Mink meet grisly end

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FREEDOM WAS a short-lived sweetness for 10 of the 6,000 mink released from a breeding centre on Sunday. Yesterday they met their end at the hands of a farmer's wife armed with a shovel.

Jenny Sutton lashed out at the escapees when she saw them trying to attack her terrier dogs. "They are damned vicious and I had to bash them. They were even going for the dogs," she said.

So far Mrs Sutton, who lives on a farm a mile and a half from the mink breeding centre in Hampshire, has sent ten mink to their maker.

Since the Animal Liberation Front released the furry predators from a farm on the fringe of the New Forest at the weekend, nearby residents have taken the law into their own hands.

In Burley, two miles from the mink farm, Jeanette Moore spotted one of the beasts drinking from her watering can and slammed another can on top to trap it before calling the police.

Bruce Berry, director of the New Forest Owl Sanctuary has already shot 25 mink after they killed his two owls and a kestrel.

Such acts of barbarity, which under normal circumstances would have been outlawed, have been sanctioned in the face of the invasion by the 6,000 unwanted immigrants.

At a meeting involving the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and New Forest District Council, it was agreed that landowners could "trap or shoot mink they find on their land".

But Andrew Butler, from the campaign group Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) claimed that mink mania was unjustified and that the 30in carnivores were not as dangerous as has been claimed.

He said: "These scare stories are deplorable. Mink are not monsters that are going to carry away your children, they are wild animals which will stay away from people. They have already been living wild in Britain since the 1950s."

New Forest District Council's environmental protection manager, Annie Righton, said a large number of calls had been taken on the council's "mink hotline", set up because the police were being swamped with calls about sightings of the animals. She said: "There have been calls about mink in people's houses, in sheds, in garages, in fitted wardrobes, they are everywhere. We have had reports of pet rabbits and chickens being killed by mink."

Ms Righton said the council was sending out environmental health officers to catch mink at people's homes. The majority of sightings have been around Ringwood and Burley, she said, but there have been reports of mink seen as far afield as Bournemouth.