Minks starved to death over unpaid wages: furrier

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Employees at a mink farm in Russia's European exclave of Kaliningrad are starving their animals to demand unpaid wages, a Russian furrier, who owns the farm, said Monday.

Staff "refused to feed the animals to protest over unpaid salary arrears dating back to December," Grigory Isayevich, the deputy director of the furrier Russian Furs, which raises some 300,000 minks at five farms, told AFP.

He said several dozen angry employees had blocked access to the animals' food stores last week in an unusual strike that prompted the struggling company to pay back a part of the wage arrears.

Minks at the farm had already been underfed and suffering from chronic food shortages as the firm teeters on the brink of bankruptcy due to Russians cutting back on purchases of luxury fur coats amid the global economic crisis.

The minks -- small furry mammals prized for their glossy dark pelts -- had received only 30 to 50 percent of their usual rations in recent weeks, Isayevich said.

"Some days, they went without food altogether," he said.

In August, "as many as 500 animals died daily (of starvation) at the farm and the minks began to eat each other," said Sergei Babasyuk, deputy head of the department of agriculture at the Bagrationovsky region, where the farm is based.

One employee at the farm said "...the minks are so emaciated that they're painful to look at."

Last year, Russian Furs produced some 370,000 mink pelts.

© 2010 AFP

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