Animal Protection > Activist Index

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THE ALF PRIMER -- page 3

A guide to direct action and the animal liberation front
third edition
, about 2002

Countless publications on economic sabotage are in print. A more known one would be George Hayduke's Get Even: The Complete Book of Dirty Tricks. Copies of the ALF primer can be obtained from the North American Animal Liberation Front Support Group.

Getting Through Locks
Fur Liberations
Dealing With Police
Federal Agents and Grand Juries
Reporting Actions


Arson is a big, and dangerous step up in direct action. It can be very dangerous in a number of ways. Arson is a very serious crime, so before considering it you'd better be aware of the possible consequences if caught. Fire is also terribly dangerous, so the utmost care is needed when starting one. Its necessary to be positive that no human or nonhuman animals will be hurt in the blaze. It is also dangerous media wise. Arson carries the heavy tag of "terrorism", and must be used wisely as not to discredit the entire movement. As dangerous as arson is, it is also by far the most potent weapon of direct action. One of the first arson attacks in the US was against a new research lab at U.C. Davis doing over 4 million dollars in damage. When constructing your incendiary device, be careful! Consider the source of the information you are using. Never, ever, ever use The Anarchists Cookbook. This was put together by a right wing individual purposely using faulty recipes in order to kill or injure people following the book. Never use information off the internet either, as much of it is from The Anarchists Cookbook or other unreliable sources. Just use common sense.

Arson can have two different purposes. The first and more obvious is to start a fire and burn down the target, be it a building or a vehicle. But devices can also be created that will only have a small fire, meant to give off heat, thus setting off a buildings sprinkler system, doing water damage to merchandise. If using this method, you should be using timed devices, set to go off at night when nobody is around. It is best to try to get the device into the store while open, rather than breaking in during the night. These devices are placed out of sight under flammable furniture, displays, etc. Putting them inside of furniture or other products may be dangerous considering the device may fail to go off on time and go off at a later time after someone has purchased it. Placing the device on the top floor is best, since the water from the sprinklers will then ideally run down to the other floors, doing damage on each. We will first discuss devices intended to start a fire, then move on to more complicated timed devices meant to set off sprinkler systems. Before using any device be absolutely sure to wipe it clear of all fingerprints. Do not assume the device burning will get rid of fingerprints. The authorities have at least 32 methods of pulling prints of burned articles. In some cases, the fire actually fuses the oil of the print to object, making it easier to read. Whenever using a flammable liquid try to use kerosene, or diesel fuel. Their fumes aren't flammable, unlike gasoline, and are therefore safer to use. Kerosene can be bought at outdoor or camping stores as well as some gas stations. Here it is especially important to buy far away from home. Purchase it in regulation red fuel containers, then transfer it to whatever bottle you are using (usually plastic drink bottles or jugs). Also, if using bottles don't fill them all the way, or as the liquid turns into a gas and expands it will cause the bottle to leak. Flammable liquid is made to have a noticeable smell, so be sure to keep it totally sealed in a plastic bag when transporting, and be careful not to get any on you or in your car. Wash yourself, your clothes, and air out your car or spray some air freshener in it after the action is done. Incense sticks are often used as a fuse in incendiary devices. We strongly caution against this. They are hard to light, go out easily, and dont always set off the device. A much better fuse can be based on those prank birthday candles - the kind that you cant blow out. They're made to not go out, so what could be better? Just be sure that they are set up in a way that the dripping wax wont interfere with the connection to the rest of the device.

A simple way to create an incendiary device is based on two plastic bottles of flammable liquid. Lightly soak two sponges in whatever liquid is in the bottles. Place the ends of the candles between the sponges, and place the sponges between the bottles, then tape the whole thing together. You can also put matches at the base of the candles in order to help things along. Be positive the candle and match heads are very close to the sponges or it will not work. The fire will slowly move down the candle, light the sponges, which will melt the bottles, and start the fire.

A different version of the same device uses one gallon water jug, the kind with the handle. A sponge is placed sideways through the handle opening and the candles are stuck in on both sides of the handle. Another simple way to start a fire is the cigarette delay. This entails taking a cigarette, and placing the end between two open books of matches, with the match heads against the cigarette. Tie them together around the cigarette with string or a rubber band. Place this between cardboard boxes, newspaper, or whatever other flammable stuff you care for. This method will give you a five to ten minute delay, but don't count on specific times.

A common target for arson is the wooden broiler units used to hold hens. Due to various drugs, hens now reach their maximum weight in just seven weeks. So, every seven weeks the hens are slaughtered, and the boiler units are cleaned out and disinfected, ready for the new batch of chicks. Just after the disinfecting is the best time to burn them down since the disinfecting scares away rodents. The standard process for this uses only two people, although other people may be put to use as look outs and drivers. One person carries bags of torn up clothes. The other carries a container of flammable liquid, newspaper, matches, and fire-lighters. Fire-lighters are pieces of solid material used to start fires. You can find them in camping and army/navy stores. Broiler units are often left open to air out after cleaning and disinfecting. The bags of torn up clothes are placed in the corners of the unit, and the flammable liquid is poured into the bags, soaking the clothing. The bags should be leaning against the walls so the don't fall away while burning. Some flammable liquid can also be poured on the wall as well, but be careful not to overdo it, you still have to get out. The fire-lighters are placed on top of the bags, against the walls. A box of matches can be placed on top of the bag as well. A piece of newspaper is rolled up and used as a fuse so you don't have to be right over the bag while lighting it. If your target has a number of buildings you probably wont want to stick around long enough to do more than one, so go for the largest one.

Destroying vehicles by means of fire, one must be careful. When the fuel tank of a car or truck explodes it can throw the vehicle 20 to 30 yards. If it is that close to a building containing human or nonhuman animals it is necessary to break in, release the break, and push it out of range. A simple way to burn a vehicle is to place a sheet or blanket on top or underneath and soak it in flammable liquid. If the doors can be opened, it can also be poured over the dashboard and seats. If not using a time-delay device, try to light it from as far away as possible by lighting the end of a rolled up newspaper, flare, or other torch-like object.

The device used to set off sprinklers begins with a cigarette box, playing card box, or similar small box, and a card is cut to fit inside (to attach the parts to). Playing card boxes work well in this capacity since you already have perfect fitting cards. Holes are punched in the sides of the box and card for ventilation, and both parts are coated with nail varnish. A brand new nine volt battery (must be Duracell or it wont work!) is glued to the card. Next, take a 21 watt bulb, the kind used in cars for reverse lights. The glass must be broken without damaging the filament. To do this, heat the bulb with a lighter and then place it in cold water. The older way of wiring it is to get a battery snap (the thing nine volt batteries attach to) and solder one wire of it to the nipple of the bulb. A spare piece of similar wire is soldered to the metal side of the bulb (the side part is also a contact, not only the nipple). Fine, but stiff, wire is then soldered onto the ends of the two wires. These two will later be attached to a watch face. A watch (not digital - the kind with hands!) is used, removed of its band and glass over the face. The thin but stiff wire at the end of the wire coming off the side of the bulb is bent up off the watch face into a bridge shape, like an upside down letter U. Both ends are soldered onto the watch face with the bridge part lifted off, or perpendicular, to the watch face. The other wire, the upright, is bent at a 90 degree angle, so the end stands off the face, slightly taller than the bridge. The purpose is to have the hour hand push the upright into the bridge, completing the circuit and setting off the bulb. In order to not have the minute or second hand hit the upright they must carefully be bent out of the way or cut off. Then the two wire ends, the bridge and the upright, are glued onto the face between one and three. They are placed on the watch face so that as the hour hand reaches them it will push the upright into the bridge. The watch, battery, and bulb are glued onto the card. A piece of fire-lighter is glued to the card in front of the bulb, and covered with nail varnish. The filament is carefully placed on the fire-lighter and more varnish is painted over the filament and fire-lighter. Match heads, removed from the sticks with razor blades, are placed on the fire-lighter, touching the filament, while the varnish is still wet. Fire-lighter can be hard to get going, so attach as many match heads around it as possible. Any remaining space on the card should be filled with more pieces of fire-lighter. Only touch it with gloves after that point, or better yet, only touch it with gloves from the beginning, since parts may be impossible to wipe off after being assembled. Before entering the target, set the hand to the correct position, depending on what time you want it to go off. Do not connect the battery snap to the battery yet. Once in the store, visit the bathroom and connect it there. The device is now armed. Various problems can come up, such as the hour hand not being strong enough to push the upright into the bridge, so try it out and try to use the same materials and set up once you've found what works. Here is the newer, and more effective way of setting up this device. First off, watch hands aren't that strong, so small travel alarm clocks work better. This will require you find a larger type of box. Also, a simpler wiring than using uprights and bridges is to just connect the wire to the hour hand, traveling along it from the center out. Be sure to leave enough loose wire so that as it goes around it doesn't pull off. The end of the wire should be stripped with enough bare wire to make good contact. Depending on your set-up, it can either contact another wire attached to the side of the bulb, or contact the side of the bulb itself. Try different set ups out, testing it along the way by checking if the bulb lights up before you break it, and so on. Once you have a finished product test it out to make sure it flames up enough to start a small fire. Take notes throughout the process so you can recreate it again if it works. Once you have found something that works, commit it to memory and destroy the notes. Always be wary of any evidence you may be keeping around, like those notes, or boxes or receipts from parts you had to buy.

A timed device used for vehicles is similar. It begins with the same box, card, bulb, and battery set up. Using pieces from a plastic bag, make a small bag, about 4 x 2.5 cm, containing a mixture of half sodium chlorate (weed killer) or potassium nitrate (saltpeter) and half white granulated sugar (use Jack Frost - it vegan!). UHU or similar glue is used to seal the edges of the bag. The bag is placed along the filament where the fire-lighter was used in the previous device. If you don want to mess around with the bag, use the same fire-lighter set up as the 12 hour device. Instead of a watch being used as a timer, this one uses a cooking timer which has a rotating arm. A nail is banged into the top of the timer, not far enough to affect the mechanism, and secured with glue. A piece of metal that can conduct electricity is bent into a letter L shape. This piece is glued to the arm, so that the L touches the nail when the timer reaches that point. The wires are attached to this arm and to the nail. The device is glued to a plastic bottle filled 3/4 full with gasoline, and dish washing liquid is added. The dish washing liquid is used to sustain the flame. It does solidify the gasoline in around three days, so the device should be used within 24 hours. The device should be placed inside the truck, on the upholstery. If you cant open a door, you'll have to break a window or use it below the truck. Before using such a device it is absolutely necessary to check the truck to make sure the driver is not sleeping inside, as is often the case with larger commercial vehicles. Any product that repels dogs and cats can also be placed around the truck for safety, especially with longer timers. Again, make sure all fingerprints are completely gone before setting off for an action and only touch it with gloves after that.

Getting Through Locks

In some actions, particularly liberations, breaking in is an essential part of the action. Locks can be dealt with in a number of ways. If you are going to be attempting to get by a lock you should take a close look at it, possibly when you check out the site your first time during the day, or more likely your second time at night. Then try to get the exact same kind of lock and see what works. You can try to pry them open with a crowbar, or cut them with bolt cutters. The other way through a lock is to use an electric powered drill and a new 1/8 inch high speed drill bit. Depending on the hardness of the lock it may take more than one bit. Never buy cheap drill bits - they'll let you down. Most keyed locks are pin-tumbler types. In this kind of lock, a number of spring loaded pins are pushed up when the key is inserted. When the tops of these pins are in perfect alignment with the "shear line", the "plug" into which the key is inserted can turn and the lock opened. In many locks, parts are made of brass to prevent corrosion.

Fortunately, brass is relatively soft and easily drilled. A drill can be used to destroy the pins along the shear line. Be careful not to drill too deeply, since this can damage the locking bar making it impossible to open. Drill only the depth of the keyway, which is 3/4 inch in most padlocks, and 1 inch in most door locks. A "drill stop", available in most hardware stores, can be used to pre-set the depth required. Once the lock has been drilled out, insert a pin, such as a nail, into the lock to press the remains of the pins above the shear line. You may have to insert the drill a few times to chew up bits of pins that are interfering with opening. Finally, using a flat-head screwdriver, turn and open the lock. This operation takes practice, so get a few cheap locks and work on it first. Books and tools for picking locks are not too difficult to come by. The other way to get past doors is to just go through them. Prying them open with a crowbar, knocking them open with a sledgehammer, are two ways.

Another way is to cut a hole through the middle of the door just big enough to fit through. A row of holes drilled with a thick drill bit is one way to do this, portable power saws are another. The advantage of this method is that if the door is alarmed going through the middle may not trigger the alarm.


Liberations are the quintessential direct action. Education and economic sabotage save animals lives in the long run, but liberating animals from laboratories, factory farms, or other places of abuse is the only way to save animals lives here and now. Liberations are probably the most complex actions, and some of the most risky. For both these reasons, an incredible amount of planning and preparation are needed. The first step in a liberation is research. You have to know all you can about the target. You have to know how many animals they have, what kind of animals, what they are doing to them, and where they are located. Once these are determined comes the most important part of a liberation - finding homes for the animals. Aside from the actual break in group, a whole other group of people may be needed for this aspect. NEVER liberate an animal that you have not found a good and loving home for. Liberated animals should be placed in homes of people not associated with your group, and hopefully not associated with the movement at all. Once animals are taken police will be looking for them, so they have to placed somewhere police will not look. Before being liberated, an animal should be completely checked over by a trusted veterinarian. Again, before planning on how to get animals out of bad situations, be certain you have a good situation to put them in once they have been liberated. Special homes may be needed for some animals considering you may be liberating animals not normally kept as pets, or with special conditions inflicted upon them by the abusers.

While caring for a dog taken from a laboratory breeder may not require special skill, the average person does not know how to care for a monkey with a hole cut in its skull and an electrode attached to its brain. As was said, liberations are often highly complex, requiring a number of people and a huge amount of planning. The people involved should each have an area of responsibility, a specialty. You will need people responsible for finding homes, researching and planning the raid, look outs, breaking in, carriers - people to get the animals out, and drivers, as well as someone to coordinate the whole thing. If possible the look outs and break in crew should arrive early so that the carriers and drivers are there for as short a time as possible. Of course have a way for lookouts to notify everyone else if things go wrong, be it an audible signal or by walkie talkies. Many animals naturally make noise when disturbed or moved, and there's nothing you can do about it. All you can do is get in, get the animals, and get out as quickly as possible. You have to have lookouts you can rely on, so that you can concentrate on getting the job done and not have to worry about watching your back. If things go wrong get everyone together and leave quickly. Most people will be happy just scaring you off, so unless literally being shot at, don't leave anyone behind.

Parking vehicles near the site may be suspicious. It may be best to have the vehicles arrive early and park in nearby large parking lots or on side streets amongst other cars. Then, they can simply pull up, either at pre-appointed times or when notified, possibly by walkie talkie, get the animals, and go. Always have the vehicle with the animals leave first. If the animals get caught they face death, if you are caught you will only lose your freedom for a short time.

Fur Farm Liberations

Almost all animals raised on fur farms can be released safely into the wild. Police and fur farmers may disagree, saying they will starve or die in the wild, but wildlife officials agree that this is a self serving lie. Of course some will not survive the wild; some animals raised in the wild don't survive it either. Do they stand any better chances on the fur farm? This makes liberating animals on fur farms much easier than those from laboratories. Fox, mink, wolf, bobcat, lynx, raccoon, and coyote can all be safely released into the wild. The only common fur animal that can not survive the wild is the chinchilla. Fur farms are also an easier target since they are more open and generally have less security, although with increasing fur farm liberations, security is quickly increasing. No huge ecological imbalance results from releasing these animals, even in massive quantities, into the wild. They all disperse quickly, with mink traveling five to ten miles a day, and fox traveling twelve. Fur farms are easily spotted, most use long sheds or rows of cages. Fur animals are kept as cold as possible, since this will thicken their coats. For this purpose fur cages are always open to the outside air, making liberation that much easier.

There are some points of safety for the animals that must be followed in a fur animal liberation. Animals are not old enough to be released until after they have been weaned. Also, they should never be released after late October, since by then winter has set in and they wont have time to learn to hunt since prey species will be more difficult to catch at this time. The best method for releasing large amounts of animals is to cut holes in fences surrounding the compound, and then just open the cages and let the animals find their own way out. Of course some will not get out, but when releasing thousands of animals it may be the only way. The more escape routes you can cut the better chances they will have. With any release into the wild some animals will be recaptured, but getting most or even some of the animals to freedom is still much better than all dying. Chinchillas are a small herbivore native to South America. They are generally not killed until spring. As was said earlier, chinchillas are the only fur animal not able to be released to the wild, so they should be found good homes with people who know how to care for them. An important thing to know is that they can not tolerate temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Books about their care are available at book stores and libraries. Even if a liberation is not possible, fur farms can still be disrupted. From October to December the "pelting stock", the animals about to be killed, and the "breeding stock", those animals left to produce more animals, are the same size. By opening all the cages and releasing them into the compound they will be unable to tell which is which. The breeding stock may be kept in just a few cages, so be sure to open them all, or else you might miss the breeding stock and have accomplished nothing. You can also destroy the breeding cards, index card sized slips which contain the genetic history (thus the value) of the stock, usually kept on the front of the cages. This action will not save the animals in the fur farm at that time, they will still be killed. In fact, they will probably kill all the animals and purchase new ones for breeding. But, such actions can cause a farm to shut down, thus saving countless animals. Its a question each individual must decide for themselves.

Another method is to take a non-toxic dye and spray it on each animal, rendering the pelt worthless. Again, they will still be killed, but possibly it will shut down the farm and save future generations.

Dealing With The Police

The following holds true for both being arrested, or just taken in for questioning. When performing direct action, arrests at some point are inevitable, so you had better be prepared for dealing with the police. Although it is true that the more actions you do the higher your chances of arrest get, and some forms of direct action are more risky than others, there is still a chance you will be arrested during your first action, no matter how minor, so be prepared. The general rule in dealing with police is to say nothing. Keep in mind that these people go to school to learn how to trick you into incriminating yourself and others. They are also avid liars, and will say anything to try to trick you. Realize that every word out of their mouth, no matter how friendly, innocent, or unrelated it may seem, is said with the goal of getting evidence against you. Just keep your mouth shut. They may try to threaten a statement out of you. They may say they will keep you in longer if you do not talk. A lie. If they see they are not going to get what they want out of you they eventually will give up. If they see you may talk they will keep pushing until they get what they want. They may threaten you with physical violence. They may even use physical violence against you. Do not fight back. Face it, your are in a police station, surrounded by cops. You aren't going to win. If you do try and fight back you will get yourself a charge of assault on a police officer against you, and some hefty jail time. Its not worth it. If attacked, try to role into a ball and protect your head with your arms. If you can get into a corner, do so. Police will only turn to violence if they think it will get you talking, so keep your mouth shut and you will keep safe. If given a phone call, do not say anything incriminating over the phone. Call your lawyer if you have one, if not call a good animal rights group and they will help you out with one. By the way, no one has ever gotten off by giving police the information they wanted or by turning in others. Its important for ALF members to know their rights, since they are often in possession of incriminating evidence, and allowing a search to happen when you don't have to could be disastrous. When dealing with a police officer it can fall under one of three categories. The first is consensual contact. This means that you are not being held, are free to go if you choose, and you do not have to talk to the officer. This is the state you are in if they have no solid reason to suspect you of any crime and just want to talk to you. In this situation you should politely excuse yourself and leave, since talking to the officer will give him the chance to look for spray-paint on your fingers, etc. The next stage is detention. This means that they have reason to suspect you, but not enough to arrest you on. In this situation you can not leave, but of course should answer "no comment" to any questions. In order to hold you in detention they must have SAF, or Specific and Articulate Facts. Then of course there is arrest, which requires a "high level of suspicion" that you have committed a crime. Only once under arrest can you be searched, otherwise they must present a search warrant. In any situation, if they begin a search, you should clearly and repeatedly state that you object to it. Of course, most cops do not follow the rules, but knowing them can both scare a cop (once you say Specific and Articulate Facts they'll know not to mess with you) and legally protect yourself.

Federal Agents and Grand Juries

The same holds true for speaking to federal agents and when called to testify at a grand jury. A grand jury is an idea out of English government, originally used for one government group to investigate the actions of another. They were banned in the UK in 1933. In the U.S. it is used to target and get information on citizens, particularly those involved in social justice movements such as the animal rights movement. A federal agent will call a grand jury, and people will be subpoenaed. If called you will be either the target, meaning the person they are trying to indicted, a suspect, meaning not the target, but still suspected of illegal activity, or a witness, meaning you aren't suspected, but they want information out of you.

Grand juries are meant to lead to indictments, but only one, Rod Coranado, has ever come about. They are more often used to get information on groups like the ALF and the people involved. In a grand jury setting you basically have no rights. You have no right to remain silent, no right to have a lawyer present. You may only have a lawyer outside the room, contactable by phone. If you refuse to answer their questions you can be placed in jail for up to 18 months. There is a way to beat them though. Resist, resist, resist. When the grand jury is called, refuse to show up. As soon as the agent is out the door after delivering the subpoena, call every activist you know and tell them what is happening. If they aren't familiar with grand juries, explain it to them. Call every animal rights group you know of. Be sure to contact less deeply involved people as well and inform them of what to do, as these are the people they will target first, since they are more likely to speak. Call a press conference and speak about what is happening. Have a protest outside their federal building. Grand juries are clearly unconstitutional. The last thing they want is publicity. Speak out about this injustice and never, ever say a word to them. This is exactly what was done when a grand jury was called in Syracuse recently, and the grand jury quickly disappeared. Resist, resist, resist.

Reporting Actions
    If you choose to report your actions to a support group, send news clippings or your own report, including the date, place, and what was done. Write the reports on plain paper using block capital letters, or a publicly accessible typewriter or computer, like the ones available at a library. Photocopy the report a couple times at a public copier to obscure details making it harder to trace. If handwriting it, you may want to have more than one person write each letter. For an A, have the first person write the /, the second write the \, the third write the -, making a complete letter A. This will be much harder for them to trace. Be certain not the leave fingerprints on the envelope, paper, or stamp. Obviously don't sign the report or include your address in the report or put a return address. Spell everything correctly, since certain spelling errors are often common to certain individuals. Wet the envelope glue and stamp with a sponge, don't lick them as saliva is traceable. Always drop in a public mailbox, and avoid using the same one frequently. After it is sealed and you are sure it is evidence-free, seal it in a larger envelope so that it can be safely handled. When you are dropping it off, rip an end off the larger envelope and drop the smaller one into the mailbox without touching it. When mailing in a communique be careful where the post mark is from. Don't mail in a report close to your home for an action a state away. Assume whatever you send is first opened and read by the government. Dropping it of anonymously at a supportive groups office, or the house of a supportive above ground activist is safer than mailing it.

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