The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a name used internationally by animal liberation activists who engage in direct action on behalf of animals. This includes removing animals from facilities, and sabotaging facilities in protest against animal testing, fur farming, and other animal-based industries. According to ALF statements, any direct action that furthers the cause of animal liberation, and where all reasonable precautions are taken not to endanger life, may be claimed as an ALF action.
Beagles removed by British ALF activists from a testing laboratory owned by the Boots Group. The ALF action ended with Boots deciding to sell the lab. Linda McCartney, first wife of Beatle Paul McCartney, bought the remaining beagles from the company and found homes for them.
ALF activists use a model of leaderless resistance. Covert cells, currently active in 20 countries, operate clandestinely and independently of one other, with activists working on a need-to-know basis. A cell can consist of just one person. Robin Webb, who runs the Animal Liberation Press Office in the UK, has said of this model of activism: "That is why the ALF cannot be smashed, it cannot be effectively infiltrated, it cannot be stopped. You, each and every one of you: you are the ALF."
Actions are claimed anonymously by contacting one of the animal liberation press offices, Bite Back, the direct-action magazine, or simply leaving a communication at the location of the action. The press offices are run by Webb in the UK and by surgeon Jerry Vlasak in North America. Although the ALF has no formal existence, the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group (ALFSG) exists to support activists who are jailed for actions performed on behalf of the ALF, and some leading ALF activists run an Animal Liberation Front website.
The ALF was named as a "terrorist threat" by the United States' Department of Homeland Security in January 2005.
The ALF's roots can be traced to 19th century England, and a small group of activists called the Bands of Mercy, which was set up in 1824 to thwart fox hunters. In 1965, the group was re-created, this time called the Hunt Saboteurs Association; it laid false scents, blew hunting horns to send the hounds in the wrong direction, set off smoke bombs, and members lay down between the hunters and the fox. In 1972, activists Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman revived the 19th century name and set up the Band of Mercy, a more militant group, which attacked hunters' vehicles by slashing tires and breaking windows. They progressed to attacking pharmaceutical laboratories and seal-hunting boats. On November 10, 1973, they set fire to a building in Milton Keynes, as part of a strategy to make insurance prohibitive for what they saw as exploitative industries, and thus began a campaign of arson that continues to this day.
Surgeon Jerry Vlasak runs the Animal Liberation Press Office in the U.S.
Britches was a five-week-old macaque who was left alone with his eyes sewn shut by researchers for the University of California, Riverside. The ALF removed him in April 1985 and released a videotape of their raid.
In August 1974, Lee and Goodman were arrested for allegedly taking part in a raid on Oxford Laboratory Animal Colonies in Bicester, which earned them the name the "Bicester Two." They were sentenced to three years in prison, but released after serving one.
After his release, Goodman allegedly became the first-ever police informer on the animal liberation movement, whereas Lee emerged from prison more militant than before. He organized 30 activists to set up a new liberation campaign, and in 1976, in order to show that the new campaign was prepared to intimidate but was also compassionate, he named it the Animal Liberation Front.
There are conflicting accounts of when the ALF first emerged in the United States. Freeman Wicklund and Kim Stallwood say the first ALF action there was in 1977, when activists released two dolphins from a research facility in Hawaii. Others say the first action was a raid on the New York University Medical Center on March 14, 1979, when activists removed one cat, two dogs, and two guinea pigs. Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says that the first ALF cell in the U.S. was set up in late 1982, with the first raid taking place on December 24 that year on Howard University, when 24 cats were removed, some of whose back legs had been crippled in an experiment.
The ALF also claimed responsibility for the 1983 raid on the University of Pennsylvania's Head Injury Clinic. The ALF caused significant damage and stole 60 hours of research tapes that documented what had been done to the animals. Subsequently, the material was turned over to PETA who edited the content and added voiceover commentary to produce a video called Unnecessary Fuss which was released to schools, politicians and the news media. On the basis of the edited tape, PETA petitioned the Office for Protection from Research Risks (OPRR) to have the lab closed. The OPRR initially refused to act on the basis of edited material and after more than a year of refusing to turn over the tapes, PETA eventually did so. In spite of the fact that the edited version of the material was found to have "grossly overstated the deficiencies in the Head Injury Clinic", OPRR did find serious violations of accepted procedure. As a result, the university was put on probation, the Head Injury Clinic was closed, the chief veterninarian was fired, the administration of the program was reorganized and new training programs for staff were instituted.
On April 20, 1985, the ALF raided the University of California, Riverside laboratory to remove Britches, a five-week old macaque monkey who had been separated from his mother and left alone in a wire cage with his eyes sewn shut as part of a maternal- and sensory-deprivation experiment. As a result of the ensuing publicity, 8 of the 17 research projects active at the laboratory at the time of the raid were shut down.
Structure and aims
The ALF is entirely decentralized: an example of 'leaderless resistance', with no formal membership or hierarchy, which acts as a firebreak when it comes to determining legal responsibility. There are active ALF cells in 20 countries: most European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and South Africa.
According to Robin Webb, who runs the Animal Liberation Press Office in the UK, the ALF's stated aims are:
(1) "To liberate animals from suffering or potential suffering and place them in good permanent homes or, where appropriate, release them into their natural environment."
(2) "To damage or destroy property and equipment associated with animal abuse, by taking that property out of the arena of animal abuse so it can no longer cause harm, and inflicting economic loss on the abusers with the intention of driving them out of business."
(3) "To take all reasonable precautions not to endanger life of any kind."
In an undated interview with No Compromise, the animal-liberation magazine, Webb said that any vegetarian or vegan who carries out an action that falls within the ALF's policies may claim that action on behalf of the ALF.
Activists who have engaged in direct action that could endanger life have acted using the names Animal Rights Militia, or the Justice Department, which has sent out letter bombs and envelopes containing blades dipped in rat poison.
Regarding the difference between the ALF, ARM, and the Justice Department, Webb has said: "[If] someone wishes to act as the Animal Rights Militia or the Justice Department...the third policy of the ALF [to take all reasonable precautions not to endanger life] no longer applies." He has said elsewhere that: "The only difference between ALF and the more radical ones is that ALF basically takes every precaution not to endanger life at any time. The Animal Rights Militia are prepared to twist the arm of animal abusers".
In response to a request for an injunction by Oxford University, a British court ruled in October 2006 that Webb was a "central and pivotal figure" in the ALF, and that the Animal Liberation Press Office was "not a neutral reporting exercise or even simply a vehicle for apologists for the ALF, but a vital part of the ALF's strategy." The court ruled that Webb is bound by an injunction banning protests at the building site of the university's new biomedical research center. Webb had argued that, as a journalist, the injunction would impinge upon his freedom of speech; the court ruled that Webb is not a journalist, but a propagandist.
Early ALF covert operations tended to centre on the removal of animals from vivisection laboratories. However, in recent years, these have extended to vandalism, arson, and making threats against individuals who directly or indirectly work for organizations the ALF has targeted.
There were 1,200 fire bombings, acts of vandalism, and physical attacks in the UK in 1999 connected to animal-rights activism, according to the BBC.
In 1998, the ALF claimed responsibility for releasing into the wild up to 6,000 mink from a mink farm in Ringwood, UK. About 2,000 of the minks were immediately recaptured, another 2,000 were killed and the rest remained unaccounted-for at the time the incident was reported. Anti-fur activists denounced the action as "a disaster for the [anti-fur] campaign, and it's a disaster for the mink". The action was described by a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds spokesman as an "act of monumental stupidity," amid fears that the non-native carnivorous minks would cause ecological damage. The ALF said it would continue its campaign until the British government introduced new animal-welfare legislation for animals used by the fur industry.
In 1999, British documentary-filmmaker Graham Hall told police and the Mail on Sunday that he was kidnapped and branded with the letters "ALF" across his back after meeting a man claiming to have information on a dog-fighting ring and filming ALF activists "boasting about bomb making and choosing sites for violent attacks." His film was shown on Channel 4 in the UK during the 1998 hunger strike of Barry Horne. Hall said he was taken by several masked men, one of whose voices he said he recognized from a previous gathering of activists, to an unknown house, then was tied to a chair for several hours and branded. No charges were laid as a result of his complaint. In response to the attack, Robin Webb stated "The ALF's policy has always been that there should be no harming life in its work, and we abide by that. There are probably many people with grudges against Mr Hall because of his films over the years, but this attack has nothing to do with us."
The aftermath of an ALF attack on a pork producer in Oxfordshire
In June 2005, a Vancouver-based brokerage announced that it had dropped a client, Phytopharm PLC, in response to the May 26, 2005 ALF firebombing of a car belonging to Canaccord executive Michael Kendall in London, England The ALF stated on its website that activists had placed an "incendiary device" under the car, which was in Kendall's garage at home when it caught fire. Phytopharm was targeted, as were those doing business with it, because it, in turn, had business links with Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), the largest animal-testing company in Europe, which has laboratories in the UK and New Jersey. Since 1999, HLS has been the subject of an international animal-rights campaign, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), which ALF activists have been heavily involved in.
The ALF and SHAC have declared they will target anyone doing business with HLS. The ALF warned Phytopharm to stay away from Huntingdon or "see your share price crash and your supporters property go up in flames," and issued the following statement:
A new era has dawned for those who fund the abusers and raise funds for them to murder animals with. You too are on the hit list: you have been warned. If you support or raise funds for any company connected with Huntingdon Life Sciences we will track you down, come for you and destroy your property with fire.
In December 2006 Donald Currie was given an indeterminite prison sentence, with a recommendation of at least 6 years after conducting a fire bomb campaign targeting suppliers and customers of Huntingdon Life Sciences, it is believed he was the most important bomb-maker within the Animal Liberation Front.
Attitude toward violence
The ALF defines itself as non-violent, defining "violence" as acts of physical aggression directed at human and non-human animals. No direct action that has involved violence may be claimed on behalf of the ALF, although ALF spokespersons won't condemn the use of violence by people who have previously acted in the name of the ALF. This directive apparently conflicts with the use of threatening firebombs left at the residences of people ALF thinks are involved in animal testing. In claiming responsibility for the bombing by the ALF, press office spokesman Jerry Vlasak said "force is a poor second choice, but if that's the only thing that will work ... there's certainly moral justification for that.".When David Blenkinsop and two others assaulted HLS director Brian Cass outside his home with pick-axe handles, ALF founder Ronnie Lee said: "He has got off lightly. I have no sympathy for him," and Robin Webb said: "The Animal Liberation Front has always had a policy of not harming life, but while it would not condone what took place, it understands the anger and frustration that leads people to take this kind of action."
Ronnie Lee has stated that he regretted the decision to make the ALF non-violent, and that he now believes that "there would have been a place for limited violence against animal abusers".
Webb has written that during the 1970s and early 1980s, the media portrayed animal-rights activists in a positive light, as animal lovers who were merely eccentric and who were taking things a little too far: the "Robin Hoods of the animal welfare world" . But by the mid-80s, activists realized that economic sabotage was more effective than demonstrations and handing out leaflets. Activists moved on to smashing butchers' shop windows and setting fire to department stores that sold fur coats. In 1985, the Animal Rights Militia first emerged, taking responsibility for sending letter bombs to those involved in animal testing, and setting fire to stores on the Isle of Wight in 1994, causing �3 million worth of damages. Barry Horne, who was a close friend of Webb's, was subsequently jailed for 18 years for the attacks, later dying in jail during a hunger strike, and Webb himself was almost charged with conspiracy in connection with them.
In response to the emergence of a more violent strain of protester in the UK, the British police set up the Animal Rights National Index (ARNI) in or around 1985, which was intended to act as a liaison between the police and MI5, the internal security service, which had started to monitor activists. Violence against property began to increase substantially after several high-profile campaigns managed to close down a number of facilities perceived to be abusive to animals: Consort, a facility breeding beagles for animal-testing, followed by Hillgrove Farm, which bred cats, and Newchurch Farm, which bred guinea pigs. The financial year 1991-1992 saw around 100 refrigerated meat trucks destroyed at a cost of around �6 million. Butchers' locks were superglued, shrink-wrapped meats were pierced in supermarkets, and slaughterhouses were set on fire.
The latest international campaign, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which ALF activists are involved in, aims to close Huntingdon Life Sciences, Europe's largest animal-testing laboratory. ALF activist Donald Currie was jailed for 12 years and placed on probation for life in December 2006 after being found guilty of planting homemade bombs on the doorsteps of a GlaxoSmithKline executive and the director of PDP Couriers, both of which have links to Huntingdon Life Sciences. In response to the SHAC campaign, which operates as a leaderless resistance using direct-action tactics, the British government set up the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit in May 2004 to share information about ways of tackling illegal animal-rights activism.
In Terrorists or Freedom Fighters, a collection of essays by animal-rights activists edited by philosopher Steven Best, an ALF press officer, Webb quotes Gandhi, saying: "Where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence." Webb argues that: "[W]hile politicians talked and negotiated, Nazi Germany invaded neighboring countries and began building the concentration camps. It took the overwhelming violence of World War II ... to rid the world of that evil. Such an example suggests that short-term violence may be justifiable in pursuit of a longer-term peace," .
In early 2006, the ALF issued a statement in which they confirmed that anyone in any way related to Oxford University, including students, faculty, staff, and investors, in retaliation for the university's plans to build a laboratory were a target.. The ALF statement read, in full:
This is just the beginning of our campaign of devastation against ANYONE linked in ANY way to Oxford University. Every individual and business that works for the University as a whole is now a major target of the ALF. The University have made a crass decision to take us on and we will never let them win! This ALF team is calling out to the movement to unite and fight against the University on a maximum impact scale, we must stand up, DO WHATEVER IT TAKES and blow these fucking monsters off the face of the planet. We must target professors, teachers, heads, students, investors, partners, supporters and ANYONE that dares to deal in any part of the University in any way.
These statements were confirmed by Robin Webb who stated "The ALF has always said the anything associated with the university or the building contractors would be a legitimate target. I don�t believe individual students have any reason for concern, as they won�t have any great influence in the decision making process. However it may be that high-level student groups working against the protesters may be targeted."
Activity in North America
Rod Coronado, a prominent ALF activist in the United States, has been convicted of crimes related to damaging research facilities and releasing animals.
Attacks claimed by the ALF in the U.S. have been carried out at:
The Cavel West horse rendering plant
Carolina Biological Supply Company
On January 20, 2006, as part of Operation Backfire, the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against nine American and two Canadian activists calling themselves the "Family," who are alleged to have engaged in direct action in the name of the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front. The defendants are alleged to have committed what the Justice Department called acts of "domestic terrorism," including arson attacks against meat-processing plants, lumber companies, a high-tension power line, and a ski center, in Oregon, Wyoming, Washington, California, and Colorado between 1996 and 2001. Activists and some media sources criticised the 2005/06 investigations, calling them a "witch hunt" and "the Green Scare" - an allusion to the anti-Communist Red Scares of the 20th century.
In June 2006 the ALF took credit for targeting UCLA researcher Lynn Fairbanks with a firebomb. The Animal Liberation Press Office issued a statement in which they claimed that Fairbanks conducts "painful addiction experiments" on monkeys, although Fairbanks said she studies primate behavior and does not do invasive research. The bomb was placed on the doorstep of a house occupied by Fairbanks' 70 year-old neighbor and a tenant. According to the FBI, the device was lit but failed to ignite and was powerful enough to have killed the occupants. A spokesman described the incident as "consistent with a pattern of escalation by both animal rights and environmental extremist groups". The incident is credited by the acting chancellor of UCLA as helping to shape the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a bill before the US Congress to help law-enforcement deal with violent extremists .
As a result of the actions against Fairbanks, and after his personal information had been posted on the Primate Freedom Project at UCLA website and receiving threatening phone calls, Dario Ringach, an associate neurobiology professor at UCLA, issued a statement in August 2006, that he would discontinue his animal research into visual processing. University spokeswoman Judy Lin was quoted in the press as saying "this is a problem that's much larger than UCLA. These groups have been harassing researchers all over the world," she continued "It has reached terrorist level. The university is very disturbed by this." ,
Behind the Mask documentary
In 2006, after three years of filming, animal-rights lawyer Shannon Keith released a documentary about the ALF entitled "Behind the Mask: The Story Of The People Who Risk Everything To Save Animals". The documentary was produced in response to what the ALF sees as a growing bias within the mainstream media against the animal rights movement, both above and underground.
Listing as a terrorist threat
The ALF was named as a terrorist threat by the United States Department of Homeland Security in January 2005. In hearings held on May 18, 2005 before a Senate panel, officials of the FBI and ATF stated that "violent animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists now pose one of the most serious terrorism threats to the nation," adding that "of particular concern are the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF)."
The Southern Poverty Law Center has criticized the DHS for concentrating on the Animal and Earth Liberation Fronts rather than on white supremacists, writing that "for all the property damage they have wreaked, eco-radicals have killed no one � something that cannot be said of the white supremacists and others who people the American radical right." Senator James Jeffords said that the "ELF and ALF may threaten dozens of people each year, but an incident at a chemical, nuclear or wastewater facility would threaten tens of thousands."
The Daily Telegraph has called the ALF "the most active terrorist organisation in Britain," a view echoed by Paul Wilkinson of St Andrews University who, in 1998, stated that the ALF and its splinter groups were the "most serious domestic terrorist threat within the United Kingdom," and are "very close" to killing someone. He added: "Keith Mann who was sentenced to 11 years for his extremist violence said in a message to ALF activists that sooner or later someone would die. He didn�t express any remorse about this or any regret. Now that does show to me a level of fanaticism which is very dangerous indeed."
"Staying on Target and Going the Distance: An Interview with U.K. A.L.F. Press Officer Robin Webb", No Compromise, Issue 22, undated
Rood, Justin. "Animal Rights Groups and Ecology Militants Make DHS Terrorist List, Right-Wing Vigilantes Omitted", Congressional Quarterly, March 25, 2005.
Tolson, Giselle. "The ALF: America�s Favorite 'Terrorists'", The Bard Observer, Issue 15, 2006, retrieved August 17, 2006.
Best 2004, p. 20
Newkirk 2000, and Best 2004:21
Reflections on the Organizational Locus of the Office for Protection from Research Risks Online Ethics Centre for Engineering and Science, Charles R. McCarthy, 28 October 2004. Retrieved 02 October 2006
Best 2004, pp22
Staying on Target and Going the Distance: An Interview with U.K. A.L.F. Press Officer Robin Webb No Compromise, Issue 22. Retrieved 2 October 2006
"Oxford wins protest injunction case", Press Association, October 13, 2006.
Animal rights group claims responsibility for mink release BBC News, August 9, 1998. Retrieved 2 October 2006
Biotech firm's broker resigns after animal rights attack CBC News, June 23, 2005. Retrieved February 25, 2007
Animal activists free 15,000 farmed fish to their deaths Times Online, Vallerie Elliot, September 20, 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2006
Behind the Mask: Uncovering the Animal Liberation Front Steven Best Phd. and Anthony J. Nocella II. Retrieved 2 October 2006
Victim got what he deserved, says animal group's founder The Telegraph, Richard Alleyne, 24 February 2001. Retrieved 2 October 2006
Webb, in Best 2004
Addley, Esther. "Animal Liberation Front bomber jailed for 12 years", The Guardian, December 8, 2006.
Goodman, Jessica. "Students will be the next target", Oxford Student, February 2, 2006. Retrieved on December 20, 2006.
Eleven Defendants Indicted on Domestic Terrorism Charges US Department of Justice, January 20, 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2006
Trounson, Rebecca & Mozingo, Joe. "UCLA to Protect Animal Research", LA Times, August 26, 2006.
"You Win"- UCLA Vivisector Dario Ringach Quits Animal Experimentation ALF Press Statement
Researcher vows to stop using animals Daily Bruin, August 14, 2006
1998 Dispatches Programmme with David Monagh, Produced by Channel 4 - 'Inside the ALF'
Animal Liberation Front website - Global website
Bite Back a magazine and diary of Animal Liberation Front actions
No Compromise "The militant, direct action publication of grassroots animal liberationists and their supporters"
Animal Liberation Front (ALF) Frequently Asked Questions by the North American ALF Supporters Group.
FBI testimony on About ALF, James F. Jarboe before the House Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, February 12, 2002.
Ingrid Newkirk, Free the Animals: The Story of the Animal Liberation Front, Lantern Books, 2000, ISBN 1-930051-22-0
"Interviews with AR activists and supporters of AR activists", Animal Liberation Front, retrieved October 27, 2005
Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Liberation_Front