Terrorism Posing as Activism

Background: A loosely organized cabal of animal rights and environmental activists uses violence to try to achieve their goals of animal and earth “liberation.” These groups have rejected polite persuasion, instead destroying property and attacking those whom they view as enemies.

  • Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) is a global animal rights group dedicated to opposing—violently—people and companies that support Huntingdon Life Sciences, a research laboratory firm that uses animal testing in its work.
  • The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) are underground networks of violent activist and guerrilla warriors. They have both been implicated in multiple cases of arson.
  • Earth First (EF!) is a self-described “warrior society” that takes a “by any means necessary” approach to “defending mother earth.”

How widespread is this violence? While fringe groups are typically the ones making threats, the specter of violence hovers over some groups that are considered more mainstream.

  • Long-time animal rights activist Jerry Vlasak, while a spokesman for the PETA-linked Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, told the “Animal Rights 2003” National Conference: “It won’t ruin our movement if someone gets killed in an animal rights action. It’s going to happen sooner or later. The Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front—sooner or later there’s going to be someone getting hurt. Vlasak also openly calculated that “I don’t think you’d have to kill—assassinate—too many … I think for 5 lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives.”
  • In 2006, six members of SHAC (and the organization itself) were convicted in federal court of terrorism and Internet stalking. Some received lengthy prison sentences.
  • The New Yorker noted in a 2003 profile of PETA founding president Ingrid Newkirk that “officially, PETA does not engage in violence, but its leaders wholeheartedly defend and encourage guerrilla groups like the Animal Liberation Front.”
  • PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich has said: “I think it would be a great thing if all of these fast-food outlets, and these slaughterhouses, and these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows, and everything else along the line. Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.”

The Bottom Line: We are a nation governed by laws. Violence and intimidation are never an acceptable substitute for the democratic political process, or for substantive public debate.

  • Violence is not a civilized tool for changing minds; it’s a sign that some activists have lost the debate and are trying to force their views on others.
  • Animal rights activists use violence to intimidate people because they know the vast majority rejects their ideology.
  • The threat of animal rights violence is not a thing of the past. Researcher Dr. David Jentsch of UCLA received a mailing of razor blades from individuals calling themselves Animal Liberation Front sympathizers that the mailers claimed were contaminated with “AIDS blood.”
  • As long as national animal rights campaigners fail to openly, publicly, and unequivocally renounce violence, the threat will remain.