Mink Farms And Boredom
Animal advocates know that farming mink for their fur is brutal. Indeed, advocates have been raising alarms about the mink fur farming industry for years. Researchers have noted that such industry is not not only bad for mink, who are solitary animals by nature, but it’s also bad for the environment where fur farms exist. Still, while advocates may know these facts, some of the general public may not know that mink are even kept in farms and raised for their fur. And they may need convincing that fur farming is bad per se.
This study, completed by the University of Guelph in Canada, seeks to replicate the results of a previous study to assess boredom in captive mink. Replicating studies is not necessarily common practice. But it is encouraged as part of the scientific method to see if the results from a given study can be duplicated under the same conditions. The University of Guelph is a key player in research on captive mink. But its publications tend to focus on ways that the industry can improve conditions for mink only as a means of making more profit.
Here, researchers used 20 male mink in nine pairs. They kept them in conditions very similar to those in fur farms (with mesh wire cages and external wooden nest boxes). And they randomly allocated one mink from each sibling pair to a non-enriched (NE) treatment. This involved mink being limited to a single cage. The researchers randomly allocated the other mink to the Enriched group. And these mink were raised and housed with “additional access to an enriched compartment of twice the width.” This mink could reach this enriched compartment via a wire mesh bridge. This additional space also contained “a channel of running water, and new structural or manipulable objects added each month.”
The researchers observed baseline behavior. And they then compared this behavior to behavior resulting from tests with stimuli. What they found echoed previous studies. That is, compared to the mink with the enriched cages, the mink with the regular cages “showed signs of exaggerated interest in stimuli that were consistent with boredom-like states.” They also found that the mink in the regular cages would lie down still, despite being awake. Researchers perceive such behavior as “a correlate of this state.”
For animal advocates, the study adds further weight to results from a previous study. It also confirms what we already know: that captivity can foster psychologically damaging situations in all kinds of animal. This includes some of the smallest and most vulnerable animals that we keep in farms. Mink may be small, but they may suffer just as much as some of the biggest animals we keep captive in other situations.