California animal activists arrested after releasing 5,740 mink

The FBI arrested Joseph Brian Buddenberg and Nicole Juanita Kissane, both of Oakland, Calif., and they were charged with conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

REUTERS/Bob Strong
A young mink looks out from its cage at a mink farm in Jyllinge, Denmark, in 2009. Two California residents were charged Friday with terrorizing the fur industry in the US.

Two animal-rights activists have been charged with terrorizing the fur industry during cross-country road trips in which they released about 5,740 mink from farms and vandalized the homes and businesses of industry members, the FBI said Friday.

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Joseph Brian Buddenberg, 31, and Nicole Juanita Kissane, 28, both of Oakland, Calif., and federal prosecutors charged them with conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Friday said the two caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages during 40,000 miles of cross-country trips over the summer and into the fall of 2013.

"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. "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 allegedly sneaked onto farms in Idaho, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnesota and freed mink and destroyed breeding records. In one case, they released a bobcat from a farm in Montana, according to the FBI.

They allegedly slashed vehicles' tires, glued businesses' locks or smashed windows, vandalizing property in San Diego, Spring Valley and La Mesa, California. They are also charged with vandalizing and attempting to flood the Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, home of an employee of the North American Fur Auctions.

The indictment states that they covered their tracks by avoiding phones or logging into known online accounts and email. Instead, they used public Internet computers and encrypted email and cash for purchases while traveling. They would allegedly withdraw hundreds of dollars while back home in the San Francisco Bay Area before another trip.

The FBI states that they drafted communiques and posted them online to publicize their actions on websites associated with "animal rights extremists."

The Los Angeles Times reported that two other California animal rights activists, embarking on a similar campaign, were arrested earlier this month. In that case two men from Los Angeles Kevin Johnson and Tyler Lang were indicted on two counts: "conspiracy and interstate travel to damage and interfere with the operations of an animal enterprise. If convicted, prosecutors said, they face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.

The indictment, which was unsealed after Lang's arrest, accused the pair of driving through Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois in August 2013, with plans to damage animal farms. Prosecutors said that on Aug. 14, they stopped at a mink farm in Morris, Ill., that "was in the business of breeding, raising and selling mink to fur manufacturers."

There, prosecutors allege, the men released 2,000 minks from their cages and took down part of the fence surrounding the farm so the animals could escape. Officials also accused the pair of damaging the paint of two farm vehicles and painting "Liberation is Love" on a barn.

The two suspects from Oakland, Calif. were under house arrest with electronic monitoring until a scheduled court date on Tuesday. It was not clear whether either has hired an attorney.

If convicted, they each face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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