Animal Protection > Activist Index

Simplest ALF Action


One day an "animal lover," out of curiosity, stops at a frozen pond to investigate bright flags sticking out of muskrat mounds and finds leghold traps stuck deep in the nest of reeds and mud. Fortunately, the traps are empty, but she can't help but think of the potential victims. She pulls up the stakes, holding the traps secure and takes home as many as she can carry. She feels a mixture of fear and excitement, but overall she's happy knowing that at least the traps in her garbage will never kill an animal.

This, in the simplest terms, is an ALF action: destroying the physical property of an individual or business to benefit an animal, either directly or indirectly. The "animal lover" may become an activist, and as an activist, she'll protest and work to educate others, but in her mind remains the memory of destroying the traps, the small victory.

There is a theory that the reason the use of "violence" by political groups has not caught on in the U.S. to the extent it has in other countries is because most Americans believe that there are agencies and institutions that exist to peacefully resolve conflicts, and that this belief is a barrier against participating in political violence. Perhaps in relation to animals this theory collapses, and it is here that the existence of the ALF can be explained. Crimes of enormous proportion against animals are commonly ignored by the legal system. Battery cages and veal crates are accepted as "normal agricultural practice." Billions of chickens and turkeys are denied even the illusion of humane slaughter. Birds, mice and fish in laboratories are denied the most basic of legal protections. In some states, animals in farms are specifically written out of laws against cruelty.

Of course, opposition-the desire to make a fundamental change in society by throwing oneself against the atrocity of animal abuse-is the right thing to do. The debate over the ALF has never been a question of what is morally justified. How to best bring about change, though, is open to debate. Everyone involved in the animal liberation movement has doubts about the effectiveness of their actions and is searching for the best way to fight animal abuse and exploitation. Most people find the answer is that different tactics and strategies fit different contexts and that one way to defend animals does not have to replace other types of activism. Perhaps the biggest debate is over so-called violence versus nonviolence. There are no arguments for or against either approach that would prove it is universally superior or inferior to the other, or that one will inevitably have really good or really bad effects.

To the defense of the ALF, it is certain that the ALF has rescued animals. Well-thought-out releases from fur farms and liberations from research labs have saved animal lives that you can count. Destroying a slaughterhouse or a fur-farm feed wholesaler does not save animals in an easily quantifiable manner, but may save animals nonetheless through monetary loss, inconvenience, fear, etc., that may dissuade one last breeding season or spur an exploiter's early retirement. "Violence" or "terrorism" has long expressed the most important social, religious and historical forces in this country and in others around the world.

To be fair, much of the criticism of the ALF is justified. The ALF is not revolutionary. It will not bring about fundamental change in society to benefit animals by itself. But ALF actions can be a part of a revolutionary process and can have very important and necessary effects for animals who are suffering.

The ALF has not been proven ineffective. What has been pointed out is that acts borne out of frustration, impatience and impulse do not bring results. In "Making Our Actions Count," in the #9 issue of No Compromise, Dari Fullmer wrote that "direct action without strategy is useless." Although random actions may not be entirely useless, the point of choosing targets strategically is important. Direct action activists have to set priorities and be careful to make each effort count. Realistically, we are all limited in the time and energy we can commit to activism (of any kind). We only have a few chances; actions should be more than just symbolic-don't sit in jail for breaking a window at your local McDonald's.

Research and planning are essential to be effective. This should mean fewer actions, but bigger, more focused actions intended to weaken or remove a vital link in an animal abuse industry. Activists must get to know their local animal industry and the role it plays at the national and local levels. An industry is made up of many different levels, from the farmers, the animal transporters and the slaughterhouses, to the processors and down to the retail end. Also included are industry research centers, promotional groups, industry publications, advertising agencies, etc. Every larger community in this country has at least one company that plays an important role in the larger industry, making the abuse and exploitation of animals profitable.

The Western Wildlife Unit of the ALF in the early 1990s, as well as some recent actions targeting the fur industry, showed us the way. By targeting the research that kept the fur industry prosperous and the fur feed co-ops that provide assistance to farmers, they attacked a weak link in the industry, making an enormous impact. If they had chosen to target the retail end and instead destroyed fur stores, they would have made the evening TV news, but insurance would likely rebuild the store and the industry would be little the worse. Within an industry, for the most part, the results are not worth the risk to attack retail outlets.

What industry should the ALF target? Is it better to target a greater evil (such as the meat industry) or plan for a greater impact (by hitting the weakened fur industry)? Setting priorities is another important step in successful strategy.

The meat industry: Internationally, the U.S. is the world's largest exporter of bird carcasses and other animal "products." Companies like Tyson and Hormel aggressively target overseas markets. Nationally, the meat industry is equally overwhelming. Huge companies like IBP, ConAgra, National Beef Packing and Perdue Farms kill billions of animals every year.

There are approximately 5,000 commercial poultry and livestock farms in the U.S., approximately 300 large meat-packing plants nationwide and another 6,000 small- and medium-sized meat-packing facilities. Fighting the meat industry statewide or regionally is the only realistic option. The livestock haulers, the auction yards, the slaughterhouses and farm supply companies are examples of vulnerable links at this level.

What are the weak industries? We're familiar with fur, but there's also horse-slaughter, the veal industry, foie gras, dog-racing and circuses with animals, among others. For example, circuses remain extremely vulnerable to sabotage. The few dozen circuses that remain in this country are dependent on their means of transportation. A few (empty!) destroyed trucks can stop a circus in its tracks, literally. Many of these circuses survive performance by performance (season by season), and the loss of revenue due to canceled performances could seal their end.

ALF actions are dynamic and inspirational. The ALF can interrupt the dreariness of everyday campaigning with drama that reveals the animal rights struggle at its most essential level, if only for a short time. ALF actions can be a symbol of the revolutionary potential of our movement. The anonymous activist who destroyed muskrat traps acted out of moral duty without thinking of educating the public or hoping for media attention, and, if only temporarily, refused to accept the confines of the law. This ALF has great potential.

Level Two, Planning an ALF Mission

To begin, let me say that while associating with animal rights activists (something I try to avoid), I often hear people speaking thrillingly about articles they've read in the press or seen on the news about animals being liberated, laboratories being trashed, lorries being torched, fast food restaurants being burned to the ground, etc. Along with these conversations it is practically guaranteed that one or more persons will exclaim the greatness and empowerment of the action followed by a "Gee, how do I hook up with these people?"

Also heard is, "Why don't these lads contact me?" or "How do I get involved with that group?" There are many others, but all basically asking the same thing: "How do I get involved?" This is how I found the answer to that question. After reading stories about lab break-ins and fur stores being torched, I, too, desperately wanted to join this group. But how? There was really no place to start. All of my friends in the animal rights movement had less interest in illegal direct action than I did, and even those who showed some interest were completely clueless as to how to meet these people.
At one point, I wrote an animal rights group letting them know that I would be willing to help them raid a lab. Needless to say, that letter went unanswered.

Finally I realized what I was doing. I was waiting for someone with a plan to drop in out of the blue and ask me to join in a lab raid. Now stop and think about this. Would anyone who put hundreds of hours in planning a covert, illegal direct action that could land them in prison for years risk asking a basic stranger for help simply because he or she is a vegetarian or belonged to the local animal rights chapter?! NO! (At least not if they want to stay active and out of jail.)

So how did I, or a better question is, how do you, end up "joining" the Animal Liberation Front? That's easy. Come up with your own plan! Really. It's not as hard as you think. Let me repeat this important point which everyone must realize. Come up with your own plan. This is very important.

One of the reasons there is not a lot more illegal direct action happening is because there are only a few people willing to invest the time and energy necessary to choose a viable target, research the facts, re-con the place, and conduct any other work necessary to execute a successful direct action.

There are always plenty of people who want to help in the actual execution of the plan, though not many people are willing to dedicate and invest the time, money, energy, and stress that go along with the planning. People are always willing to share in the "excitement," but not in the actual work. Simply put, no one wants to help bake the bread, but everyone wants to eat it.

Many people will easily shrug off planning a direct action for many reasons. (Nearly all are mere excuses which could easily be overcome.) One of the most overused reasons is people tell themselves they don't know anyone who could help in the final execution of the plan. For example, they don't know who could find homes for X number of animals; they don't know who they could trust as a lookout; they don't know who could loan or rent them a vehicle to use, etc. I want to emphasize here that if you are faced with a problem like this, continue on!

There are many bridges that one can foresee that look uncrossable during the planning of an action. These problems seem unresolvable and often discourage people from continuing on with their plan. Again I must emphasize, continue. These problems either solve themselves or are more easily solved when you actually reach that point of the plan. (The other option usually being the plan is aborted for some other reason long before the problem ever had to be confronted.)

Something else that should be thrown in here is that you should expect about four out of five plans into which you've invested time and money to fall through. Again, this shouldn't deter you. If you approach direct action with the knowledge that most of your plans may not work, then you should not be discouraged from battling on if some of your plans do fall through.

Though it is not necessary, before taking any direct action, one should read as much literature as possible on the topic. This is much easier to do now thanks to a "revival" in the grassroots animal rights/liberation movement. If possible, any literature pertaining to illegal activities should be mailed to a fake name at a post office box or private mailbox center. If this is not possible, perhaps a well-trusted friend (who could handle police/federal harassment and is not involved in illegal activities themselves) would be willing to have it sent to his or her place. Another possibility would be to get this information off of a web site (from a library, campus, or cyber-coffee shop computer).

Though some of these security precautions may seem ridiculous, paranoid, and unnecessary, you will be thankful you followed them if you continue to increase the frequency, severity, and effectiveness of your actions, thus producing more intense local and federal investigations.

But, wait a minute! You still don't know if there is anyone you can trust. This does not mean that you shouldn't consider doing an action. When I realized that no one was going to drop in and ask me to help them with their plan -- when I finally realized that I was the A.L.F. -- I decided to target a fast food restaurant that I had noticed as appearing vulnerable.

My first step was realizing that I was the A.L.F. and that it was up to me to find a viable target, in this case the fast food restaurant. Though I still didn't know who could help me with this plan, I proceeded to scope it out the next few nights, still thinking I would find someone to help me.

Though I had no experience at "casing a joint", it came very easily and naturally. Between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. (the time I decided would be safest to strike the place) I carefully scoped it out. Some nights dressed head to toe in my jogging gear (now is not the time to be caught there in your balaclava), I jogged up and down the street past the restaurant. I was careful to look for possible activity inside the building, check on any employees' cars in the parking lot, judge the amount of traffic, the amount of police presence, determine how well the parking lot and building were lit, scan for any drive thru or security cameras (to look out for and to sabotage!), etc.

Other nights I walked my boyfriend's dog up and down the street looking for the same things. In no time at all I was very familiar with the activity of the area (and had walked two emergency escape routes I would take should I be interrupted). I was soon confident with this target. Unfortunately, I still didn't know anyone I would trust enough to divulge my plans to. I knew what I wanted to do.

The day before I was going to execute my plan, I drove to a neighboring town, bought super-glue, spray-paint, and some garden gloves from three different stores, making sure to pay in cash at each store. That evening I went for a walk wearing my gloves and ended up picking up two large rocks and half of a brick that I determined was small enough to carry around and handle, yet big enough to smash through the thick plate glass windows of a fast food restaurant.

Though I would have felt a bit more comfortable with a partner to lookout for me, I was tired of waiting around for apathetic and unmotivated people. That night, dressed in black from head to toe, I went jogging. As I got near the restaurant I slowed to a walk. Seeing that there was no traffic around and facing a dark and empty-looking building, I approached the restaurant.

Walking briskly across the lot, I pulled my mask down over my face. At the rear of the building I quickly took off my black backpack and got out my supplies. I quickly filled the two back door locks with super-glue and small pieces of paper clips that I had snipped especially for this occasion. I then proceeded to spray-paint slogans over the entire back of the building and on the side with the drive-thru.

This done, I peeked around the building. Headlights were approaching from up the street so I just remained calm and motionless. My stomach dropped when I saw it was a police car. The cop then drove by without slowing down or looking my way.

Delighted, I walked around to the front of the building and quickly tossed all three projectiles through three separate windows! I saved this part of the action for last because of the loud sound it would make. And with the three explosions of glass, I quickly sprinted through one of my pre-arranged exits and into a residential area where I quickly vanished. I then removed my black turtleneck and balaclava, ditched them in an apartment complex dumpster, and went home.

My point here is that with enough planning, determination, and self-confidence, one person can pull off a successful action! Of course, the "bigger" or "more severe" the action, the better it may be to have a lookout with clear communications to you. Nevertheless, one person shouldn't feel helpless and inactive because he or she doesn't know others who are willing to take illegal direct action. Besides, taking action is your first step in feeling out potential comrades who share the same philosophy as you and are ready and willing to take action.

It is really very difficult to explain to someone how they can find close, trust-worthy partners who are willing to take the same risks and are knowledgeable and strong enough to withstand heavy bouts of police interrogation, intimidation, and harassment. Though you never plan to be faced with this situation, it is a realistic risk and you and anyone you work with should understand with a firm knowledge that if this situation arises, you and anyone you work with will not cooperate at all with any law enforcement agencies!

There is no cut and dry pattern or formula for choosing or finding partners. THIS IS GOOD. If there was a pattern or formula, it would open the door for infiltration of law enforcement and corporate agents. However, by executing the fast food action by myself, it lead me to a second person whom I later hooked up with.

Another member of our current cell really was not "chosen." We had merely known and trusted each other since high school when we used to forge passes out of study hall so we could skip school and go swimming in the river.

We had both been vegetarians (and outcasts) in high school and I taught him about animal rights as he shared with me his views of deep ecology. It wasn't long before we started working together. My point here is that there was no formula with which to evaluate my friend. Merely, I had spent years with him as a best friend and we pretty much knew each other inside and out.

These are the best kind of partners to have since you already have an established relationship and friendship that no law enforcement agent would be able to make up. So I'd like to emphasize that this is the best way of "finding" a partner: working with someone you have a history with. And, always trust your intuition. If some-one doesn't feel right or you get "weird vibes" from him or her, DON'T work with that person! The opposite is true here also, but I don't need to explain that since, when you find that true connection, the feeling is pretty much unmistakable.

The other partner I connected with after the fast food restaurant action had a long history in the environmental movement. I only shared my interest in illegal direct action with her after she had complained to me consistently about a billboard advertising animal products and how someone should correct the billboard so consumers would know exactly what suffering that product really hid.

After hearing repeated complaints from my friend (was she checking me out, too?), we went for a walk. Here I told her that the billboard she hated so much appeared to be easily accessible (I had already reconned it) and that if she wanted to help redecorate it, that would be jolly.

Needless to say, she thought this was a grand idea and, within a matter of days, the billboard had been corrected. Red paint bombs made from Christmas ornaments also gave the appearance of blood running down the advertisement.

The day after the billboard action, my friend and I went on another walk (we NEVER talked in a house or car!) to discuss and critique our action. This may seem silly to some, but it is the best way to learn from your mistakes and make improvements for further actions.

Meetings like this were always restricted to only those involved with the action, and are great to learn from. Other than that they should never be discussed again. In this case, we realized that the warning system we had set up to warn of cops (a loud whistle) didn't work. I had been warned twice of police in the area by her whistle, but I was never sure when to resume work on the billboard. Also, the whistling merely attracted attention to my partner rather than to me.

Because of this, we ended up putting together our savings and buying a police scanner, frequency book, and a cheap pair of two-way radio headsets. Because of the headset's low price ($49.95 for the pair), I knew they would not be reliable for an action where the lookout is a long distance away. Nevertheless, they would suit our needs for more billboard, fast food restaurant, and fur shop actions.

These are the actions that should be done most often to build up confidence, unity, and comradeship. The more of these types of actions done, the more competent, confident, and experienced you and your cell will become, and you can soon "move up" to bigger and better actions. (Bigger and better being defined here as larger actions with more severe amounts of damage being done to the target. This, of course, includes arson attacks.)

These actions will come in time if you and your partners stay active and build up a unity and confidence that becomes almost intuitive. Myself and the two individuals I currently work with have almost a psychic connection in which we usually always know what the other two people are thinking. This will not happen overnight and, if you expect it to, you will be let down. That is why I must emphasize motivation and persistence.

It took me about two years of actions like this and now I currently work regularly with two separate cells and a handful of other people who occasionally seek my assistance. Through persistence and perseverance you will build up a network of resources including tools, money, people, and experience.

If you tell yourself that there are no suitable targets to strike, you should stop and ask yourself if this is what you really want to be doing. If it is, just go to the nearest phone book and let your fingers do the walking. The yellow pages will give you the names, phone numbers, and addresses (and a map of the local area) of countless animal exploiters. This is an invaluable and easily accessible resource, available 24-hours a day in any city or town you may find yourself in.

In one instance, our cell drove two states away to "remodel" an establishment profiting off of animals' deaths. Once there however, we realized this would not be possible. Instead of going home disappointed, we simply went to the nearest pay phone and let our fingers do the walking. Before we left that state, one animal abuse establishment had been completely destroyed!

Your actions will, to a slight extent, be limited by your funding. Therefore it is very important that absolutely NO money is spent frivolously. However, once you decide that you will be taking direct action, the first thing you should do is set up a fund.

Don't use your own personal bank account or ANY bank account. All financial transactions must be off the books and receipts for expenses (tools, gas, etc.) should always be destroyed. There are a few different ways of increasing your fund. If you or any of your cell mates (no pun intended) have a job, you may want to immediately put 10 percent (or more) of each paycheck directly into the fund. With three employed people, this can quickly increase the size of your fund in a short time.

Another possibility would be for someone to adopt your cell. Though this may sound far fetched, it's not. However, adopters, I feel, cannot be actively sought. In my experience, adopters have had a long history with cell members and share the same philosophy. The only thing keeping them out of the trenches themselves is something like a physical disability, a family with children, a prominent job or political position, etc.

Again, for security reasons, donors should not be "looked for" or "asked" as much as simply "found" or "known." Remember, having a long and trusted history with the person is probably the safest way to prevent leaks or infiltration. Also, donors should never make contact with the cell (only the known individual in the cell). And, of course, the donor should never know of any plans or potential targets. If the donor wants to know what their money has been up to, they can have newspaper clippings anonymously mailed to them or to a pre-arranged post office box.

Donors should be made aware of the RICO laws as well as the most current "anti-terrorism" legislation that has been passed. It's also good to know their feelings on arson, explosives, and other controversial tactics before they receive clippings of such events. Remember, security precautions with donors are important and necessary to insure the safety of both the cell and the donor(s).

If you have donors asking too many questions, wanting to meet other cell members, etc., you will want to remind them of the necessity for security. If they persist, or you feel uncomfortable, it may be time to find different donors. Remember to use common sense and to always trust your intuition.
Finally, and most importantly, don't rip off your donor! Donors need to be thought of and respected as fellow members of your cell, despite their physical absence. Remember, they are helping to make your actions possible. Don't misuse funds. This is the quickest and easiest way to lose a donor and the cohesive trust of your cell.

Another quick and easy way to save money for your fund is to eliminate or greatly reduce your cost of living. This can happen in a variety of ways and forms, but a few brief examples include getting clothes and supplies from free boxes, dumpster--diving, Salvation Armys (and their drop boxes), garage sales, flea markets, etc.

Also, when traveling, (and at home) eat your own food! Good road trip food includes sandwiches, bagels, trail mix, fruit, bread, etc. Tupperware makes it easy to take cooked rice, pasta, baked potatoes, etc. along for those longer road trips. Also, this food can be acquired from food boxes, dumpster-diving, free lunch groups, etc. Taco Bell bean burritos without cheese are NOT an acceptable road food as money is too scarce to be going to the PepsiCo corporation (which exploits animals) or even to a private restaurant that serves animal parts as part of their menu.

In other words, turn away from the consumer-trained frame of mind and become more autonomous and self-sufficient as a cell. This seems to be a harder transition for people living in a big city or suburban area, but it is just a matter of self-discipline. Try to wean yourself (and your cell) off of all that Babylon tries to addict you to. You shouldn't be seen in a Taco Bell in a strange town the same night that the McDonald's next door is going to burn down anyway!

Another big savings is to camp while you're on the road. Besides saving you $20 to $50 a night, you don't have to worry about being recognized by an employee, signing your name, presenting ID, being on a "security" camera, having your vehicle recognized, etc. Besides, camping will give you a little time to communicate with nature and let you reflect on why you're doing what you're doing. The electricity from motel room lights, televisions, phones, etc. help to scatter and disrupt thinking anyway. Having a clear mind makes for clearer thinking and better decision-making--every cell should have.

In bigger actions where two or three cells might need to meet to discuss plans, media work, etc., a motel may be needed. In this case extra security precautions need to be taken on renting the room, parking in the area, entering and exiting the building, etc. Common sense and experience will help with these precautions. DON'T take security risks.

Despite your low cost of living (my only expense is gas money), there will always be expenses to pull off an action. From gas money to tools to clothes, you will need a source of funds. Of course, more time and energy may be needed to fund-raise if you want more sophisticated tools (which you will want for more sophisticated actions), such as police-quality walkie-talkies, night-vision goggles, a 200 channel scanner with headset, vehicle(s), and whatever else your cell needs to insure a safe and successful action.

Another way to increase your action fund is by fund-raising, you know, the good old-fashioned way like having a garage sale, bake sale, tabling, car wash, etc. We've done this many times. Whether you're just passing out literature, selling books, selling vegan goodies, etc., always have a donation jar available. Of course, you can't tell people you are raising money for illegal activities and since I don't like to lie to people, I always raise funds to "help animals."

For more specific inquiries I explain how this money will end up "informing" and educating the public about animal abuse. Of course your fund-raiser doesn't have to have anything at all to do with animals (which is much more secure) but that will have to be something for the fund-raisers themselves to decide. Also, take advantage of any school fairs, Earth Day events, street fairs, concerts, etc. to raise money. Remember, the heavier the traffic, the heavier the donations.

If you are fund-raising for a legitimate organization, funds need to be diverted before they are turned in or recorded. There really are countless ways to make and save money for your cell's action-fund: garage sales, campus organizations, concerts, short-term jobs, funders, etc. Your imagination is your only limit. Don't let lack of funds prevent you or your cell from taking action.

If this is happening, then you need to concentrate on fund-raising until you have enough money to execute your plan(s). Just remember, money is the root of all evil (it fuels animal exploitation). Be careful with it, use it wisely, and don't let it disrupt the cohesiveness of your cell. And, in the end, make the animal abusers the one's to really pay the woman pictured in the above photo is not the author or involved in the Animal Liberation Front.

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