Other Group

Animal Liberation Front (ALF)

Website:

www.animalliberationfront.com

Formation:

1976

Type:

Eco-Terrorist Group

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a radical group that opposes all human activity that it considers to be harmful to animals, including animal ownership and the consumption of meat and other animal-based products. Founded in the United Kingdom, the ALF has chapters in over 40 countries. [1] The ALF was most active in the 1990s and early 2000s, when it executed a series of sabotage operations against businesses and research facilities. In the 2000s, enhanced counter-terrorism efforts by the federal government led to the arrest of numerous ALF members, from which the group has never recovered.

The ALF has a spin-off group, the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group, which assists imprisoned environmental activists. ALF actions have been defended by other animal liberation groups, notably including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. [2]

The ALF is associated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a similar eco-terrorist group. During its years of peak activity, over half of all known ALF terrorists had affiliations with the ELF. [3]

Beliefs and Methods

The Animal Liberation Front considers modern society’s treatment of animals to be a monstrous moral crime akin to slavery and genocide. The ALF compares its operations to anti-Nazi resistance movements during World War II and the Underground Railroad. The group asserts that animals have rights equivalent to those of humans, and therefore, humans have no right to own animals, let alone to consume them. The group attributes the mainstream treatment of animals to “speciesism” or anti-animal bigotry. [4]

Thus the ALF seeks to end the suffering of animals at the hands of humans by changing laws and societal norms to end practices such as hunting, animal testing, zoos and aquariums, and animal consumption. In the short run, it “aim[s] to save as many animals as possible and directly disrupt the practice of animal abuse.” [5] [6]

The ALF has no leader and operates as a decentralized movement, and the ALF organization has done little recruitment. [7] Vegan or vegetarian [8] individuals can join the ALF without contact or coordination by forming independent cells and engaging in “direct action” on behalf of the animal welfare cause. Methods of protest and sabotage are spread through online forums, allegedly including how to produce home-made bombs. [9] [10] Members receive little-to-no financial support from the ALF. [11]

The ALF considers itself to be “non-violent,” but “rejects the claim that destroying property is violence” and supports illegal actions to achieve its goals. Its activists have conducted sabotage of corporations, research labs, and government agencies. [12] [13] The ALF asserts that it opposes any attempts to hurt people, and though sabotage attempts have resulted in injuries, [14] no attack has resulted in death. [15] In the 1980s and 1990s, several ALF cells targeted people with letter and car bombs, resulting in the ALF condemning the actions. These cells spun off into the Justice Department and Animal Rights Militia; some analysts contend that both groups remained affiliated with the ALF, but were officially distanced for public-relations purposes. [16]

History

Early Years

The Animal Liberation Front was founded in 1976 by Ronnie Lee, a British animal welfare activist who was jailed for raiding the Oxford Laboratory Animal Colonies. He was arrested again in 1986 for terrorism and released in 1992. Lee was a member of the Hunt Saboteurs Association and the founder of the Bands of Mercy, a group that sought to prevent hunting through legislation and eventually evolved into the ALF. The first American ALF chapter began in 1979. It came to prominence with a raid of an animal laboratory at New York University’s Medical Center. [17] [18]

During the following decades, the ALF “established itself as the most infamous and damaging animal rights group in the United States.” In 1984, the ALF announced that it had poisoned Mars Bars in protest of the company testing products on animals, though the ALF later claimed the supposed poisoning was a hoax to raise awareness. [19] In 1987, the ALF claimed responsibility for its first arson when it burned down an animal diagnostics laboratory under construction at the University of California, Davis. In 2003, the ALF released 10,000 minks from a farm in Washington. [20] The FBI alleged that ALF actions were responsible for $45 million in damages in the 1990s, [21] and 20 acts of arson between 1996 and 2001 that caused $40 million in damages. [22] [23]

From 1995 to 2010, the ALF committed 108 attacks. About two-thirds of the ALF’s attacks were bombings, and one-third was arsons. During the same time frame, 30 percent of ALF targets were meat processing plants, 21 percent were universities, 17 percent were fur or leather companies, 10 percent were fast food restaurants, 7 percent were research institutes, 4 percent were government facilities, and other attacks were directed at police stations, pharmaceutical companies, and automobiles. Perpetrators were caught in fewer than one-third of attacks. [24]

Green Scare

In the 2000s, federal agencies began prioritizing counterterrorism efforts against environmental extremists like the Animal Liberation Front. Enhanced funding and attention to anti-terrorism after the September 11 attacks empowered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to pursue their targets more vigilantly. In December 2001, the FBI declared the ALF and Earth Liberation Front “the No. 1 priority in the domestic terrorism program.” [25] Radical environmentalists described the government’s efforts as the “Green Scare,” a reference to the anticommunist “Red Scare” of the 1950s. [26]

In 2005, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) declared that “violent animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists now pose one of the most serious terrorism threats to the nation.” That same year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security listed the ALF as a “domestic terrorist threat.” [27] [28]

According to a 2019 analysis by left-wing online publication The Intercept, there were 70 federal prosecutions of criminals associated with radical environmentalist groups, 18 of which were based on charges of terrorism, since 2001. The government’s efforts were supported by advocacy groups connected to companies that engage in animal testing, including the National Association for Biomedical Research, Americans for Medical Progress, the Fur Commission, the National Board of Fur Farm Organizations, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, and the American Feed Industry Association. [29]

The highest-profile federal action was Operation Backfire. In 2005, the FBI launched an operation to capture the Family. The Family consisted of more than a dozen eco-terrorists that were considered a part of both the ALF and the ELF. The FBI charged 17 individuals, of whom 15 pled guilty. The group’s alleged leader, William Rodgers, was captured and committed suicide in prison. In 2018, Joseph Dibee was captured after 12 years as a fugitive. [30] [31]

Federal efforts substantially reduced eco-terrorist activity, which had risen steadily throughout the 1990s, peaking in 1999 and 2001 with 11 annual attacks. From 2012 to 2019, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Transnational Threats Project reported zero to one annual eco-terrorist attacks. [32]

Critics of the government campaign claim the government’s priorities were misplaced, given other present forms of domestic terrorism, like white supremacists, and that environmentalist terrorist attacks never killed anyone. Critics attribute the misplaced priorities to impacted businesses that spent millions on lobbying and campaign contributions to key U.S. Congressmen to steer law enforcement. [33]

Recent Activity

The Animal Liberation Front’s activity has been much diminished since the federal law-enforcement crackdown in the 2000s. However, the ALF still claims responsibility for attacks. In December 2016, a cell vandalized a fur store in Ontario. Three years later, another cell vandalized McDonalds restaurants in Colorado and Wisconsin. In 2022, ALF activists destroyed 26 hunting towers in Belgium. [34]

References

  1. “Animal Liberation Front.” Counter Extremis. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.counterextremism.com/supremacy/animal-liberation-front. ^
  2. “What’s PETA’s position on the Animal Liberation Front (ALF)?” PETA. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/whats-petas-position-on-the-animal-liberation-front-alf/. ^
  3. “An Overview of Bombing and Arson Attacks by Environmental and Animal Rights Extremists in the United States, 1995-2010.” Department of Homeland Security. May 2013. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OPSR_TP_TEVUS_Bombing-Arson-Attacks_Environmental-Animal%20Rights-Extremists_1309-508.pdf. ^
  4. “Animal Liberation Front Guidelines.” Bron Taylor. Accessed September 15, 2022. http://www.brontaylor.com/courses/pdf/Best+Nocella–ALFintro.pdf. ^
  5. “The Theory and Practice of Hell.” BLTC. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.hedweb.com/alffaq.htm. ^
  6. “Animal Liberation Front Guidelines.” Bron Taylor. Accessed September 15, 2022. http://www.brontaylor.com/courses/pdf/Best+Nocella–ALFintro.pdf. ^
  7. “An Overview of Bombing and Arson Attacks by Environmental and Animal Rights Extremists in the United States, 1995-2010.” Department of Homeland Security. May 2013. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OPSR_TP_TEVUS_Bombing-Arson-Attacks_Environmental-Animal%20Rights-Extremists_1309-508.pdf. ^
  8. “Animal Liberation Front Guidelines.” Bron Taylor. Accessed September 15, 2022. http://www.brontaylor.com/courses/pdf/Best+Nocella–ALFintro.pdf. ^
  9. “Testimony.” FBI. May 18, 2004. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/testimony/animal-rights-extremism-and-ecoterrorism. ^
  10. Hwang, Grace. “Examining Extremism: Violent Animal Rights Extremists.” Center for Strategic and International Studies. August 20, 2021. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.csis.org/blogs/examining-extremism/examining-extremism-violent-animal-rights-extremists#:~:text=He%20called%20for%20the%20use,to%20be%20violating%20animal%20rights.. ^
  11. “An Overview of Bombing and Arson Attacks by Environmental and Animal Rights Extremists in the United States, 1995-2010.” Department of Homeland Security. May 2013. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OPSR_TP_TEVUS_Bombing-Arson-Attacks_Environmental-Animal%20Rights-Extremists_1309-508.pdf. ^
  12. “Testimony.” FBI. May 18, 2004. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/testimony/animal-rights-extremism-and-ecoterrorism. ^
  13. “The Theory and Practice of Hell.” BLTC. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.hedweb.com/alffaq.htm. ^
  14.  “Animal Liberation Front Guidelines.” Bron Taylor. Accessed September 15, 2022. http://www.brontaylor.com/courses/pdf/Best+Nocella–ALFintro.pdf. ^
  15. “An Overview of Bombing and Arson Attacks by Environmental and Animal Rights Extremists in the United States, 1995-2010.” Department of Homeland Security. May 2013. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OPSR_TP_TEVUS_Bombing-Arson-Attacks_Environmental-Animal%20Rights-Extremists_1309-508.pdf. ^
  16. “Animal Liberation Front.” Counter Extremis. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.counterextremism.com/supremacy/animal-liberation-front. ^
  17. Hwang, Grace. “Examining Extremism: Violent Animal Rights Extremists.” Center for Strategic and International Studies. August 20, 2021. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.csis.org/blogs/examining-extremism/examining-extremism-violent-animal-rights-extremists#:~:text=He%20called%20for%20the%20use,to%20be%20violating%20animal%20rights.. ^
  18. “Animal Liberation Front.” Counter Extremis. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.counterextremism.com/supremacy/animal-liberation-front. ^
  19. “Militant animal rights activists who claimed they injected rats…” UPI. November 19, 1984. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.upi.com/Archives/1984/11/19/Militant-animal-rights-activists-who-claimed-they-injected-rat/8179469688400/. ^
  20.  “Animal Liberation Front.” Counter Extremis. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.counterextremism.com/supremacy/animal-liberation-front. ^
  21. “Animal Liberation Front.” Counter Extremis. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.counterextremism.com/supremacy/animal-liberation-front. ^
  22. Hwang, Grace. “Examining Extremism: Violent Animal Rights Extremists.” Center for Strategic and International Studies. August 20, 2021. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.csis.org/blogs/examining-extremism/examining-extremism-violent-animal-rights-extremists#:~:text=He%20called%20for%20the%20use,to%20be%20violating%20animal%20rights.. ^
  23. Brown, Alleen. “The Green Scare: How A Movement Who Never Killed Anyone Became the FBI’s No. 1 Domestic Terrorist Threat.” The Intercept. March 23, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://theintercept.com/2019/03/23/ecoterrorism-fbi-animal-rights/. ^
  24. “An Overview of Bombing and Arson Attacks by Environmental and Animal Rights Extremists in the United States, 1995-2010.” Department of Homeland Security. May 2013. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OPSR_TP_TEVUS_Bombing-Arson-Attacks_Environmental-Animal%20Rights-Extremists_1309-508.pdf. ^
  25. “Animal Liberation Front.” Counter Extremis. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.counterextremism.com/supremacy/animal-liberation-front. ^
  26. Brown, Alleen. “The Green Scare: How A Movement Who Never Killed Anyone Became the FBI’s No. 1 Domestic Terrorist Threat.” The Intercept. March 23, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://theintercept.com/2019/03/23/ecoterrorism-fbi-animal-rights/. ^
  27. Hwang, Grace. “Examining Extremism: Violent Animal Rights Extremists.” Center for Strategic and International Studies. August 20, 2021. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.csis.org/blogs/examining-extremism/examining-extremism-violent-animal-rights-extremists#:~:text=He%20called%20for%20the%20use,to%20be%20violating%20animal%20rights.. ^
  28. Brown, Alleen. “The Green Scare: How A Movement Who Never Killed Anyone Became the FBI’s No. 1 Domestic Terrorist Threat.” The Intercept. March 23, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://theintercept.com/2019/03/23/ecoterrorism-fbi-animal-rights/. ^
  29. Brown, Alleen. “The Green Scare: How A Movement Who Never Killed Anyone Became the FBI’s No. 1 Domestic Terrorist Threat.” The Intercept. March 23, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://theintercept.com/2019/03/23/ecoterrorism-fbi-animal-rights/. ^
  30. “Operation Backfire.” FBI. December 6, 2015. Updated August 10, 2018. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/portland/news/stories/operation-backfire. ^
  31. “Animal Liberation Front.” Counter Extremis. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.counterextremism.com/supremacy/animal-liberation-front. ^
  32. Hwang, Grace. “Examining Extremism: Violent Animal Rights Extremists.” Center for Strategic and International Studies. August 20, 2021. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.csis.org/blogs/examining-extremism/examining-extremism-violent-animal-rights-extremists#:~:text=He%20called%20for%20the%20use,to%20be%20violating%20animal%20rights.. ^
  33. Brown, Alleen. “The Green Scare: How A Movement Who Never Killed Anyone Became the FBI’s No. 1 Domestic Terrorist Threat.” The Intercept. March 23, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://theintercept.com/2019/03/23/ecoterrorism-fbi-animal-rights/. ^
  34. “Animal Liberation Front.” Counter Extremis. Accessed September 15, 2022. https://www.counterextremism.com/supremacy/animal-liberation-front. ^
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