> AR Interviews
Mon, 23 Oct 2000
Please let me introduce myself and three other ALF members. I'm Virginia, white female, age 40. Ann is a white female, age 25. Rick is a black male, age 30. James is white male, age 22. We have never met. We have communicated over the internet for 5 years when we were interviewed by Craig Burton for his novel about ALF, entitled "A Hatful of Pain." Our names are fictitious because ALF is considered a terrorist group in the USA.
In a private chatroom the four of us answered your questions. From the chatroom log I corrected grammatical errors (mostly incomplete sentences), took out some curse words (if I didn't know what they meant), and removed a lot of rambling repetition (mostly mine). I added a few details (such as dates) that were not part of my online dialog. Please feel free to use any of this. Paraphrase or modify it as you wish.
Could you tell how you came [to be] involved in the Animal Liberation Front?
Ann: "When I was fifteen my dog got out of the back yard. I searched for him for weeks. After a month, a volunteer at an animal shelter told me that they had gotten my dog but had kept him only three days. She wouldn't tell me who took him until I started crying. My dog had been turned over to a laboratory for animal experimentation. I cried for days, certain it had been a mistake. Years later I found out that pound-seizure laws in the USA force animal shelters to turn over lost cats and dogs to experimentation -- more than 200,000 a year. I joined ALF."
Rick: "As a boy, I'd always wondered what rationale people like Klansmen applied to draw a line around one group of beings and claim they had more innate worth than others. While listening to a sermon in church, I suddenly realized that I, too, drew a line around a group of beings -- human beings. ALF made sense to me."
James: "I'm afraid there was no epiphany for me. My girlfriend was involved, so I got involved. We split up two years ago, and I'm more active than ever."
Virginia: "My husband was a slaughterhouse worker for two years until he hurt his back. Incidentally, 'slaughterhouse worker' is the occupation with the highest employee rate of injury in the USA. But the greatest injury was to his mental health. He couldn't believe the cruelty of a Kosher slaughter, where an animal is hoisted and bled to death without prior stunning. Often joints were ruptured during the hoisting, and the death was a slow, conscious one. The idea of a painless kill is a fantasy invented by those with a vested interest in the continuance of the practices."
Is there a strong bond between the different "animal rights" groups in the USA and also between the different branches of the ALF worldwide? Collaboration should be very important I would think.
Rick: "Some of what ALF does is illegal, so there is no official ALF membership. Many people post ALF activity on the Internet. There are a half dozen ALF Supporter Groups around the world. The most active is probably in Canada."
Ann: "We know ALF members only after they are caught. I'd suggest to anyone that illegal activities should never be discussed with anyone unless you have 100% faith in them. For me, this means acting on my own, or in groups of two or three."
James: "I work alone."
Virginia: "Many groups like PETA have membership around the world and spokespeople (like the McCartneys) who are
Part of the Animal Liberation job is also confronting the 'normal' people with the extreme conditions that animals in the 'bio-industry' have to deal with. Would you prefer a rather confronting and shocking way of doing this or would you find it more efficient to take it to a more 'political campaign' kind of level?
James: "I have tried writing to politicians and handing out fliers. Nothing worked to my satisfaction. When I picketed in front of a fur store and annoyed a lot of folks, it made the local newspaper. Subsequent 'Letters to the editor' called me names. One lady called me an animal. I got a laugh out of that. But it brought the issue to the front burner. And that's hard to do, these days."
Ann: "I think the greatest gain comes from educating people. This is where I concentrate my daily efforts. I believe that most people, knowing the truth, would change their habits. Most people aren't evil, just uninformed or confused by multiple messages. Confronting people doesn't work for me."
Virginia: "While the ALF may seem to be an "extreme" group, advocating the end to vivisection and all animal testing, the critical masses still eat meat without knowing that a few more pennies per pound could allow the animal to live and die more happily instead of being processed in the cheapest way possible, they wear fur without knowing how the animals are killed (again, the reason is money), or that we taxpayers are subsidizing billions of dollars (according to the National Institute of Health) of animal testing on cosmetics."
Rick: "Groups like PETA are the political arm of the animal rights movement. I applaud their efforts, but ALF's actions are saving lives before the politics can take effect. Now. Our actions are no different from those of abolitionists before the Civil War, when slavery laws and even the Supreme Court said owning humans was legal. In the end, who turned out to be morally right?"
In the hard-core punk scene there are many bands which deal with topics like animal rights, veganism, vegetarianism, etc. Where I live there have been several ALF-benefit shows. Are there any particular bands that the ALF supports? If not, don't you think it would be an interesting cooperation?
James: "I like the B-52s; Psychedelic Furs; Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders; and of course, Wings."
Rick: "I like are Earth Crisis, Conflict, and Exitstance."
Ann: "My favorite songs are 'Don't Kill the Animals", by Nina Hagen and Lena Lovich, 'Rage' by Erasure, Shriekback's 'Hanging Fire', 'Monkey in the Bin,' by Attrition, and 'Silent Cry' by Chris and Cosy."
Virginia: "I am excited about a band tour starting soon. Here is an e-mail I received from Linda Genteel (the Piano Princess) last week:"
'I am fortunate to have found two other vegan musicians and strong animal welfare supporters who will be performing this benefit concert with me as part of our new trio called Trio Angelica.
'Our trio is composed of Liona Boyd, also known as The First Lady of Guitar is one of the world's most famous and brilliant classical guitarists. She has performed in over 30 countries, and has recorded over 20 albums, many of which have gone gold. Bettine Clemen, Bavarian born and classically trained in Munich, Germany tours with a minimum of seven flutes all over the world. Her concerts are noted for the variety of music that she performs ranging from popular, and jazz, to her own outstanding compositions and the classics. And of course the third member will be me playing the piano.
'The first animal welfare fundraiser event will be a benefit for NEW JERSEY ANIMAL RIGHTS ASSOC., (NJARA) on Saturday December 16, at 7:30 PM at Stockton College.
April: Toronto, Canada; July: Atlanta: GA; August: Chicago, ILL; September: Los Angeles, & San Francisco, CA; October: Boston, MA & New York, NY; November: Dallas, TX; December: Las Vegas, NV, & Palm Beach , Florida
Many vegetarian people would like to live vegan, but find it to expensive to make such a offer.
Over here it is ridiculously expensive to live completely vegan and healthy at the same time. As a matter of fact in the present world it's practically impossible to be vegan. So many products contain animal-ingredients, many products you wouldn't even think of that they are "unvegan". What do you think of this and how would you motivate people to become vegan anyway?
Ann: "Veganism is a wonderful ideal, like having no poor people. But the 'law of diminishing returns' applies to both the efforts of living that life style, and to the efforts of getting people to change. I want to apply my efforts to where I have the greatest impact. I don't try to get vegetarians to become vegan. The reality is that most people eat a ton of meat. If someone is vegetarian, doesn't wear fur, and minimizes their purchases of animal products, that person is minimizing the unnecessary pain in the world by a lot, maybe 98%. Unless you are going for sainthood, that is enough. And it doesn't take a huge effort."
Rick: "Ann is correct. I am vegan, but telling that to people sounds pompous. It makes them think that I look down on folks who are not vegan. It sets the goal too far away, and if it is far away, people don't take the first step."
James: "I'm vegan and I try to show folks by example. If more folks were vegan, more products would be available for us. I don't sweat about being 100% vegan, and I might step on an bug now and then. The point is that I make an effort not to buy animal products and not to step on bugs."
Virginia: "I don't agree that using animal products is wrong. I want to prevent all needless suffering. It would be okay with me if the animal does not suffer in any way before its death. If an animal is born so that someone can eat it or wear it, then the animal enjoyed some life it would not have otherwise enjoyed. But unless that person raises their own animals, that is very far from the reality."
Who/what do you see as your biggest enemies in the fight for animal rights? Why?
Ann: "Our focus is on countering the propaganda of the meat industry."
Rick: "Ignorance. People don't know what goes on in laboratory testing, or how ridiculous the tests are. Scientific methods are rarely followed. If people knew, they would rebel."
Virginia: "Yes. Ignorance. If someone could spend time with a pig, and then look it in the eyes and kill it, I would be surprised. Yet, they let someone else do it."
James: "The food industry."
Did you take part in any liberation actions (like freeing animals from farms or laboratories)? How do you setup these actions, they would need good preparation I think?
James: "Stakeout is the best form of preparation. Most corporation-made, television-watching zombies fall into predictable patterns. Actions based on the repeatability of these people is pretty safe."
Ann: "The risks of every action are different. The greatest variable is the source of the information. Most actions begin with information from the inside of an establishment where animals are treated cruelly without good reason. Many times it is just simple neglect of animals that have been used in tests and are no longer valuable to the establishment. In these instances the risk is low. Usually, after the animals removed they are not reported stolen because nobody cared to begin with. Sometimes it is the person on the inside who does the illegal part. Some actions are scrubbed because we don't trust the source. Usually it is a gut feeling."
Rick: "Ann summarized most of the activity. Nothing illegal was done except taking animals that did not belong to us. We knew exactly what the animals had been used for. I've never had to break in or out of anything, nor have I done any property damage. None of it was medical research. However, we applaud the extreme, flagrant ALF actions that make the news, even if they make the news because someone goes over the line. It brings awareness. Nowadays, unfortunately, it's not news unless there is video. It makes dissemination of information difficult."
Virginia: "I'd like to add that on several occasions the labs reported damage and loss of research data that simply was false. And our most 'exciting' missions have been missions where we screwed something up. Usually something too dumb to want to tell you about."
Is there anything that we've missed and you would've like to talk about? Any last words for the kids out there?
James: "Anything you can do to help those who can't help themselves, animals or humans, will make you feel good about yourself. Just one caution -- feeling good can be addictive."
Ann: "The most common rationale used for not participating in the animal rights movement is that folks feel hypocritical if they eat a hamburger or wear a leather belt. Those same people may pass a homeless person and feel no guilt. In both cases, a person needs to be conscious of others, and do what they can. After that, take any stance you like."
Rick: "ALF members are folks who simply believe that animals have more value than that which is accorded to them by the current laws."
Virginia: "After that, your views may vary."
James: "Never lecture. Remember that if you want someone to join your side, you absolutely must show them you are happier than they are."