A Critique of the Animal Liberation Press Office

Since its inception in November 2004, the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO, www.animalliberationpressoffice.org ) has enjoyed phenomenal success in getting the plight of long-suffering animals into the media and before the public. In the first two weeks of January 2006 alone, press officers were interviewed on five radio shows discussing what happens to animals in vivisection and on the ice flows in Eastern Canada, and were also interviewed on camera for CNN, Sky News and Fox News in which all three stations aired graphic footage of animals being used in vivisection and food production. However, a few individuals within the animal rights movement have felt compelled to critique the Press Office publicly, and so here we respond to their criticism.

We are animal rights activists because we are compassionate and kind- hearted. To be violent contradicts our fundamental nature. That is understandable and commendable. It is why, in a sense, acts of economic sabotage carried out by the Animal Liberation Front represent a welcome "middle ground"--a compromise, as it were--between the two extremes of passivity and violence. And to say that may even be disingenuous, because property damage is violent--but against inanimate objects. And even the latter can be further contested, because arson surely leaves dead mice, spiders, and possibly other beings in its wake. But economic sabotage is highly effective, because the only thing that matters to the abusers is money, and therefore the deaths of these innocent bystanders is tolerated as "collateral damage." The problem is a mathematical one: the ratio of abusers to activists is astronomical. The ALF simply can't strike often enough and fast enough to throw out an all-encompassing dragnet.

Even within the strict guidelines of the ALF, underground activists have now "progressed" far beyond the original strategies of liberations and minor sabotage such as spray-painting and lock-gluing. Not that those actions are to be disparaged--but some activists have upped the ante and breached that initial comfort zone to include arson as a legitimate tactic within the ALF framework. Rod Coronado was lambasted, at first, for introducing into the US--but it is now almost universally sanctioned among liberationists.

Many activists have begun, over the last several years, to talk openly about what has been discussed and debated privately for years--the topic of violence and its potential place and role in the animal liberation movement.

Some critical of the Press Office claim that Press Officers, as ALF "spokespersons," have a duty to refrain from endorsing the use of violence. It is important to remember not only that the Press Office speaks for ALL liberation groups at some time or another, but also that the ALF guidelines themselves have been altered and modified over the years-- including condoning the use of arson. Here's what a couple of prominent ALF leaders and spokespersons have had to say in the past regarding violence:

"In a war, you have to take up arms--and people will get killed. I can support that kind of action by petrol bombing and bombs under cars--and, probably, at a later stage, the shooting of vivisectors on their doorsteps. It's a war, and there's no other way you can stop vivisectors." Tim Daley, British Animal Liberation Front Leader, BBC interview, 1987.

"I would be overjoyed when the first 'scientist' is killed by a liberation activist." Vivien Smith, Former ALF Spokesperson, USA Today, September 3, 1991

Violence against those who oppress, torture, and murder others has been universally accepted as a necessary component of any serious liberation struggle--and here is here some part company with the Press Office and the sizable activist community supporting its ideological stance. Some activists, especially in this country, shy away from embracing violence as an acceptable tactic because they fear for their own freedom, reputations, careers, and livelihoods. They neglect to consider adequately the fear of
the animals, who continue to be tortured and killed in increasing numbers every year. Who among true liberationists really believes a caged, tortured animal sentenced to death for no reason other than species membership would object to the use of violence to free her?

Those critics who bemoan the prospect of increasing repression from law enforcement must come to realize that such is the result only of increased effectiveness. Through evolving tactics, activists have brought a monolithic corporate enterprise (HLS) to its knees. The movement has committed the most "egregious" crime of all: we've clobbered corporate coffers! To think that law enforcement wouldn't be breathing down the necks of activists is naive and to expect rain without thunder. The SHAC-7 have recently felt that repression as they were convicted on federal charges in February. They will ultimately prevail, and the campaign will succeed--because they will not let fear deter them from their goals.

There is certainly no reason to believe that the use of violence in defense of ourselves or the animals is the only path to liberation--but it is certainly a part of that path. To deny that is to condemn the actions of Dave Blenkinsop and the Chiron bombers--something most liberationists abroad refuse to do, even though they suffer more repression than we know here in the US. The Press Office wishes to be clear on this matter: we support all liberationists--from the graffiti artist and liberator of the ALF to the Justice Department, the Revolutionary Cells, and beyond. To do otherwise is to continue condemning countless non-human animals to agonized lives and brutal deaths. To do otherwise is to condone violence, but violence only against our animal brothers and sisters.

In conclusion, the Press Office, on behalf of much of the activist community, is exposing the hypocrisy of some in the liberation movement who would advocate violence on behalf of people but not animals; who would welcome arson and other techniques, but cower before the effective use of force. Press Officers have joined a growing contingent of activists world-wide saying that we need to take a non-prejudicial look at the ultimate ineffectiveness of pitting only passive strategies against the onslaught of escalating systematic abuse of innocent animals.

The animals are our constituents. We are their voices. Let us remind ourselves of one thing: The hand that rocks the cradle of violence belongs to the animal abuser. If we were alone in a cage, waiting to be electrocuted for our skin or tortured for experimental data, what would we want others to do? Stand peacefully outside and leaflet? Write respectful letters to Congress? Spray paint the building? Or might we just want--and deserve-- "any means necessary"?