“God save the Queen
the fascist regime
they made you a moron
a potential H-bomb.
Oh God save history
God save your mad parade
Oh Lord God have mercy
all crimes are paid.
When there’s no future
how can there be sin
we’re the flowers
in the dustbin
we’re the poison
in your human machine
we’re the future
you’re future.” — Sex Pistols
“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.” —Frederick Douglass
I have a deep, abiding, ethical concern with the suffering of animals. In the late 1980s, when I was a committed human rights activist, the animal rights struggle became my ultimate choice and existential meaning. The more I learned about the enormity of animal suffering, the more radical my positions became, shifting from animal welfare to animal rights to animal liberation, and finally to total liberation politics that articulates human, animal, and Earth liberation struggles as an inseparable unity that must be conceived of and fought for together.
In 1999, I decided to take a public and very controversial stand in support of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). This group emerged in England in 1976, and quickly spread throughout the world, such that it is now active in over three dozen countries. The ALF is the newest anti-slavery and abolitionist struggle on the planet; ALF principles are rooted in a rights framework that rejects any form of animal exploitation as unjust and renounces all welfarist attempts to regulate rather than to wreck institutions of oppression as unacceptable and antithetical to liberationist goals.
The ALF is an underground movement that operates in decentralized and autonomous cells unknown to the aboveground world and to all other cells as well. Typically working at night and always covered by black masks, setting right the wrong inscribed in the law, the ALF breaks into laboratories, compound, and cages of any kind to free animals from their captors and tormentors. The ALF uses tactics of economic sabotage or property destruction to undermine or eliminate the ability of individuals and industries to exploit animals for profit. Despite using tactics of sabotage and even arson, the ALF adheres to a nonviolent ethic that attacks the property of exploiters, but never the exploiters themselves.
After careful study of the ALF’s history, philosophy, ethics, and tactics, and after consideration of their goals and results, I concluded that such as approach is defensible, just, and highly effective, and thereby should play a vital and respected role in the animal rights movement. Governments, corporate exploiters, much of the media and public, and even many so-called “animal advocates” themselves characterize the ALF as violent terrorists, but I see them as freedom fighters and counter-terrorists. The ALF is part of a new peace and justice movement defending innocent beings under attack and fighting the real terrorists who torture and kill animals without justification.
Against a repressively established social “consensus,” I argue that ALF actions are defensible because (1) what happens to animals is wrong, and (2) legal channels to stop it are blocked by speciesism and corrupt governments that support the property rights of industries over the moral rights of animals.
I believe that no door, no law, no cop, no government, and no profit margin should stand in the way between an animal and its freedom. I wish that legal methods of animal liberation were adequate to free animals from their oppressors, but they are not. Governments are corrupt and speciesist and serve their corporate masters. Animals are too important a resource and commodity for corporations to voluntarily free them, and so animal liberation requires militant tactics such as raids to rescue animals and sabotage (property destruction) to weaken and eliminate oppressors.
Social change does not come about through moral persuasion or legislative initiatives, but rather through one kind of force and pressure or another. No human liberation movement has ever won its cause except by using threats, force, confrontational tactics, and violence, so why should it be any different for the animal liberation movement?
The New Civil War
“Many activists do not understand the revolutionary nature of this movement. We are fighting a major war, defending animals and our very planet from human greed and destruction.” —David Barbarash, former ALF Press Officer
Anyone who follows the animal liberation movement in England knows that the direct action element has become increasingly powerful since the 1970s. By abandoning often futile efforts to influence oppressors through feeble protests and appeals to government, and by taking the fight directly to the animal exploiters themselves, groups such as the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), SPEAK (originally named Stop Primate Experiments at Cambridge), and Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) have developed highly effective campaigns against all facets of the vivisection industry, a primary target of attack.
If you want to know what a possible future civil war over animal rights might look like, gaze no farther than England. In the last decade, for instance, pro-hunting forces have mounted massive demonstrations against bans on fox-hunting that were ultimately passed. In September 2004, pro-hunters stormed into central London where they clashed with animal activists, mixed it up with police, and broke into Parliament and disrupted a meeting in session. The struggles stem in part from a culture war whereby traditional rural values are attacked by modern urban values informed by an ethic of animal rights.