing an opposing argument to that of Malcolm's. In the interests of good journalism it is included below:

Farm families are the real victims of “animal rights” farm invasions

by Alan Herscovici

 It’s the middle of the night; you and your family are sleeping, but suddenly you’re wide awake – you hear a sound; there’s someone in the house!

You creep quietly downstairs; no one there. But the next day a neighbour calls to say your home is on the internet. Someone was filming in your child’s bedroom, and they’ve posted an edited version! They are claiming you abuse your children, although there’s nothing in the video to support that bizarre claim. You are visited by child protection officers; no charges are laid, but the video with your name is still on the web; you feel people in your small town looking at you strangely. Protesters show up at your door on the weekend, chanting with bullhorns…

It’s a nightmare no one would want to live through, but this is exactly what happened recently to five Ontario mink farmers.  The intruder wasn’t in their houses, but in their barns. Months later, a self-proclaimed animal activist posted videos from a different farm each day, promising to expose horrific conditions. Despite the hype, the videos didn’t “reveal” much more than that animals produce lots of manure, and look agitated if you shine bright lights on them in the middle of the night. The Ontario SPCA, responsible for enforcing animal cruelty laws in the province, saw no need to inspect the farms or press charges.

 In a Collingwood courtroom, in February, activist Malcolm Klimowicz pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of trespassing on one of those farms; because the barn wasn’t locked and nothing stolen, prosecutors were not confident the original breaking and entering charge would stick. In a plea bargain, Klimowicz was ordered to stay away from the farm for one year and to remove his video from the internet, but received no jail time or even a fine.  A second set of breaking and entering charges had previously been stayed, in Oshawa. Charges relating to a third farm are scheduled to be heard soon in Kingston.

 Unchastened, outside the Collingwood courtroom Klimowicz complained about  “government censorship”, claiming that Ontario mink farmers were trying to “hide” what occurs on their farms.  “There are no laws in place to protect animals on fur farms,” he claimed.

 Not true. There are indeed laws in Ontario and across Canada that protect animals on fur farms, or any other farms. Canadian mink farmers follow codes of practice developed by veterinarians and animal scientists under the auspices of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). Farmers who do not respect the codes of practice can (and have been) charged with animal cruelty under provincial laws and the federal Criminal Code. Canadian mink farmers have now also introduced a third-party audit and certification system.

 Little of this was reported in media coverage, but Klimowicz’s complaints were often repeated straight from his press releases, with no response from fur farmers. “I love lazy reporters,” he gloated on his Facebook page.

Because Klimowicz was “only trying to help animals”, there is a tendency to downplay the importance of his crimes. But what about the farm families who now live in fear that someone may be creeping around their property at night, threatening their livelihoods and reputations, if not their personal safety?  What about one farmer’s 80-year-old mother, who is now so frightened she has difficulty sleeping? What about another farmer’s sister, forced to close down her nearby B&B, because of activist harassment?

 And what about Klimowicz entering numerous farms without proper biosecurity precautions, potentially spreading disease or infection. So much for his concern for animal welfare.

In fact, if Klimowicz was so upset by the conditions he found on these farms, why he didn’t report them immediately to the OSPCA, instead of waiting six months to release his videos in a sensationalist grab for publicity?

The truth is that Klimowicz is not trying to improve the welfare of farmed fur animals, but to end fur farming completely. Why?  “Because other countries have done so. It’s all just for fashion. I think it’s disgusting.”  In fact, like many animal activists, he is a strict vegan and opposes any use of animals, for food, clothing or any other purpose.

 Klimovitcz is entitled to his opinions, of course. The question is whether this gives him the right to invade farms in the dead of night, frightening families and posting their photos and addresses on-line, in a clear attempt to harass and intimidate them? What would happen if we all acted like this when we disagreed with something?

*  *  *

About the author:

Alan Herscovici was raised in a fifth-generation fur-manufacturing family, and is the author of “Second Nature: The Animal-Rights Controversy”.

After serving for many years as Executive Vice-President of the Fur Council of Canada, he is now the founder and senior researcher for www.TruthAboutFur.com.