Animal Liberation Front
The Animal Liberation Front, or ALF, is a radical animal rights group.
Overview, aims and origins
The ALF were originally formed in the UK during the 1970s by animal rights activist Ronnie Lee, who had previously been involved with a group called The Band of Mercy as well as the Hunt Saboteurs Association.
The ALF's stated aims are:
- 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 non-violent direct actions and liberations.
- TO take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and non-human.
The ALF claim not to have a 'structure' or 'organisation' in the sense of most campaigning groups, rather they encourage individuals to take 'direct action' against what they see as manifestations of animal abuse, such as the meat, dairy or vivisection industries. One does not 'join' the ALF in the usual manner (ie, by filling in a form and sending it to a central office), rather one becomes an ALF member when one takes such direct action. However, a separate membership (in the more conventional sense) organisation, the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group (ALFSG), exists in order to raise funds for ALF activities and to support animal rights prisoners (both financially and encouraging members to write to them). The ALFSG also publishes a regular newsletter that details 'actions' that have taken place against 'animal abusers'. The ALF also has a 'Press Office' that serves to co-ordinate news of various ALF actions, as well as issuing statements to the press. The current ALF 'Press Officer' is Robin Webb.
The ALF now has groups in a number of other countries besides the UK.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 1979 and 1993 there were over 313 incidents of break-ins, vandalism, arson and thefts committed in the name of animal rights in the U.S. Attacks have been carried out at
- University of Minnesota
- Cornell University
- The Cavel West horse rendering plant
- Emory University
- Carolina Biological Supply Company
- Utah State University
- Michigan State University
- Oregon State University
- Washington State University
The Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a separate but related group, took responsibility for an arson attack on a mink research lab in Anthony Hall on the campus of Michigan State University on New Year's Eve (December) of 1999.
Violence and the ALF
Early ALF actions tended to centre around the removing (or 'liberating', in ALF terminology) of animals from vivisection laboratories, and the ALF has always had an explicit policy of non-violence. However in more recent years ALF activities have extended to vandalism, arson and making threats against individuals who directly or indirectly work for organisations the ALF have targeted. ALF supporters state that this is intended to make "animal abuse" as costly as possible, and the ALF guidelines state that no ALF action should cause physical harm to any humans or non-human animals - if an act does so then it is not supported by the ALF.
A breakaway group from the ALF naming itself the Justice Department was believed to have been responsible for the sending of a number of letter bombs to individuals involved in fox hunting, the fur trade or vivisectors. Of another ALF breakaway group, the Animal Rights Militia, Robin Webb has said the following; "The only difference between ALF and the more radical ones is that ALF basically take every precaution not to endanger life at any time. The Animal Rights Militia Department are prepared to twist the arm of animal abusers". However there has been conjecture within the animal rights movement that the ARM and Justice Department are actually state sponsored agents provocateurs set up to discredit the ALF.
Whether this is the case or not, there are strong arguments that, despite their stated aims and principles, from the mid 1980s the ALF in fact has no longer followed a path of non-violence. The first incident that indicated a change in direction was probably their 1984 Mars Bar campaign, wherin the ALF issued statements claiming that bars of Mars chocolate for sale in supermarkets had been contaminated with bleach in protest against the Mars corporation's funding of dental research using monkeys. The incident was later revealed to have been a hoax, but led to widespread criticism of the ALF, and a split with the pacifist magazine Peace News, who had previously allowed the ALF to use their Nottingham address as a PO Box.
- Official Site of the Animal Liberation Front
- The Scientist - Researcher Vows To Continue Work Despite Animal ... requires free registration
- Animal Liberation Front (ALF) Frequently Asked Questions by the North American ALF Supporters Group.