Animal Liberation Front

Introduction

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a far-left extremist group focused on animal rights.* The group originated in the United Kingdom but has a presence in 40 countries around the world. In the United States, ALF has claimed responsibility for arson and vandalism against animal research facilities, farms, restaurants, and other businesses the group considers harmful to animals.

ALF emerged in England in the 1970s. British animal rights activist Ronnie Lee was a member of the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA) in England, a group that worked to sabotage hunting expeditions. He later formed an offshoot called the Band of Mercy, which changed its name to the Animal Liberation Front in 1976.*“Ronnie Lee,” International Animal Rights Conference, accessed June 17, 2022, https://ar-conference.org/2012/ronnie_lee.php; “RONNIE LEE: ENCOURAGING VEGAN EDUCATION,” VegfestUK, October 14, 2019, https://www.vegfest.co.uk/2019/10/14/ronnie-lee-encouraging-vegan-education/#.x Lee served three years in prison after his 1974 arrest for a raid on Oxford Laboratory Animal Colonies in Bicester, England, with Cliff Goodman. Upon his release, Lee became press officer of the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group, for which he was arrested in 1986 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to damage property connected with animal abuse. After his release in 1992, Lee began speaking publicly on his own about animal rights and eventually veganism.*“Ronnie Lee,” International Animal Rights Conference, accessed June 17, 2022, https://ar-conference.org/2012/ronnie_lee.php; “RONNIE LEE: ENCOURAGING VEGAN EDUCATION,” VegfestUK, October 14, 2019, https://www.vegfest.co.uk/2019/10/14/ronnie-lee-encouraging-vegan-education/#; Maria Chiorando, “Animal Liberation Front Founder Proposes New Definition Of Veganism,” Plant Based News, August 20, 2018, https://plantbasednews.org/news/animal-liberation-front-founder-proposes-new-definition-veganism/; Grace Hwang, “Examining Extremism: Violent Animal Rights Extremists,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, August 20, 2021, https://www.csis.org/blogs/examining-extremism/examining-extremism-violent-animal-rights-extremists.x

ALF’s core ideology is built on four basic tenets: free animals from abuse; damage those profiting from the suffering and exploitation of animals; expose hidden cruelties against animals through non-violent actions and freeing of animals; and take all necessary precautions to prevent hard to animals or humans.* Despite this commitment to avoiding harm, ALF’s actions have included bombings, arson, and other attacks that have resulted in injuries. In the 1980s and 1990s, several letter bombs and car bombs were attributed to ALF. ALF distanced itself from those attacks and they were later claimed by ALF breakaway groups called the Justice Department and Animal Rights Militia. Both groups allegedly broke from ALF because they sought more direct action, but some researchers believe the three groups maintain close ties and ALF uses the other two to maintain plausible deniability of violent activities.*

The FBI closely associates ALF with the tactic of arson and accuses ALF of setting fire to several animal research facilities, fur companies, mink farms, and restaurants resulting in losses of more than $45 million during the 1990s.* Specifically, a cell of ALF and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) members known as “the Family” were responsible for a series of fires between 1995 and 2001.*Conrad Wilson, “Eco-activist and former international fugitive Joseph Dibee pleads guilty in 1997 Oregon arson,” OPB, April 21, 2022, https://www.opb.org/article/2022/04/21/joseph-dibee-environmental-terrorism-oregon-washington-earth-liberation-front-animal/.x The group set approximately 20 fires in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming, and Colorado blamed by federal investigators on the Family. The alleged ringleader, William C. Rodgers, a.k.a. Avalon, was arrested in December 2005 and committed suicide in an Arizona jail that month.*Associated Press, “2 plead guilty in 1998 arson of Vail ski resort; attack caused $12M in damage,” USA Today, December 14, 2006, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-12-14-vail-arsons_x.htm; Vanessa Grigoriadis, “The Rise and Fall of the Eco-Radical Underground,” Rolling Stone, June 21, 2011, https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-eco-radical-underground-245345/.x

ALF has also released animals from farms and other facilities, such as in August 2003 when ALF claimed responsibility for releasing more than 10,000 mink from a farm in Washington state.* ALF allegedly believes it must break “the unjust laws” that allow the exploitation of animals.* Further, ALF justifies violent acts such as arson because they financially hurt those ALF classifies as animal abusers.* Between 1995 and 2010, ALF was responsible for 45 percent of 239 arson and bombing attacks recorded by the Department of Homeland security and attributed to environmental terrorists.* After the 9/11 terror attacks, the FBI focused its efforts on domestic terrorist threats, while corporate lobbying pushed the government to take decisive action against ecoterrorists specifically. The FBI labeled ALF a domestic terrorist organization and the Justice Department began a campaign pursuing ecoterrorists as the nation’s top domestic terrorist threat.*Alleen Brown, “The Green Scare,” Intercept, March 23, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2019/03/23/ecoterrorism-fbi-animal-rights/; Juliet Eilperin, “As eco-terrorism wanes, governments still target activist groups seen as threat,” Washington Post, March 10, 2012, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/as-eco-terrorism-wanes-governments-still-target-activist-groups-seen-as-threat/2012/02/28/gIQAA4Ay3R_story.html; Testimony of Dale L. Watson, Executive Assistant Director, Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence Division Federal Bureau of Investigation, Before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Washington, DC, FBI, February 6, 2002, https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/testimony/the-terrorist-threat-confronting-the-united-states.x In 2009, an ALF spokesman said some members had turned to violence following the failure of years of peaceful campaigning.*

Following the 9/11 attacks, the FBI ramped up its surveillance and other activities against ALF and ELF. In December 2001, domestic terrorism section chief of the FBI, James Jarboe, called ALF and ELF “the No. 1 priority in the domestic terrorism program.”*Alleen Brown, “The Green Scare,” Intercept, March 23, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2019/03/23/ecoterrorism-fbi-animal-rights/; Juliet Eilperin, “As eco-terrorism wanes, governments still target activist groups seen as threat,” Washington Post, March 10, 2012, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/as-eco-terrorism-wanes-governments-still-target-activist-groups-seen-as-threat/2012/02/28/gIQAA4Ay3R_story.html; Testimony of Dale L. Watson, Executive Assistant Director, Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence Division Federal Bureau of Investigation, Before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Washington, DC, FBI, February 6, 2002, https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/testimony/the-terrorist-threat-confronting-the-united-states.x In congressional testimony in 2004, John Lewis, deputy assistant director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division, called the investigation of animal rights extremists and ecoterrorism matters the FBI’s highest domestic terrorism investigative priority.*

Individuals affiliated with the ALF ideology continue to organize protests and carry out acts of sabotage and vandalism of animal research, agriculture, and hunting facilities, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage.*“ALF Destroys 29 Hunting Towers (Belgium),” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, June 11, 2022, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2022/06/11/alf-destroys-29-hunting-towers-belgium/; “Animal Liberation Front Retaliates for the Murder of Activist Regan Russell,” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, July 12, 2020, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2020/07/12/animal-liberation-front-retaliates-for-the-murder-of-activist-regan-russell/; “Animal Liberation Front Liberates 21 Mice from Louisiana State University,” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, April 26, 2005, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2005/04/26/animal-liberation-front-liberates-21-mice-from-louisiana-state-university/.x A November 2004 raid on an animal research lab at the University of Iowa, for example, resulted in $450,000 in damage after ALF released more than 400 animals.*“University of Iowa Claims $450K Loss in November ALF Raid,” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, March 18, 2005, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2005/03/18/university-of-iowa-claims-450k-loss-in-november-alf-raid/; Associated Press, “Investigation into 2004 UI lab attack apparently stalls,” Gazette, November 30, 2010, https://www.thegazette.com/news/investigation-into-2004-ui-lab-attack-apparently-stalls/.x In December 2016, ALF members vandalized a fur store in Ontario, Canada.*“Fur Outlet Sabotaged by ALF in Ontario, Canada,” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, December 29, 2016, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2016/12/29/fur-outlet-sabotaged-by-alf-in-ontario-canada/.x In 2019, ALF members launched a vandalism campaign against McDonald’s restaurants in Colorado and Wisconsin.*“ALF Defaces McDonalds in Delafield, Wisconsin,” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, October 12, 2019, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2019/10/12/alf-defaces-mcdonalds-in-delafield-wisconsin/; “McDonalds Continues to Incur the Wrath of ALF (Firestone, Colorado),” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, July 26, 2019, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2019/07/26/mcdonalds-continues-to-incur-the-wrath-of-alf-firestone-colorado/.x In June 2022, ALF claimed responsibility for sabotaging 26 hunting towers in Belgium.*“ALF Destroys 29 Hunting Towers (Belgium),” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, June 11, 2022, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2022/06/11/alf-destroys-29-hunting-towers-belgium/.x

Leadership

ALF is a leaderless organization.

Base of Operations

International.

Website

Not determined.

Membership Size and Relevance

ALF has no formal membership. It is comprised of anonymous, autonomous cells bound by a central ideology to halt animal testing and promote animal rights.* ALF organizes into these cells to prevent infiltration by law enforcement and accused animal abusers. ALF is present in at least 40 countries around the world.* In April 2022, Joseph Mahmoud Dibee pleaded guilty to involvement in multiple arsons committed by a cell of ALF and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) members known as “the Family.” Dibee was arrested in 2018 and his case renewed public interest in the group.*“Pacific Northwest Environmental Extremist and Arsonist Pleads Guilty,” U.S. Department of Justice, April 22, 2022, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/pacific-northwest-environmental-extremist-and-arsonist-pleads-guilty; Christine Chung, “Man Who Fled U.S. in 2005 Pleads Guilty to Environmental Arson Conspiracies,” New York Times, April 25, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/25/us/joseph-dibee-environmental-arson-fugitive.html; Sam Raskin, “‘Environmental extremist’ group leader Joseph Dibee pleads guilty to arson,” New York Post, April 24, 2022, https://nypost.com/2022/04/24/environmental-extremist-joseph-dibee-pleads-guilty-to-arson/; Conrad Wilson, “Trial Will Decide Who Can Be Labeled A Domestic Terrorist,” NPR, July 6, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/07/06/1013496140/trial-will-decide-who-can-be-labeled-a-domestic-terrorist.x

Recruitment and Propaganda

A website called the North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO) relays information from ALF. The website’s operators claim they are unaffiliated with ALF and do not know the people in charge of ALF, as it is an anonymous organization. Nonetheless, the NAALPO outlines ALF’s agenda and how to get involved. The website also publishes ALF claims of responsibility and defends the group against accusations of terrorism.*

According to the NAALPO, those who wish to join ALF should join with other like- minded individuals and start taking direct action. The NAALPO provides links to information on how to take direct action in line with ALF’s ideology.*

Violent Activities

  • January 8, 2012: ALF activists set fire to a truck storage area at Harris Farms in Fresno County, California. The NAALPO issued ALF’s claim of responsibility.
  • March 7, 2009: Unknown individuals firebomb the car of University of California, Los Angeles professor David Jentsch outside his home because of his animal research. There were no casualties. ALF claimed responsibility. *
  • October 2001: Joseph Mahmoud Dibee and others attempted to destroy the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Corrals, a government-owned facility used to remove wild horses from public lands located near Litchfield, California. The attack destroyed a barn and its contents.*“Pacific Northwest Environmental Extremist and Arsonist Pleads Guilty,” U.S. Department of Justice, April 21, 2022, https://www.justice.gov/usao-or/pr/pacific-northwest-environmental-extremist-and-arsonist-pleads-guilty.x
  • October 19, 1998: Members of ALF and ELF, known as “the Family,” ignited diesel firebombs at the Two Elk Resort in Vail Mountain, Colorado, destroying the lodge. ELF claims told the fire was intended to deter development in Blue Sky Basin, which they said was habitat for the Canada lynx. In December 2006, two of the conspirators, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach and Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff, pleaded guilty to federal arson charges. Another conspirator, Rebecca Rubin, fled to Canada. After five years as a fugitive, Rubin turned herself over to the FBI in November 2012. In February 2014, Rubin was sentenced to five years in prison. Josephine Sunshine Overaker remains at large. Authorities believe she fled to Europe.*Associated Press, “2 plead guilty in 1998 arson of Vail ski resort; attack caused $12M in damage,” USA Today, December 14, 2006, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-12-14-vail-arsons_x.htm; Randy Wyrick, “Two Elk eco-terrorist sentenced to prison,” Post Independent, February 2, 2014, https://www.postindependent.com/news/local/two-elk-eco-terrorist-sentenced-to-prison/; “MOST WANTED –JOSEPHINE SUNSHINE OVERAKER,” FBI, accessed June 16, 2022, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/dt/josephine-sunshine-overaker; “Pacific Northwest Environmental Extremist and Arsonist Pleads Guilty,” U.S. Department of Justice, April 22, 2022, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/pacific-northwest-environmental-extremist-and-arsonist-pleads-guilty.x
  • July 21, 1997: Joseph Mahmoud Dibee and others destroyed the Cavel West Meat Packing Plant in Redmond, Oregon, causing $1.2 million in damages. In April 2022, Dibee pleaded guilty to arson and conspiracy to commit arson in the District of Oregon and conspiracy to commit arson in the Eastern District of California.*

    “Pacific Northwest Environmental Extremist and Arsonist Pleads Guilty,” U.S. Department of Justice, April 21, 2022, https://www.justice.gov/usao-or/pr/pacific-northwest-environmental-extremist-and-arsonist-pleads-guilty; Zane Sparling, “Suspected Earth Liberation Front arsonist captured after 12 years on the run,” Portland Tribune, August 10, 2018, https://pamplinmedia.com/pt/9-news/403164-300186-suspected-earth-liberation-front-arsonist-captured-after-12-years-on-the-run.x

  • March 11, 1997: Douglas Joshua Ellerman set fire to the Fur Breeders Agricultural co-op in Sandy, Utah. He later turned himself in and was sentenced to seven years in prison and restitution of approximately $750,000. ALF did not officially claim the incident but Ellerman admits that he belongs to the group. *
  • October 1996 – December 2005: At least 16 individuals affiliated with ALF and ELF conspire to damage or destroy various commercial and government-owned properties.*“Pacific Northwest Environmental Extremist and Arsonist Pleads Guilty,” U.S. Department of Justice, April 21, 2022, https://www.justice.gov/usao-or/pr/pacific-northwest-environmental-extremist-and-arsonist-pleads-guilty.x
  • February 28, 1992: Rodney Coronado broke into the Michigan State University (MSU) office of researcher Richard Aulerich in East Lansing, Michigan, and set off a pre-dawn firebomb. Coronado reportedly believed Aulerich’s research was funded by the commercial fur industry. The bomb destroyed Aulerich’s office and damaged three others. The attack led to the loss of more than 30 years of research for Aulerich and caused more than $1 million in damage. The morning of the attack, Coronado also vandalized an MSU-run mink farm near campus. ALF claimed responsibility in a press release, which Coronado admitted to writing. Coronado pleaded guilty in 1995 but claimed he was not the one who set off the bomb. He was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison and ordered to pay $2.5 million in restitution to MSU and other universities and farms he had targeted. In 2017, he admitted to acting alone on behalf of ALF. *
  • June 1991: ALF claimed responsibility for arson attacks on an Oregon State University mink research farm near Corvallis, Oregon, and the Northwest Farm Food Cooperative in Edmonds, Washington, which produces feed for mink farms. *
  • 1987: An arson attack destroyed an animal diagnostics laboratory under construction at the University of California, Davis. It is the first arson attack claimed by ALF. *Alleen Brown, “The Green Scare,” Intercept, March 23, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2019/03/23/ecoterrorism-fbi-animal-rights/x

Rhetoric

  • ALF statement, July 12, 2020: “We want to dedicate this action to Regan Russell, murdered under the truck wheels in front of a Toronto slaughterhouse, and we are hoping from our comrades worldwide to wake up to the reality that animal liberation is a war. Regan, like Jill or Mike, fell martyr in the fight for animal liberation. Don’t let their names be forgotten and fight back the oppressor until we win.”*“Animal Liberation Front Retaliates for the Murder of Activist Regan Russell,” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, July 12, 2020, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2020/07/12/animal-liberation-front-retaliates-for-the-murder-of-activist-regan-russell/.x
  • ALF statement, November 1, 2019: “For ‘World Vegan Day’, Ben & Jerry’s decided to advertise free plant based ice cream for a day. So we decided to show them that this advertising attracts actual vegans as well.

    “The paint on the side of their building ensures that anyone who walks by will know what they are walking by; a company whose massive profits come from the sexual violation of millions of persons, all while pretending to ‘resist’ and be ‘woke’ in their online presence.

    “We do not want your vegan capitalism. We don’t want vegan options. We want animal liberation. Take your cash grab and shove it.

    “Until all your exploitative business fronts and factories are rubble.”*“ALF Targets Ice Cream Store in Denver (USA),” North American Animal Liberation Press Office, November 2, 2019, https://animalliberationpressoffice.org/NAALPO/2019/11/02/alf-targets-ice-cream- store-in-denver-usa/.x

  • ALF statement, October 12, 2019: “Anti speciesist action was taken against a McDonalds in ‘America’s Dairyland’.

    “The locals are some of the most grim, unfeeling, and uncaring speciesists in the states. We are doing what little we can to throw a wrench in their gears.

    “Multiple messages were painted on the sides of this location, and we planned on destroying some windows hadn’t there been a sudden police presence nearby.

    “In solidarity with those caught in the ‘terrorist’ spotlight and spending decades of their life behind bars for victimless ‘crimes’.

    “None of us are free until we are all free.”*

  • ALF statement, July 23, 2019: “Solidarity with our comrades facing trial.

    “Some activist showed up late in the week of solidarity action to redecorate and give a friendly knock to a local McDonalds. The bright red painted messages of peace were washed away quickly, but that window will take a few days to replace.

    “We must use our privilege as humans to fight back against the system that keeps animals oppressed.

    “Calling out everyone who talks the animal liberation talk but does not take action. You have temporary freedom to lose, the animals lose their entire lives. You feel nervous about getting caught, they feel nervous on their way to see their friends murdered in front of them.

    “They can’t wait. The earth can’t wait. Get off your ass and FIGHT.”*

  • Rodney Coronado, newspaper interview, 2017: “I won’t sugar coat it; we were about psychological warfare. We wanted researchers like Aulerich never to know when they came to work and opened their office door whether there had been an attack. We wanted them to live in fear.”*
  • Craig Rosebraugh, ALF spokesman, October 2001: “If the U.S. government is truly concerned with eradicating terrorism in the world, then that effort must begin with abolishing U.S. imperialism. Members of this governing body, both in the House and Senate as well as those who hold positions in the executive branch, constitute the largest group of terrorists and terrorist representatives currently threatening life on this planet.”*Alleen Brown, “The Green Scare,” Intercept, March 23, 2019, https://theintercept.com/2019/03/23/ecoterrorism-fbi-animal-rights/x

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