Earth Liberation Front

Introduction

The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is an ecoterrorist group made up of autonomous cells that carry out attacks on those the group accuses of damaging the environment. ELF emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of the British Earth First movement. ELF began operations in the United States later that decade by releasing wild horses and burning down a Bureau of Land Management building in Oregon in November 1997. *

ELF’s primary tactic is arson. It has set fire to research labs, homes, and businesses. ELF has also engaged in vandalism, including breaking windows and graffiti.* Between 1996 and 2002, the FBI estimated that ELF and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) were together responsible for some 600 criminal acts in the United States totaling more than $42 million in damages.* Between 1995 and 2010, ELF was responsible for 55 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 ELF a domestic terrorist organization and the Justice Department began a campaign pursuing ecoterrorists as the nation’s top domestic terrorist threat.* ELF mouthpiece North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office (NAELFPO) called the FBI’s focus on the ELF a “clear sign that the ELF is successfully threatening that nation state which is destroying life on the planet.”*

ELF no longer carries out as many actions as it did in the 1990s or early 2000s, but federal agencies continue to be vigilant of the group.*

Leadership

ELF is a leaderless organization.*

Base of Operations

International.

Website

Not determined.

Membership Size and Relevance

ELF does not maintain membership records. It is decentralized into anonymous, autonomous cells to prevent infiltration by law enforcement and accused animal abusers.* ELF cells act independently of each other.*

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.”* 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.* The ELF was the subject of a 2011 documentary film called “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” which documented the group’s ideology and terrorist tactics.* John Anderson, “Activist or Terrorist, Rendered in Red, White and Green,” New York Times, June 8, 2011, https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/movies/if-a-tree-falls-documentary-by-marshall-curry.html.x

Recruitment and Propaganda

The North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office (NAELFPO) distributed press materials on behalf of the ELF. The NAELFPO claimed to be “a legal, above ground news service dedicated to exposing the political and social motives behind the direct actions of the ELF.”* The NAELFPO admitted public support for the ELF and “acts of economic sabotage against those who profit from the destruction of the natural environment.”* Craig Rosebraugh and Leslie James Pickering founded the NAELFPO in 1999. Rosebraugh became known as the national spokesman for the ELF until he stepped down in the early 2000s while claiming disappointment with the escalation of the group’s recent attacks.* The NAELFPO’s website is now offline.

Violent Activities

Rhetoric

  • Craig Rosebraugh, ELF 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.”*
  • ELF banner left at arson site in California, September 2003: “Environmental murder. Nature demands justice. The E.L.F.s are mad.”*
  • ELF banner left at site of firebombed construction site in San Diego, California, August 1, 2003: “If you build it, we will burn it. The E.L.F.s are mad.” *
  • Frequently Asked Questions about the Earth Liberation Front, North American ELF Press Office, 2001: “This hypocrisy and genocide against the horse nation will not go unchallenged! The practice of rounding up and auctioning wild horses must be stopped.”*
  • Frequently Asked Questions about the Earth Liberation Front, North American ELF Press Office, 2001: “The choice to use economic sabotage is a very deliberate and purposeful strategy to target the real underlying threat to life – the quest for profit and power. The ELF does not engage in state sanctioned tactics or those which physically harm people or life in general due to the group’s belief that economic sabotage is the best, most direct way to take the profit motive out of destroying the planet.”*
  • Frequently Asked Questions about the Earth Liberation Front, North American ELF Press Office, 2001: “The real violence and danger comes from businesses clear-cutting forests and destroying ecosystems, from pollutants carelessly pumped into our air by industrial and consumer society, from water being poisoned to the point of being undrinkable, by people eating commercially grown non-organic food, and many, many more. Very often by labeling the ELF as violent it is a means by which mainstream society, government, and big business can attempt to forget about the real true violence which occurs everyday, the violence against life.”*

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

The Hispanic population is willing to return to their home countries if given the right incentive. An incentive that myself and many other patriotic Americans will provide… [terrorist attacks will] remove the threat of the Hispanic voting bloc.

Patrick Crusius, El Paso Shooter Aug. 2019
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