(STMW) — A pair of California animal rights protestors have been federally charged with freeing 2,000 mink from an Illinois fur farm.
Tyler Lang, 25, and Kevin Johnson, 27, allegedly released the animals from a mink farm in Morris, 65 miles southwest of Chicago last August, then daubed the walls of a barn with the words “Liberation is Love,” the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
The pair is suspected of travelling across the U.S. — including stops in Iowa and Wisconsin — to free caged animals, including those on mink farms and a fox farm in Roanoke, Ill.
Johnson — who also goes by the name “Kevin Oliff” — has been in state custody in Woodford, Ill., since both men were arrested and charged with possessing burglary tools late last year, but Lang, who was freed from state custody after agreeing to a plea deal in November, was picked up by the feds in El Segundo, Calif., Thursday.
Both are expected to eventually be brought before a federal judge in Chicago.
Both men are veteran animal rights protestors and are soliciting financial support, according to a website called supportkevinandtyler.com. The website says both men have been vegans for years and hope to “continue fighting for animals.”
The feds say that in addition to freeing the caged minks in Morris in August 2013, they also tore holes in a farm fence to aid the animals’ escape. They also allegedly vandalized two farm vehicles. The raid was touted on websites associated with the Animal Liberation Front, an organization the FBI has said poses a terrorist threat.
Though some of the animals were recovered, many died after they were freed, according to Darren Caley, a neighbor who lives near the mink farm.
“When I came home from work, (the owners) were out, trying to get the mink back,” Caley said in an interview Thursday night.
“A lot of them got hit by cars, and a lot we found in a corn field dead. They were hand-reared and didn’t know how to hunt so many of them starved to death.
“I guess the guys who did this believed in what they were doing or they wouldn’t have done it, but if you ask me, it was counter-productive.”
But in a statement from Vandalia prison, published by supporters on his website in February, Kevin Johnson reiterated his support for animal rights protests.
“I have seen more animals languishing in cages than I can remember. I am one of those who believe that emotion has no place in what we do,” he wrote, describing the story of a trapped skunk he regretted failing to free.
“I … think often of that skunk, and all of those food, fur, and research animals trapped in hellholes more horrific than the worst prison I will ever see,” he wrote, according to the website.
Both he and Lang face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
The charges follow a spate of unsolved animal rights protestor raids on fur farms across the nation last year.
Raids in which animals were freed from fur farms also were reported in Minnesota and Utah, though Johnson and Lang have not been charged in those cases.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)