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A slaughterhouse burned to the ground.  Thousands of mink taken from a fur farm.  The windows of a fur store smashed and its locks glued.  The letters “A.L.F.” spraypainted in blood red.  Direct action is a successful tactic used by Animal Liberation Front cells worldwide to further the cause of animal liberation.

This more radical approach to animal rights activism developed in the early 1960’s after years and years of passive activism mostly consisting of large mainstream groups lobbying for stricter laws protecting animals.  These groups, such as the SPCA, relied on members as a source of funds, were not radical at all, and accomplished very little.  The treatment of animals grew worse and worse until some activists in the UK decided to take matters into their own hands and strike back.

Direct action animal liberation has its roots in hunt sabotage.  In the early 1960’s, a group called the Hunt Saboteurs Association formed to stop hunts in England, using the tactic of putting themselves between the hunter and the hunted.  By the early 1970’s, this group had evolved into the Band of Mercy.  The Band of Mercy decided to expand their campaign
to include all forms of animal abuse and their first major attacks were arsons at a lab being built for the Hoechst drug
company, which caused over $75,000 in damage.

The Band of Mercy was dissolved when two activists, Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman, were arrested for an action in late 1974.  After being released from prison, Ronnie Lee decided to keep up the struggle.  The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) was born in 1976, and it included the remnants of the Band of Mercy and about 30 new activists.

In the following years, the ALF carried out many raids on labs, attacks on property, and arsons.  One of the first ALF raids in the United States took place in 1979 at the New York University Medical Center.  Activists posed as lab workers and stole five animals that would have been used in experiments.  In the early 1980’s, ALF groups began carrying out direct action animal liberations in the Netherlands, France, Canada, Scotland, and Australia.

ALF tactics grew more radical and they favored attacks on the homes of individual vivisectors.  In 1982, the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group formed which vocally supported ALF actions and jailed activists, and distributed a

In 1984 the ALF carried out one of their largest and most effectual raids at the University of Pennsylvania.  They caused considerable damage to the research labs and stole important papers and videos made by the vivisectors.  The activists sent the videos to PETA, from which they made the documentary “Unnecessary Fuss.”  This documentary showed vivisectors treating the animals very badly and gave the public a glimpse of what vivisection was really like.  The release of this video caused so much public uproar that the lab closed down.

Since then, the ALF has continued their actions worldwide, focusing largely on the fur trade and vivisection.  Other large actions included a raid on the University of Arizona, Tuscon labs where activists took over 1,200 animals, and a raid on the
University of Oregon’s research facility where they took 264 animals and caused $50,000 in damage.

Almost seven hundred and fifty actions have been reported by ALF activists since 1990, with the true count being higher, as many activists don’t report their actions for fear of getting caught.  According to a  report put out by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture, the ALF has caused $137 million in damage since its inception in the United
States alone.

So, does the ALF work?  When an anonymous meat company owner was asked about the ALF’s effect on his business, he replied, “The more this is publicized...the worse it makes it.  I wish I sold produce in San Diego instead of meat”   This awareness of the ALF’s effectiveness is not solely limited to the owners of the effected stores though.  Susan Paris, the president of Americans for Medical Progress, a group which strongly supports vivisection, has written, “Because of terrorist acts by animal activists, crucial research projects have been delayed or scrapped. More and more of the scarce dollars available to research are spent on heightened security and higher insurance rates. Promising young scientists are
rejecting careers in research. Top notch researchers are getting out of the field.”  In a report to Congress on Animal Enterprise Terrorism, it is written that, “Where the direct, collateral, and indirect effects of incidents such as this are factored together, the ALF’s professed tactic of ‘economic sabotage’ can be considered successful, and it’s objectives, at least towards the victimized facility, fulfilled.”  Obviously the ALF is accomplishing what they wish to accomplish through their tactics of direct action.

VRL supports the ALF and all non-violent direct action to liberate animals.  We feel it is very important that while local groups and more mainstream groups go about educating the public, a clear message is sent to animal abusers: WE WILL NOT TOLERATE THIS ANY LONGER.  When a situation is created where no animal abuser’s business is safe and their profits are hit again and again, week after week, people will not exploit animals for monetary gain; it will simply not be possible.  That is a large step in eliminating all animal exploitation, as most exploitation (animal and otherwise) is driven by greed and capital.

 “If not you, who? If  not now, when?”