Animal Liberation Front (ALF)
The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) are loosely-organized movements whose adherents engage in crimes like arson, fire bombings, vandalism, intimidation, assaults, stalking, etc. ELF and ALF recruit their membership from young people between the ages of 18 and 25. ELF and ALF are responsible for estimating conservatively, over $110 million in damages and 1,100 acts of terrorism in the decade 1995-2005. ELF and ALF's weapon of choice is arson. With direct actions such as cutting the brake lines of 38 seafood delivery trucks, or the use of fire bombs and incendiary devices, it is through luck not planning, that there have been no ELF and ALF casualties.
An analysis of incidents occurring between the year 1977 and 2004 reflects that nearly 70 percent of these direct actions are acts of violence, ranging in seriousness. About 12 percent of these are related to animal thefts and releases. Beyond that, about 10 percent of these are related to arson and other crimes.
In the 1990s, right-wing extremism overtook left-wing terrorism as the most dangerous domestic terrorist threat to the country. By the end of the 1990s, special interest extremism, as characterized by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), emerged as a serious terrorist threat. Generally, extremist groups engage in much activity that is protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly. Law enforcement becomes involved when the volatile talk of these groups transgresses into unlawful action. The FBI estimated that by 2002 the ALF/ELF had committed more than 600 criminal acts in the United States since 1996, resulting in damages in excess of 43 million dollars.
Special interest terrorism differs from traditional right-wing and left-wing terrorism in that extremist special interest groups seek to resolve specific issues, rather than effect widespread political change. Special interest extremists continue to conduct acts of politically motivated violence to force segments of society, including the general public, to change attitudes about issues considered important to their causes. These groups occupy the extreme fringes of animal rights, pro-life, environmental, anti-nuclear, and other movements. Some special interest extremists -- most notably within the animal rights and environmental movements -- turned toward vandalism and terrorist activity in attempts to further their causes.
Since 1977, when disaffected members of the ecological preservation group Greenpeace formed the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and attacked commercial fishing operations by cutting drift nets, acts of "eco-terrorism" have occurred around the globe. The FBI defines eco-terrorism as the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) became one of the most active extremist elements in the United States. Despite the destructive aspects of ALF's operations, its operational philosophy discourages acts that harm "any animal, human and nonhuman." Animal rights groups in the United States, including the ALF, have generally adhered to this mandate. The ALF, established in Great Britain in the mid-1970s, is a loosely organized movement committed to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals. The American branch of the ALF began its operations in the late 1970s.
Individuals become members of the ALF not by filing paperwork or paying dues, but simply by engaging in "direct action" against companies or individuals who utilize animals for research or economic gain. "Direct action" generally occurs in the form of criminal activity to cause economic loss or to destroy the victims' company operations. The ALF activists engaged in a steadily growing campaign of illegal activity against fur companies, mink farms, restaurants, and animal research laboratories.
Estimates of damage and destruction in the United States claimed by the ALF during the past ten years, as compiled by national organizations such as the Fur Commission and the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), put the fur industry and medical research losses at more than 45 million dollars. The ALF was considered a terrorist group, whose purpose was to bring about social and political change through the use of force and violence.
The 2006 revision to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which toughened penalties, created additional protections for people (the original law only covered property damage), and included secondary targets (often times companies that do business with primary targets are themselves targeted).
Just like Al Qaeda and other terrorist movements, ELF and ALF cannot accomplish their goals without money, membership and the media. ELF and ALF have received support from mainstream activists in each of these categories. There was a growing network of support for extremists like ELF and ALF. For example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, has given money to ELF and ALF members, while acting as the spokesgroup for ELF and ALF after committing acts of terrorism.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|