It's mid-December at Viking Furs, a mink farm just outside Cavendish, and small squares of paper with numbers scrawled on them are clipped above the mink pens inside a long open-doored barn. Some papers are cream-coloured, others are pinkish. Some pens have no paper on them. In a few days, the pens without a piece of paper will be empty.
Those mink are at the beginning of a journey that ends, likely, wrapped around the shoulders of a person as part of a fur coat.
But first, each mink must be graded, with the best being held back as potential breeding stock.
The farm has a license for 15,000 females, says Viking Farms president Peter Noer, during a tour of the farm.
In one barn, a group of men are classifying the mink. Wearing thick leather gloves, one man lifts a mink from its pen by the tail, carrying it over to the weigh scale. With a practiced move, he swings the mink up and it lands softly on the scale, a clamp of bent metal settling around its neck to keep it in place.
The animal is weighed, and Noer goes from watching the process to stepping in and stroking the mink's coat, leaning over to see how the fur looks like under the light attached to the scale. This one isn't good enough to be breeding stock, he declares.
Editor's note: this feature article by Tobias Romaniuk can be found in its entirety, including more photos, in the Jan. 29, 2013 print edition of The Compass.
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