The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested two animal rights activists and charged them with terrorizing the fur industry as they released about 5,740 minks from farms and ranches, and vandalized the homes and businesses of members of the industry. The activists, who were on cross-country road trips, were arrested by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Associated Press (AP) reported late Friday.
A federal grand jury indictment, unsealed on Friday, said that the duo had caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages during their 40,000-mile trips over the summer and into the fall of 2013, the AP reported, citing the documents. The two men from Oakland, California, were identified as Joseph Brian Buddenberg, 31, and Nicole Juanita Kissane, 28.
"Whatever your feelings about the fur industry, there are legal ways to make your opinions known," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement, according to the AP, adding: "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."
Buddenberg and Kissane were accused of freeing the minks from farms in Idaho, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and destroying breeding records, the AP reported. According to the FBI, the two also released a bobcat from a farm in Montana, slashed vehicles' tires, glued businesses' locks or smashed windows, and vandalized property in San Diego, Spring Valley and La Mesa, California.
The two also reportedly escaped the authorities by avoiding phones, and instead used public Internet computers, encrypted emails and cash for their purchases. Buddenberg and Kissane publicized their work by drafting communiqués, which they posted online on websites associated with "animal rights extremists," the AP reported, citing the FBI.
The accused are set to appear in court on Tuesday and have been placed under house arrest with electronic monitoring until then. The AP report said it was not clear if they had a lawyer yet. If found guilty, they could each face a maximum of 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine.
According to estimates by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 10 percent of the world’s mink farms are located in North America, and the fur of these animals contributes to "billions of dollars" in annual revenue by the global industry. The minks are usually kept in extremely small cages, and face physical and psychological hardships, according to the animal rights organization.