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The ALF: America's Favorite "Terrorists"
BY GISELLE TOLSON

Apparently, the FBI's top concern among domestic terrorism are the "eco-terrorists," a term vaguely indicating members of the ELF (Earth Liberation Front) and ALF (Animal Liberation Front). But despite this incredible status given by the FBI, not many people seem to be aware of what the ALF is.

According to Bite Back (a publication of ALF support and ALF actions), the ALF "carries out illegal actions against industries [that] profit from animal exploitation. These actions most often take the form of liberating live animals (from fur farms, slaughterhouses, etc.) or economic sabotage in the form of property destruction. " The ALF is not about revenge against humans, hurting humans, or anything of the like; essentially, they fight institutionalized animal exploitation by either freeing the animals or by hurting businesses where it hurts most ' their money.

In the technical sense, the ALF is not even an organization. There isn't a headquarters or president you can contact. The ALF is comprised of individual, autonomous groups of people who commit illegal actions under the ALF's name. People in one cell aren't aware of the people in the other cells; such knowledge would make the ALF easy to tear apart by authorities. ALF members remain absolutely anonymous for the same reason. These people aren't necessarily the animal rights activists you may see protesting on the street (being a day-to-day activist is a bit too transparent). Neighbors, families and significant others of ALF members don't know about the underground actions. Anyone you know could be a member of the ALF.

There are guidelines to follow in order to consider oneself a member: To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the exploitation of animals, to reveal these atrocities by non-violent actions and liberations, to place liberated animals in homes where they can live out their natural lives, to take all necessary precautions against harming any human or nonhuman animal, and to analyze all the ramifications of a proposed action.

Apparently, no humans or nonhuman animals have been harmed by the ALF since its beginning in 1976 in England. The ALF has spread to many countries, including Italy, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, and of course, the USA. The UK, USA, and Sweden were the countries with the most actions from 2005.

The ALF has been labeled as a terrorist organization, primarily to discredit their actions. However, ALF supporters assert that it isn't terrorism to put your own freedom on the line to help animals who cannot fight back, even if there is law-breaking involved. And, though protests and education are effective, as Bite Back says, "history has shown that every tool in the box is often necessary to achieve prompt and lasting change." However, most animal rights activists are above-ground, letter-writing, protesting, law abiding individuals.

Since the beginning of this year, the ALF has already committed 53 actions on behalf of animals worldwide, eight of which were actual animal liberations, others being vandalism, arson, or other forms of sabotage. Bite Back lists all the actions they initiate and condone on their website.

All ALF actions are complicated, especially animal liberations and arson. For arson, one has to ensure that whatever it is that's going to be on fire (a filing cabinet, a room, a building) will not cause harm to anyone. This can mean figuring out when a building will be absolutely empty; no security guards, no nesting mice or birds, no anyone. One must also ensure that somehow the fire doesn't get out of control. Animal liberations involve a huge amount of coordination; people must be waiting nearby with a vehicle to transport the animal, as well as people to do the actual, physical breaking and entering, who know the location of security or cameras and how to disable them. Sedatives must also be obtained for certain animals. It must be assessed whether an animal can live a normal life with veterinary care, (in the case of a laboratory) as well as which "subjects" are from the control group of the experiment and the experimental group (you can't rescue animals that are infected with a contagious disease). For wild animals to be released, one has to consider how and where to release them, in order to have a minimal effect on the surrounding ecosystems. However, due to the complexities of these operations, most actions are limited to simpler forms of vandalism such as lock-gluing. All of these actions have contributed to the closing down of businesses.

The difficulty inherent in being associated with the ALF is not limited to active operations. Considering that there has been and will continue to be monitoring of even above-ground activists, merely researching online information about the ALF is enough to land a person in trouble. It's sad, but the FBI has plenty of pages even on the ACLU. If you are an animal activist and have written one too many letters, you could be in the FBI's files. To be even able to discuss actions, people in the ALF have to retreat to remote areas to reduce the risk of being monitored (homes, people, cars, buildings' anything can be bugged). It sounds paranoid, but people (guilty or not) have gone to jail for ALF actions.

Are the members of the ALF terrorists? Do illegal actions alone constitute terrorism? I think it's obvious that simply committing an illegal action to further a political cause is not terrorism. Terrorism involves intimidation and violence; the ALF is non-violent in respect to life forms but violent in respect to objects. However, caring enough to risk your freedom is intimidating. But how can that alone constitute terrorism? Additionally, as I think it appears to many, searching for "terrorists," domestic or otherwise, has become a witch-hunt in order to take attention away from worthwhile issues; in the case of the ALF, why are animals given so little protection in laboratories and factory farms? Why are these apparently pointless and wasteful animal tests even being conducted? Why does the government go to such great lengths to protect businesses from public opinion? Why are there laws protecting the abuse of animals? These are the important questions.

I personally support the ALF; the fact that they break laws isn't an issue with me. There can be a law against reading books, but it doesn't make reading books immoral. I agree with liberating animals from abuse. I agree with destroying the equipment used to abuse animals. What about vandalism and lock-gluing? I'm not sure about those; but experience has proven they also work for affecting change. Do the ends justify the means? Here, the ends involve saving animals' lives and the means involve property destruction. I can't help but hold the former higher than the latter.

But it's up to you to decide whether you support direct action, illegal action, for helping others.

If you want more information about the animal exploitation problem, you can go to peta.org, and if you'd like to read a guide called the "ALF Primer" (for entertainment, information, and general interest only), you can go to animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/ALFPrime.htm. To look at the Diary of Actions and other info on the Bite Back website, go to directaction.info

 

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