The animal rights movement often is nonsensical like when female activists disrobe in public to protest the wearing of animal fur, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals files a lawsuit against SeaWorld for enslaving whales.
The SeaWorld lawsuit was dismissed by a judge because whales already have protection under the law. Marine parks are governed by the Marine Mammals Protection Act which allows public display only if permits are obtained and performances are educational.
The silly side of the animal rights movement grabs headlines now and then and makes it on the evening news and YouTube, but there is a more sinister side to the movement that uses arson and sabotage to make its point.
In late November, a figure in decade-old ecoterrorism cases turned herself in along Washington’s border with Canada. She was part of a group known as “The Family” which was affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, ELF and ALF respectively.
Members of these groups were responsible for a string of fires across the West that targeted the Vail Ski Resort, federal wild horse corrals, a tree farm and other facilities related to agriculture, medical research or land development. Ten people pled guilty to arson and conspiracy in the case in 2007, expressing regret and frustration that they hadn’t been more successful. Two remain at large but are believed to be out of the country.
Before 9/11, ecoterrorists were considered the nation’s biggest domestic terrorism threat. Today, the level of homeland security that exists is a deterrent to such extremists, and the movement has suffered setbacks because of informants and infiltrators.
However, ALF continues to operate in small cells and is still taking direct action, as they call it, committing illegal acts. Not long ago, ALF took credit for raiding a farm that raised pheasants for hunting. Another group, the Animal Rights Militia, destroyed fur traps in the Northeast.
The level of crime is on a smaller scale than before, but there is no telling if it will stay that way. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League monitors extremist groups in the U.S., including ecoterrorists. It says that at the root of these groups are radical ideologies, radical religious beliefs, pent-up anger and frustration that can lead to violence.
Through its press office, ALF continues to publish incendiary blogs, essays and communiqués, in addition to posting videos. It continues to urge action. Recently, a French filmmaker stirred interest in the group with the release of an independent film, A.L.F. The film is a fictional account of a cell of black-hooded ALF members plotting to raid a lab that houses animals for research. One 15-year-old movie-goer posted a question on a film website wanting to know how he could join up.
It’s important not to be misled by silly publicity stunts and fund appeals. There is another side to the animal rights movement that uses intimidation and criminal acts in pursuit of its goals, and it is still active.