An animal rights activist who faces a potential two-year prison term for freeing thousands of mink (search) from Midwest fur farms says he has no regrets.
Peter Daniel Young, 28, told The Associated Press during a jailhouse interview that serving time will be nothing compared to what caged animals suffer.
"As bad as it could get, it will never be as bad as it was for those mink," Young said. "I would do it all over again."
Prosecutors believe Young and an accomplice were acting on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front (search) when they broke onto mink farms in Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin in 1997 and freed about 7,000 mink. The FBI considers groups like ALF among the nation's top domestic terrorist threats.
Young, 28, scoffed at the comparison.
"If saving thousands of lives makes a terrorist, then I certainly embrace the label," Young said. "I would have been just as fast to act if those cages had been filled with human beings."
But Teresa Platt, executive director of Fur Commission USA (search), a national association of fur farmers, called Young's philosophy nonsense, saying he has "been fed a steady string of propaganda for 10 years."
Alex Ott, owner of a fur farm Young raided in Tomahawk, said he treats his mink well and has every right to make a living. He said such activists "attack and they terrorize."
Young and accomplice Justin Samuel were indicted in 1998 but disappeared soon after. Samuel was captured in Belgium in 1999, while Young eluded authorities until his arrest in March for shoplifting CDs from a Starbucks in San Jose, Calif.
Young pleaded guilty to animal enterprise terrorism and faces up to two years in prison. Sentencing was set for Nov. 8.
Samuel pleaded guilty in 2000 and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Young said he and Samuel targeted Midwest fur farms because authorities in the Northwest were putting too much heat on them. Wisconsin also had the largest concentration of mink farms in the nation, he said.
He gets 10 letters a day, he said, and activists from around the country show up for his court appearances. Someone is selling T-shirts emblazoned with Young's face online.
"Most people are just appalled I'd be put in prison for freeing the animals," he said. "I wish nothing short of the end of the entire (fur) industry ... they kill for what they do."
Platt said Young represents a disconnect between urban and rural America. City dwellers don't realize how much people depend on animals, she said.
"One hundred years ago when we all lived on the farm, we would have laughed Peter Young out of the room," she said.