Violence in the Animal Rights Movement

Ryan Day

Recently, the animal liberation group Animal Liberation Front (ALF) attacked three Wachovia Bank locations in California. The most recent attack involved red graffiti across the facade of the building; the other two involved jamming or destroying the night deposit box of the bank, one of which involved a small bomb. After each of these attacks, ALF claimed the attacks by sending communiqués to Wachovia, the media and the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO), which, though unaffiliated with ALF, publishes these communiqués and answers all questions involving ALF. At the end of each of these communiqués was a forceful demand for Wachovia to sell its stock in Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a company that is known to test on animals, and a threat of further violence if the stock was not sold.Independent media outlets are grasping onto these recent attacks because this time they seem to have worked. Wachovia, who used to be the largest shareholder of HLS, sold all of their stock in the company. NAALPO put out a celebratory press release stating that ALF had succeeded in their continuing campaign against HLS and against animal testing.

This does, indeed, seem like a major victory for animal rights activists everywhere, and I think that all people involved with animal rights can celebrate the end result of the campaign, but what are the consequences of the means to this end? In the age of the Green Scare in which we live the government is actively pursuing those who they consider “eco-terrorists” — ALF has been targeted specifically by the government. ALF and its sister group, Earth Liberation Front (ELF), are both considered domestic terror groups by the US government, and members of both have been arrested in a highly publicized way on charges of arson, property damage and use of destructive devices.

Unfortunately, this has become the face of the environmental and animal rights movements. Your typical “Joe Public” reads about these arrests of so-called “terrorists” in the national media and, in correlation with his post-9/11 fear of an impending terror attack, immediately places the whole of environmental and animal rights activism in the realm of crazy zealots. Consequently, Joe Public blows off any attempt at activism toward the environment or animal rights as extremist nonsense.

I make no value judgments towards the actions of ALF, and while I generally agree that the end result is a success, I also feel that the consequence to the movement as a whole is strong. Groups such as ALF are creating a largely negative view of the animal rights movement, and in the end, though their results may seem immediate, I feel that they are doing on the whole more harm than good.

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