Pittsburgh -- Radical environmental and animal rights groups have claimed responsibility for a fire at a Pennsylvania mink farm last week and for several recent incidents at other animal ranches and farms.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press and on its Web site, the Earth Liberation Front said anonymous cells from the group and from its companion Animal Liberation Front set the Nov. 26 fire, which destroyed a barn at the farm in Erie.
The groups said the facility was responsible for the deaths of ``thousands of innocent creatures yearly'' and that the animals are tortured and confined to a miserable existence in tiny cages.
About 1,200 minks, which are kept in pens elsewhere on the farm, were unharmed and no one was injured in the fire.
While no one from either group -- or anyone else -- had contacted the FBI as of Tuesday to claim responsibility, Special Agent Bob Rudge said, ``Obviously, we have no reason to question their involvement in this type of activity.''
In a statement released by Fur Commission USA, Forrest Mindek, who runs the farm with his brothers, called the incident cowardly.
"It's bad enough that they try to destroy our livelihood, but they put the lives of our animals, our family and the firefighters at risk,'' Mindek said.
The e-mail also said cells released foxes from an Erie fox ranch in June and released dozens of minks from the Main Mink Ranch in Gerry, N.Y., in September.
The Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front are responsible for more than 600 cases of ecoterrorism around the country, ranging from spray-painting buildings and breaking windows to firebombing fur farms and research centers, according to the FBI.
The groups have caused an estimated $43 million in damage. The most destructive attack was a $12 million blaze at a Vail, Colo., ski resort in 1998.
On Tuesday in Portland, Ore., an ELF saboteur who faced 40 years in prison for torching three logging trucks pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in exchange for a reduced sentence.