About ALF > History

History of the Animal Liberation Front


The Animal Liberation Movement (ALM) consists of small autonomous groups of people all over the world who carry out direct action according to certain guidelines (click here). The ALM evolved from the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which in turn grew out of the hunt saboteur movement in England in the 1970s.

Philosophy of the Animal Liberation Movement

The Animal Liberation Movement is a loosely-associated collection of cells of people who intentionally violate the law in order to free animals from captivity and the horrors of exploitation. As activists in one cell do not know activists in another cell, their non-hierarchical structure and anonymity prevents legal authorities from breaking up the organization. Animal Liberation activists break into any building or compound - be it a fur farm or university laboratory - in order to release and/or rescue animals. They also destroy property in order to prevent further harm done to animals and to weaken exploitation industries economically. Their actions have damaged many operations, shut down others, and prevented still others from ever forming for fear of attack. They may also utilize intimidation to prevent further animal abuse and murder.

The men and women of the Animal Liberation Movement pattern themselves after the freedom fighters in Nazi Germany who liberated war prisoners and Holocaust victims and destroyed equipment-such as weapons, railways, and gas ovens that the Nazis used to torture and kill their victims. Other comparisons would include the Apartheid movement, led by Nelson Mandela, who used and supported violence in the fight for liberation in South Africa, and the current struggle by Palestinians against their Israeli oppressors.

Similarly, by providing veterinary care and homes for many of the animals they liberate, a comparison can be made to the US Underground Railroad movement, which helped fugitive human slaves reach free states and Canada in the 1800s. Whereas corporate society, the state, and mass media brand the liberationists as terrorists, the ALM has important similarities with some of the great freedom fighters of the past two centuries, and is akin to contemporary peace and justice movements in its quest to end bloodshed and violence toward life and to win justice for other species.

On the grounds that animals have basic rights, animal liberationists repudiate the argument that scientists or industries can own any animal as their property. Simply stated, animals have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, all of which contradict the property status that is often literally burnt into their flesh. Even if animal "research" assists human beings in some way, and there are significant doubts that it does, that is no more guarantee of legitimacy than if the data came from experimenting on non-consenting human beings, for the rights of an animal trump utilitarian appeals to human benefit.
The blanket privileging of human over animal interests is simply speciesism, a prejudicial and discriminatory belief system as ethically flawed and philosophically unfounded as sexism or racism, but far more murderous and consequential in its implications. Thus, the ALM holds that animals are freed, not stolen, from fur farms or laboratories, and that when one destroys the inanimate property of animal exploiters, one is merely leveling what was wrongfully used to violate the rights of living beings.
The ALM believes that there is a higher law than that created by and for the corporate-state complex, a moral law that transcends the corrupt and biased statues of the US political system. When the law is wrong, the right thing to do is to break it. This is often how moral progress is made in history, from defiance of American slavery and Hitler's anti-Semitism to sit-ins at "whites only" lunch counters in Alabama.
As the Animal Liberation Movement continues to operate and grow, it will inspire and incorporate numerous other direct action and animal liberation efforts. These range from groups such as the Justice Department and the Animal Rights Militia, who unlike the ALF defend and use violent tactics (such as personnel bombs delivered through the mail) to Compassion Over Killing and Mercy For Animals who break into factory farms to free animals in cages but eschew tactics of property destruction.
History of the Animal Liberation Movement

In 1970s England, animal activists turned from legal tactics of hunt disruption to illegal tactics of sabotage when they grew weary of being assaulted and jailed and sought more effective strategy. A hunt saboteur's group known as the Band of Mercy broadened the focus to target other animal exploitation industries such as vivisection and began to use arson as a potent tool of property destruction. Two of its leaders were arrested in 1974 and released a year later. One, Cliff Goodman, turned snitch and left the movement; the other, Ronnie Lee, deepened his convictions and in 1976 began a new militant group that he called the Animal Liberation Front which would forever change the face of direct action struggle.
Taking shape in the mid-1990s, the numerous anti-vivisection struggles provoking controversy in England can be seen as a second wave of direct action, following the first wave that began in the 1960s with the actions of hunt saboteur groups. The new struggles often overlap with the ALF, but they are also independent of it. Whereas the ALF is an underground movement pursuing illegal tactics such as property destruction, the second wave of direct action is an aboveground presence that disavows the use of sabotage or violence and uses strictly legal forms of pressure.

The second wave of direct action began with attacks on vivisection suppliers. In September 1996, activists began a campaign against Consort Kennels, a dog breeder for vivisection labs. After months of applying intense pressure, they closed the kennel in July 1997 and adopted 200 beagles to loving homes. In September 1997, fresh on the heels of this victory, activists began a campaign against Hillgrove Farm, a vivisection cat breeding operation. The same tactics proved effective and Hillgrove closed in August 1999. Over 800 cats were rescued and re-homed.
From these struggles, the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) emerged in the late 1990s and quickly became a major force in the UK and US. SHAC's sole focus is to bring down one of the world's worst animal testing laboratories, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). SHAC has pioneered hard-hitting direct action techniques that include jamming email, phone, and fax systems, demonstrations at the homes of targeted individuals, and relentless pressure on secondary companies that provide any services for HLS, be it insurance or laundry cleaning. While SHAC Inc. is an aboveground legal protest movement, the "SHAC movement" resorts to illegal tactics such as property destruction to exert added pressure on HLS and its clients.
Inspired by SHAC's success in weakening HLS and driving its stock prices down, numerous other direct action anti-vivisection groups have sprouted up in England. One such group, SPEAK, has been crucial in shutting down plans to build new animal research facilities at Cambridge University and Oxford University in 2004. Similarly, since 1999, the Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) movement has been waging a relentless battle to pressure the Chris and John Hall family to close their guinea pig breeding farm in the Staffordshire village of Newchurch.
The ALF had migrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s and is now an international movement in over twenty countries. Learning from other liberation movements from around the world, animal liberation activists have now begun to utilize a wider range of tactics shown to be effective, including the use of force to stop perpetrators of massive violence against non-human animals.
Thus, contemporary direct action movements for animal liberation are diverse, powerful, and effective, and they are growing in sophistication and strength. In Britain, animal liberation movements now threaten the viability of the multi-billion dollar vivisection and pharmaceutical industry and therefore pose a serious economic threat. In response to the growing strength of the animal liberation movement on an international level, legal authorities such as the British Home Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are taking increasingly strong and repressive measures against it.
Whatever actions animal exploitation industries and governments take against the animal liberation movement, they will no more stop it than US soldiers were able to quell North Vietnamese armies or the resistance movement spreading throughout Iraq, or the Israelis can stop the Palestinians in their efforts to achieve their goals.
Animal liberation will end when animal exploitation ends. Meanwhile, the animal liberation movement is the most active and dynamic justice movement of our time. It is vital, therefore, that we monitor and understand it.
Animal Liberation Guidelines
To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e., laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, etc., and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives, free from suffering.
To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.
To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors, by performing nonviolent direct actions and liberations.
To hold those who are responsible and complicitous in the abuse, torture and death accountable for the terrorism they commit against innocent, sentient non-human animals.
Any group of people who are vegetarians or vegans and who carry out actions according to these guidelines have the right to regard themselves as part of the Animal Liberation Movement.
These groups, called cells, range from one individual to many individuals working closely together. Activists in one cell do not know the underground activists in another because they choose to remain anonymous.
Since there is not a central organization or membership guide to underground Animal Liberation cells, people are driven only by their own personal conscience or cell decisions to carry out illegal actions. These cells are non-hierarchical in their structure, which allows for only those people involved directly in the action to control their own destiny.
Since there isn't a way to contact any of these individuals (their identity is not known to anyone in the above ground movement), the use of communiques is one way the underground communicates with the above ground movement. Communiques can be sent directly to anyone including the press, underground support groups, aboveground animal rights groups, etc.
Because the individuals who engage in underground actions cannot reveal their identities to anyone, a North American Animal Liberation Press Office has been created to try to answer some of the questions as to why these actions may have been carried out, and to place the actions in a historical and philosophical context. Since we do not engage in illegal activities ourselves, we do not know the details of these actions, but we can try to the best of our ability to give you a better understanding of why a particular action may have been carried out. 
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