How Illegal Direct Action Got Popular
The Animal Liberation Front was possibly the most well known animal rights group of the 1980s. It was largely responsible for bringing animal rights to the fore, and it still continues to fight for animals today.
Image: ALF poster
The ALF have always had a rule of strict nonviolence towards sentient beings, including humans. However, damaging property used to abuse animals is legitimate. For certain other animal rights groups of the era, violence against human animal abusers was not prohibited.
ALF activists document and expose cruelty behind closed doors that otherwise the public would never know about. Prosecutions have occurred due to ALF evidence.
The ALF are a leaderless and decentralised group. This means there are separate groups of people, or individuals, who abide by the rules of the ALF and undertake direct action in its name.
Image: Some people regard the ALF as terrorists, and at the least, extremists.
Just a Small Amount of Direct Action by ALF Activists:
In 1977 activists caused £80,000 damage to a laboratory in North London, which went bust afterwards.
Although they kept their identities secret, the ALF publicised their animal lib activities in the “Diary Of Actions” section of a their newsletter, Bite Back.
Image: ALF poster
Some of their direct action attracted press coverage, such as when they coordinated nationwide actions against the homes and cars of 40 vivisectors, and when they raided – among other animal testing laboratories – Life Sciences Research in Essex, rescuing animals and causing £76,000 of damage.
In 1981 the ALF raided Boots the Chemist’s lab animal breeding centre, in which they saved 12 beagles. The chemist later outsourced its animal testing division.
Image: The Animal Liberation Front with six beagles they rescued from a research laboratory.
In 1983 an ALF cell in Croydon joined with a local animal rights group to rid Croydon of the fur trade. As a result:
- A fur shop closed down due to leafleting
- Another closed down after its windows were smashed.
- A hotel ceased its fur shows after being “gas bombed”, having its windows smashed, and slogans daubed on its walls.
- Debenhams’ fur department closed after a campaign by activists.
- The owner of a mink farm went bankrupt after it was raided by ALF activists. Nearly 3000 mink were sprayed – rendering them economically worthless – and 30 were released. Tractors and fences were also damaged.
- The Allders department store closed its fur department after ALF action was relentless: customers were leafleted and 600 boycott pledges were obtained; timed incendiary smoke devices were put in the store, setting off the sprinklers and causing £500,000 in water damage; 27 windows and six doors were covered in glass etching fluid; their lorries were destroyed at a cost of over £60,000.
After that came an enormous increase in actions against high street targets including butchers, burger bars, Boots the Chemists, furriers, cancer charities and fishing tackle shops.
Image: ALF claimed responsibility for various Debanhams Department Store fires in protest of them selling real fur.
The Bite Back newsletters, publicising the direct action, had page after page of reports of damaged windows and cars, painted slogans and glued locks.
In November 1984 the ALF claimed it had injected Mars Bars across the country due to the company funding tooth decay experiments on animals. Millions of bars were removed from shelves at a cost of over £3m to Mars.
In the 90s the ALF was still going strong.
In March 1990 they rescued 82 beagle puppies and 26 rabbits from Harlan Interfauna, supplier to some of the country’s main vivisectors, such as Boots and Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).
Image: ALF activists with rabbits saved from an animal testing laboratory.
In November the ALF activists raided a Boots laboratory and rescued eight female beagles. It was reported that 60 of its store branches were damaged by the ALF activists every month. They soon sold the vivisection division of the company and outsourced.
Image: Lab beagles being purposely given cancer.
1991-92 saw a huge amount of direct action against the meat trade in northwest England, with up to 100 lorries destroyed at a cost of over £5m.
Although the ALF was still very active in the mid 90s, the Government clamped down on the key ALF activists, calling animal liberationists terrorists, giving them harsh sentences of over a decade in prison, and not allowing them to have any links with animal rights again.
The ALF Today:
Despite the police oppression, the ALF newsletter, that is now published online, continues to have many contributors to its Diary Of Actions, here.
They also publish details of ALF prisoners that have been imprisoned due to illegally helping animals. They ask that these prisoners are sent messages of support.
Image: ALF poster
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, (SHAC) was also a decentralised, militant animal liberation campaign group active in the US and UK from 1999 to 2014. It repeatedly brought Europe’s largest animal testing company, Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), to the brink of bankruptcy. Without Government intervention, it would not have survived.
In addition to directly targeting HLS, SHAC campaigners focused on the company’s investors, suppliers and business partners, in an attempt to isolate HLS from funds, supplies and clients. Tactics included demonstrations outside investors’ homes, destroying investors’ possessions, and rescuing animals. By 2009, about 250 companies, including Citibank, HSBC, Marsh, and Bank of America, had dropped their business with HLS. By the campaign’s end in 2014, HLS was $100 million in debt.
Image: SHAC protest at London Stock Exchange against one of Huntingdon Life Sciences supporters.
The only reason SHAC was forced to end its campaign was because of unrelenting Government Repression. The Government repeatedly created laws to clamp down hard on activists, thus protecting the animal research industry. Dozens and dozens of its prominent activists, like those of the ALF, were given severe sentences of years in prison.
SHAC stated: “After more than 10 years of organising the SHAC campaign and having sent shockwaves throughout the entire vivisection industry, our opposition has evolved. The global animal abuse and legal landscapes have changed and so it’s time for us too, to change our tactics. With the onslaught of government repression against animal rights activists in the UK, it’s time to reassess our methods, obstacles and opponent’s weaknesses, to build up our solidarity network for activists and to start healing the affects [sic] of repression.”
Many SHAC supporters were also ALF supporters, and vice versa. Together the groups successfully kept animal rights in the public eye.
Image: SHAC poster
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