Two Thoughts on the Animal Liberation Front


Animals have claws; the animal liberation movement should too. And many animals, when cornered or threatened, won’t hesitate to scratch somebody’s fuckin eyes out if that is what is necessary to secure their freedom and safety. Activists speculate and pontificate about what course of action animals would take but when we look at what animals actually do, what we see is attack and that should be inspiring.

This is why I have always supported the efforts of the Animal Liberation Front as well as other entities that do not share the ALF’s commitment to nonviolence.

With that said, I share the following two thoughts concerning the ALF:

First, defenders of the ALF consistently point out its adherence to nonviolence and its remarkable success in avoiding physical harm to humans and other animals. It is said to be a near flawless track record. And yet, it is somewhat difficult to assess this claim. Activists acting under the banner of the ALF generally only claim responsibility for an action after it is completed. Activists can assess its success prior to sending out a communique claiming responsibility. Might activists who botched an action opt not to take responsibility (in this case, blame)? A flawless track record might inevitably result when one has the opportunity to claim the successes and not the failures. In fact, the flawless track record might be nothing but a matter of semantics given that the ALF Credo says:

Any group of people who are vegetarians or vegans and who carry out actions according to ALF guidelines have the right to regard themselves as part of the ALF.

and ALF guidelines include:

TO take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and non-human

It may be the case that poorly executed actions are not ALF actions purely as a matter of definition. If one failed to take “necessary precautions” then that person does not have a legitimate claim to the ALF name.

Second, support for the ALF and ALF-style actions cannot plausibly hinge on the success of any particular action or how well it is executed. It makes no sense to support a tactic provided only that it is always executed flawlessly and that mistakes are never made. To attach such a caveat is to essentially oppose the use of a given tactic.

If we would like to see a large number of actions carried out against those who harm, exploit, torture, and kill animals, then we must be open to the inevitability that mistakes will be made. Humans and nonhumans may be physically harmed. Even in instances when every consideration is taken, every safeguard is put in place things may not go well through no fault of those carrying out the action. We must also be open to the fact that some people will naturally possess a greater level of skill than others. One virtue of ALF actions is that they are accessible to a wide range of people, can be done individually or in small groups, and may be relatively inexpensive. In short, these tactics are not the exclusive province of experts.

Individual actions should be assessed but only for the purpose of making future actions more effective. When individuals are caught, the mistakes they made (i.e. how they got caught) should be assessed but only for the purpose of providing lessons to others who can then avoid repeating such mistakes.

If we have zero tolerance for risk, then we take such tactics off the table. I believe that would be a drastic mistake.


Letter to the Editor re: “Raids to Free Minks…”

Letter to the Editor re: “Raids to Free Minks Ups Ante on Animal Rights”
Submitted: October 17, 2013
News outlet: The New York Times

“It’s our livelihood. They’re trying to put us out of business,” was the defense offered by mink farmer Virginia Bonlander whose business was targeted in the recent surge of raids that have been carried out by animal rights activists [“Raids to Free Minks Ups Ante on Animal Rights,” Oct. 16].

Bonlander’s defense of killing animals is both curious and commonplace.

That something “is one’s livelihood”—that one financially profits from engaging in a particular activity—cannot be allowed exempt that activity from moral scrutiny.  If anything, being paid to harm others may exacerbate, rather than mitigate, the offense.   That one has built their life around harming others and does so as a means to support themselves is reprehensible in a way that is quite different from someone who may harm others in a less calculated manner.

Yet this defense is commonly advanced by people in industries where the raw material is living, breathing animals who are then violently transformed into consumer products.  The assumption that profit is a legitimate defense must be challenged.

Gary and Virginia Borlander Photo credit: Darren Hauck for The New York Times

Gary and Virginia Borlander
Photo credit: Darren Hauck for The New York Times