Animal Liberation Front

From Anarchy In Action
ALF logo

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is an international, non-hierarchical movement of underground, autonomous groups taking direct action to free nonhuman animals from exploitation. The ALF formed in England in 1976. ALF cells have sometimes identified themselves as anarchist, for instance signing their name with a circle around the A. The ALF has been a prime target of government repression, even though the movement has never injured or killed a single human being.[1] Wikipedia estimates that there are ALF cells active in more than 40 countries.[2]

The ALF follow these guidelines:

  • To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e., laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, etc., and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives, free from suffering.
  • To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.
  • To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors, by performing direct actions and liberations.
  • To take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and non-human.
  • Any group of people who are vegetarians or vegans and who carry out actions according to these guidelines have the right to regard themselves as part of the Animal Liberation Front.[3]

According to the ALF Primer, "The ALF is non-hierarchical in its structure, which allows for only those people involved directly in the action to control their own destiny."[4]

The FBI said in 2005 that the ALF, the Earth Liberation Front, and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty were the top domestic terrorism threats in the United States.[5]


In 1972, members of the Hunt Saboteurs Association in England formed the direct action group Band of Mercy, named after an animal rights group established in 1824. The twentieth-century iteration, led by Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman engaged in hunt sabotage and destroyed animal testing facilities. Lee and Goodman were arrested in 1974, and each served a year out of a three-year sentence, before being released on parole. In 1975, Lee formed a new group called the Animal Liberation Front.[6]

According to Ingrid Newkirk's Free the Animals, the first American ALF cell formed when a Maryland-based woman--whom Newkirk calls "Valarie," changing names and details to protect people's identities--went to England to take a two-week activist boot camp with Ronnie Lee. "Valarie" came back and organized an ALF cell, whose first action involved the rescue of thirty-four cats from a research lab at Howard University in December 1982.[7] The Washington Post reported, "A group calling itself the Animal Liberation Front staged a Christmas Day raid on the Howard University Medical School laboratory and made off with between two and three dozen cats used in experiments, according to an ALF spokeswoman who says she flew in from Florida for the event."[8]

Some scholars say the Ameican ALF had earlier origins. Dr. Steve Best notes:

The facts of how the ALF started in the US are somewhat sketchy. According to Freeman Wicklund and Kim Stallwood (see this volume), the first ALF action in the US happened in 1977, when activists released two dolphins from a research facility in Hawaii.23 Others identify the origin of the ALF in the raids that took place on March 14, 1979, at the New York University Medical Center, where activists disguised as lab workers liberated one cat, two dogs, and two guinea pigs.[9]

Operation Bite Back

In the 1990s, the ALF's Western Wildlife Unit, a cell that included the now well-known advocate Rod Coronado, launched a series of devastating attacks on the fur industry, in the process liberating minks, coyotes and mice. In May 1991, about 7 members of the ALF cell attacked the Oregon State University's Experimental Fur Animal Research Station, the United States' largest fur research facility. Three people entered through the laboratory's bathroom window and proceeded to pour out test tubes, smash laboratory equipment and flood research papers and files. Meanwhile, other members used bolt cutters to enter a mink feed barn, moved the mink cages out of the way, and left an incendiary device that destroyed the barn and the equipment inside it. The attack destroyed 70 years of research, and just six months later the facility permanently shut down. On June 15, the cell burned down the warehouse of the Northwest Fur Breeders' Cooperative, causing $500,000 to 750,000 in damage.[10]

Then, on August 21, in an action they called "The Night of Stars Falling," 7 cell members trashed the Washington State University Experimental Fur Farm, causing $50,000 in damage and freeing 7 coyotes, 6 mink and 10 mice. The group split into 3 teams. The first team crawled through ceiling crawl space to enter the office of researcher Joe Gorham, who was out of town receiving the Department of Agriculture's "Researcher of the Year" award. The team proceeded to smash Gorham's computer equipment and pour muriatic acid over all of his files. The second team cut their way into the mink barns and put the minks into a wire cage in order to release them later. Third, a cell member cut through the fences containing the coyotes. Coronado describes what happened next:

While most of the coyotes fled the area immediately, others could be heard in the distance, howling from the dark shadows of the wild as we had heard them before. Meanwhile, one coyote hung back attempting to sneak past the liberator to the last cage. The warrior then noticed the last caged coyote to be a young female who eyed the hesitant coyote with anticipation. As the liberator swung open the last cage, the two coyotes bolted off together into the darkness as stars shot across the sky in a magical brilliance. Tears soaked the liberator's face mask as they realized the love these last two coyotes had for one another, so strong that one refused to leave this hell until the other was also free.[11]

In late 1991 or early 1992, 3 cell members burned down the Malecky Mink Ranch and freed the minks inside. On February 28, 1992, the cell started a fire at Michigan State University's Anthony Hall, destroying 32 years of fur farming research and releasing 2 minks. On October 24, they freed 33 coyotes from a Department of Agriculture fur research facility and caused $150,000 in damage. The Talon Conspiracy, an animal liberationist website, presents a supportive but less romantic account of the action based on a journalistic book by Dean Kuipers: " In reality, the coyotes were highly domesticated and territorial. After being released many of them attacked each other, and required veterinary attention. One was shot, and another killed in the fighting. All survivors were recaptured, and the damage done to the research was minimal."[12]

Coronado was captured in 1994. He plead guilty to two charges, but he refused to testify against anyone else. He was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay $2.5 million in restitution to the "victims" of his actions.[13]


The Animal Liberation Press Office provides the following answer to the question "What gains has the ALF brought about?".

From dozens of raided mink farms that never re-opened, to the Oregon horse slaughterhouse that burned to the ground and then went out of business, to the vivisectors whose laboratories were shut down after their heinous experiments were exposed, the ALF has a long history of success. Hundreds of other businesses have incurred increased costs for security and insurance, making it that much more expensive to abuse animals, and making them perhaps use fewer animals and look for other, cheaper ways to do business. In the words of those who abuse animals:

  • Susan Paris, president of vivisection front group Americans For Medical Progress (AMP), admits the Animal Liberation Front has had a large impact on vivisectionists. She writes, “Because of terrorist acts by animal activists like Coronado, crucial research projects have been delayed or scrapped. More and more of the scarce dollars available to research are spent on heightened security and higher insurance rates. Promising young scientists are rejecting careers in research. Top-notch researchers are getting out of the field.”
  • The August 1993 Report to Congress on Animal Enterprise Terrorism describes the ALFs effectiveness as, “Where the direct, collateral, and indirect effects of incidents such as this are factored together, ALFs professed tactic of economic sabotage can be considered successful, and its objectives, at least towards the victimized facility, fulfilled.”[14]

Exploiters of non-human animals have been clear about the damage the ALF has done to their projects.

“Because of terrorist [sic] acts by animal activists,” says Susan Paris, president of the pro-vivisection group Americans for Medical Progress, “crucial research projects have been delayed or scrapped. More and more of the scarce dollars available to research are spent on heightened security and higher insurance rates. Promising young sci- entists are rejecting careers in research. Top-notch researchers are get- ting out of the field.” Similarly, a report to the United States Congress on “Animal Enterprise Terrorism” states: “Where the direct, collateral, and indirect effects of incidents are factored together, the ALF’s professed tactic of ‘economic sabotage’ can be considered successful, and its objectives, at least toward the victimized facility, fulfilled.”[15]


Walter Bond is serving 12 years for ALF arsons in Utah of a sheepskin factory, a leather factory, and a restaurant that served foie gras (a dish made from cruelly force-fed ducks or geese).[16]

  1. Rod Coronado, Memories of Freedom, 1990s, Will Potter, 'Eco-terrorism' and the Green Scare",
  2. "Animal Liberation Front," Wikipedia, The animal liberation website Bite Back has a timeline reporting direct actions in 52 countries from 2002 to 18 July 2017. Not all of these actions were claimed by the ALF. The countries are Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweeden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
  3. Animal Liberation Press Office, "History of the Animal Liberation Movement,"
  4. "ALF Primer" in "Excerpt from Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals", accessed 30 March 2017,
  5. "FBI surprise on top domestic terror threat," Associated Press, 19 May 2005, accessed 30 March 2017,
  6. Steven Best, "Introduction" in "Excerpt from Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals", accessed 30 March 2017,
  7. Ingrid Newkirk, free the animals: the amazing true story of the animal liberation front (New York: Lantern Books, 2000).
  8. Ken Ringle, "Cat Bulgury," Washington Post, 28 December 1982,
  9. Best, "Introduction" in "Excerpt from Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?"
  10. Coronado, Memories of Freedom. "Operation Bite Back: Oregon State University Raid", No Compromise,
  11. Coronado, Memories of Freedom.
  12. Coronado, Memories of Freedom. The Talon Conspiracy, Memories of Freedom,
  13. Coronado, Memories of Freedom.
  15. Steven Best, The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), 73.