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by Gary Ridley
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August 28, 2013
NORTH BRANCH, MI -- Law enforcement officials believe "radical" animal
activists are responsible for vandalism at a North Branch-area meat production
Lapeer County Sheriff Lt. Gary Parks said detectives from his office are
investigating an incident that occurred early Monday, Aug. 26, at McNees Meats,
6267 Old State Road.
Parks said officials learned of the incident after an email claiming
responsibility was sent to police and media by members claiming allegiance to
the Animal Liberation Front, an international group that vows to free animals
and cause financial loss to those who they believe exploit animals.
The email, sent by Bite
Back Magazine, a clearinghouse for reports of actions committed by
animal-rights groups and their supporters, claimed that two ALF members traveled
three hours to the facility and glued a truck ignition and the lock to the
facility's front door. The suspects also sprayed painted "Meat is Murder" on the
front of the building.
One of the suspects claimed that they "freed fifteen enslaved cows from being
slaughtered," destroyed light fixtures and smashed chicken cages, according to
Representatives from McNees Meats declined to comment on the incident but Parks
said the damage at the facility is consistent with the damage listed in the
made headlines in 2011 after meat from the facility was linked to E.
coli-related illnesses. At least five people were sickened and more than 2,000
pounds of ground beef were recalled due to the outbreak.
The Back Bite Magazine email cited the E. coli outbreak.
Jerry W. Vlasak, a press officer with the Animal Liberation Front, declined to
comment if his group was involved with the vandalism but said these claims of
responsibility typically prove true.
"As a press officer with the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, I
cannot independently verify that this action occurred, only report that actions
claimed anonymously such as this one have historically proven accurate virtually
100 (percent) of the time," Vlasak wrote in an email to MLive-Flint Journal.
This is not the first time ALF operatives have claimed responsibility for such
incidents in the state.
Rodney Coronado was sentenced to nearly 6 years in prison after the offices of
two Michigan State University faculty members were firebombed and two mink
research facilities were vandalized extensively Feb. 28, 1992.
The incident caused more than $1.2 million in damage.
Parks said his office has never dealt with a case involving the Animal
Liberation Front but due to the size of scope of the organization he forwarded
information on the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its
FBI spokesperson Simon Shaykhet declined to comment on the investigation.
Steven Chermak, a professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University,
said groups associated with ALF are typically small and responsible for multiple
incidents in multiple states.
"It's an effort for intimidation and bringing publicity to their cause," Chermak
Due to their mobility, Chermak said law enforcement agencies often struggle to
catch those responsible for the incidents. However, Chermak said they are often
able to link them to multiple incidents if they are able capture them.
Although authorities refer to their actions as eco-terrorism, the Animal
Liberation Front is not designated as a terrorist organization by the United
However, two members of the organization, Joseph Mahmoud Dibee and Josephine
Sunshine Overaker, appear on the FBI's list of most-wanted domestic terrorists
for their alleged involvement in at least 17 incidents in the western United
States including arson and destroying an electrical tower.
Chermak said most of the incidents involving the Animal Liberation Front include
arson, bombings and vandalism but rarely end with injuries to humans.
"Recent activity of ALF has decreased over the last 10 years," said Chermak.
Anyone with information on the North Branch incident is asked to contact Parks