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Ecoterrorism: Extremism in the Animal Rights and Environmentalist Movements
Update: Animal Rights Extremists Target the University of California

During the past two decades, radical environmental and animal rights groups have claimed responsibility for hundreds of crimes and acts of terrorism, including arson, bombings, vandalism and harassment, causing more than $100 million in damage. While some activists have been captured, ecoterror cells - small and loosely affiliated - are extremely difficult to identify and most attacks remain unsolved. Although it has been overshadowed by Islamic terrorist threats since September 11, ecoterrorism remains one of the country's most active terrorist movements.

Origins: 1970s
Prominent Groups: Animal Liberation Front (ALF), Earth Liberation Front (ELF), Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC)
Influential Personalities: Craig Rosebraugh, Kevin Kjonaas, Rod Coronado, Robin Webb, Leslie James Pickering, Josh Harper, David Barbarash, Dave Foreman, Ronnie Lee
Aim: To end the exploitation of animals and the destruction of the environment, typically by causing damage to the operations of companies in related industries or terrorizing executives and employees of these and associated companies.
Media: No Compromise, Earth First! Journal, Green Anarchy, Bite Back Magazine, many Web sites
Influences: Mainstream animal and environmental welfare groups, anarchists
Criminal Activity: Arson, bombing, harassment, vandalism, animal release

Targeting Humans
Online Activity
Recent Arrests
Green Anarchy

In recent years, an increasing amount of terrorist activity in the United States has been carried out in the name of animal and environmental protection. Automobile dealerships, housing developments, forestry companies, corporate and university-based medical research laboratories, restaurants, fur farms and other industries are targeted across the country. Although no one has yet been injured in a domestic ecoterror attack, the increasingly violent nature of attacks suggests that someone will be hurt before long.

$50 Million Arson in San Diego, 2003
$50 Million Arson in San Diego, 2003

Since the 1970s, hundreds of groups in the United States have advocated for stricter legal protection for animals and the environment. Change has been incremental. Some activists on the fringes of these causes, frustrated by the pace of legislation, have become violent, creating an underground terrorist movement to combat companies and practices they consider abusive and immoral. During the past two decades, extreme animal rights and environmental activists, or ecoterrorists, have committed hundreds of arsons, bombings and acts of vandalism and harassment, causing more than $100 million in damage.

In recent years, fast-food restaurants have been firebombed and car dealerships and housing developments burned to the ground in the name of "ecology" and "animal rights." Increasingly, people that work for companies perceived as harming animals or destroying the environment are targeted as well.

Influenced to varying degrees by their English predecessors and by segments of the anarchist movement, ecoterrorists operate through autonomous cells, are unconstrained by geographic boundaries and are very difficult to infiltrate and stop. Unlike racial hate groups with established hierarchies and membership requirements, for example, an activist can become a member of the ecoterror movement simply by carrying out an illegal action on its behalf.

While post-September 11 discussions of terrorism tend to focus on Islamic threats, ecoterrorist attacks continue to occur around the country and pose significant problems for law enforcement officials. It is unlikely that this movement will disappear any time soon.

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The Animal Liberation Front

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is the nation's most active extreme animal rights movement. Composed of anonymous underground cells that oppose any form of animal experimentation and perceived mistreatment, it aims to rescue animals from "places of abuse" and to "inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals [sic]". ALF cells have claimed responsibility for hundreds of "direct actions," a euphemism for crimes that include freeing animals from their owners and property destruction.


ALF's origins trace back to a group of English activists in the late 1960s known as the Hunt Saboteurs Association. The Hunt Saboteurs disrupted fox hunts by blocking roads, protesting hunters with bull horns and confusing hunting dogs by spraying chemicals that eliminated the scent left by foxes. In 1972, according to the anonymously published ALF Primer, "after effectively ending a number of traditional hunting events across England, members of the Hunt Saboteurs decided more militant action was needed, and thus began the Band of Mercy."

Band of Mercy activists were willing to act more radically to protect animals. Two of its founding members, Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman, were jailed for firebombing a vivisection research center in England in 1974. Following the attack, Lee issued a statement saying that the firebombing was intended to "prevent the torture and murder of our animal brothers and sisters." Upon Lee's release from prison in 1976, the core followers of Band of Mercy re-formed as the Animal Liberation Front.1

While ALF took shape in England, several mainstream animal welfare groups in the U.S. emerged from the social movements of the 1960s to lobby for stricter laws protecting animals. A number of books addressing animal welfare issues also brought attention to the treatment of animals and helped shape a broader understanding of animal rights. Perhaps the most influential was Animal Liberation, written in 1975 by Australian philosopher Peter Singer. Although Singer did not advocate violence, he suggested that animals deserve the same rights as humans.


It is difficult to identify exactly when ALF first acted domestically; a very early incident in 1979 involved vandals breaking into the New York University Medical School and releasing five animals. From this modest start hundreds of so-called liberations followed throughout the country on a larger scale. In a 1993 report to congress from the Departments of Justice and Agriculture on the "effects of terrorism on enterprises which use animals," investigators called ALF the most significant "radical fringe" animal rights group and reported more than 313 incidents of break-ins, vandalism, arson and thefts committed in the name of animal rights between 1979 and 1993.

Rod Coronado
Rod Coronado

ALF's crimes during that period included a 1987 arson at a University of California-Davis veterinary laboratory, causing damages of $3.5 million, and a 1992 firebombing at an animal research laboratory at Michigan State University. Rod Coronado, a veteran animal rights advocate, was convicted for his role in the firebombing and served a three and a half year prison sentence. Coronado was previously active in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a Vancouver-based group founded to protect marine mammals through various direct actions, including sinking whaling ships.

Coronado's violent act and prison stint solidified his reputation within the movement as a hard-core activist, and after his release he became one of ALF's public representatives. He has lectured dozens of times around the country on behalf of ALF and other radical animal rights and environmentalist groups. In an interview with a Michigan State University newspaper, Coronado defended his past activity. "I wish I could do it again," he said. "I have absolutely no regrets, and I hope the same thing continues to happen at MSU and every other college campus that does animal research."


Although ALF has no official membership and operates under the "leaderless resistance" model of activism, several supporters - like Coronado - have volunteered to speak publicly for the movement. These representatives perform the essential tasks of publicizing communiqués from anonymous cells claiming responsibility for illegal actions and recruiting.

Before it established a press office in the U.S., ALF activities were frequently publicized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a Norfolk, Virginia-based animal rights organization whose controversial advertisement campaigns have generated substantial publicity since the group's founding in 1980. PETA has openly supported ALF: in 1995, the organization gave $45,200 to the legal defense of Rod Coronado, while co-founder Ingrid Newkirk applauds ALF's efforts in two of her books.

ALF began to handle its own publicity in the U.S. by the mid 1990s after activist Katie Fedor founded its North American press office in Osseo, Minnesota (a British office had been established in 1991). The office publicized the details of direct actions, which it received from anonymous cells via mail, fax and e-mail. In the summer of 1999, another well-known ALF supporter, David Barbarash, took over for Fedor and moved the office to Vancouver.

David Barbarash
David Barbarash
and Friend

Barbarash was an established figure on the extremist scene. He served four months in prison for releasing cats from a University of Alberta laboratory in 1992; in 1998, he and Canada-based activist Darren Thurston were charged in Vancouver with sending letters filled with razor blades to 22 hunting trip guides. The charges were later dropped because the prosecution did not want to jeopardize other investigations, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but the incident helped establish Barbarash's bona fides in the ALF subculture.

In a 2000 interview with the San Francisco-based magazine No Compromise, Barbarash characterized his role as providing an "aboveground network of support for the ALF." He maintained that his only contact with ALF cells was "one-way" and that ALF "is not a group or a club you can join, but a concept which is only realized when an action takes place under that name."

Under Barbarash's direction, the press office released a 46-page "Direct Action Report" for 2001, containing a list of "illegal direct actions for animal, as well as earth liberations." The report described 137 actions and listed businesses targeted during the year and statistics on liberations and property damage.

In August 2002, Canadian law enforcement officials seized video tapes and computer files from Barbarash's home as part of an investigation into ALF. Four months later, the veteran activist resigned, claiming that "my position is not necessary for the furtherance of animal liberation." Before leaving, however, he encouraged others "to organize and garner public support" for future ALF actions. The press office continues to publicize direct actions on its Web site, but the role of spokesperson remains vacant at present.

By 2002, several ecoterrorist groups in addition to ALF were active in the U.S. and the total number of direct actions had reached about 1,000, including more than 600 criminal acts since 1996. This rise in activity was matched by the growing sophistication and severity of the attacks.

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The Earth Liberation Front

By 2004, ALF's environmental counterpart, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), was setting new records for property damage. Modeled after ALF, ELF consists of "autonomous groups of people" who are "anonymous not only to the public but also to one another," according to its Web site. The movement aims to "inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment" and "to reveal and educate the public on the atrocities committed against the earth and all species that populate it." Acts of property destruction are considered by ELF to be non-violent because no human being or animals are targeted.


ELF evolved out of Earth First!, an ardent environmentalist group founded, in its own words, "in response to a lethargic, compromising, and increasingly corporate environmental community." Dave Foreman, a former lobbyist for the Wilderness Society, and several other activists influenced by more militant organizations, founded Earth First! around 1980.

The group combined environmental protection with a form of spirituality called "deep ecology," popularized by a Norwegian philosopher and mountain climber, Arne Naess. Members regarded their activities as not merely political but also spiritual. During the 1980s, Earth First! activists performed direct actions ranging from tree-sitting to tree spiking - hammering a long nail that can create shrapnel injuries when cut by logging tools such as a chainsaw.

The Monkey Wrench Guide

In his 1985 book Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching, Earth First! founder Foreman provided detailed instructions on how to perform various methods of sabotage - from disabling equipment to properly spiking a tree. The term "Monkeywrenching" was borrowed from Edward Abbey's 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which romanticized the efforts of four characters who destroy machinery and burn billboards across the southwest, and who unsuccessfully plan to blow up the Glen Canyon Dam. (Abbey, an outspoken critic of the development of public lands in the U.S., later contributed an introduction to Foreman's book.) In 1989, Foreman and three other members of Earth First! were arrested by the FBI on charges of conspiracy to sabotage nuclear facilities. Foreman pleaded guilty to reduced charges and did not serve any jail time. He left the group in 1990.

The methods of Earth First! proved too moderate for some of its members, and in 1992 a small group met in England to form the Earth Liberation Front. Today, Earth First! continues to sponsor gatherings but operates mainly through its publication, the Earth First! Journal, which publicizes and recruits for ELF and ALF (convicted activist Rod Coronado is a member of Earth First! in Arizona and has contributed writings to the Journal). Although Earth First! remains radical, ELF now attracts activists who prefer more violent direct action.


ELF first claimed sole responsibility for an attack in the U.S. in 1997, when activists burned down a Bureau of Land Management horse corral in Oregon (previous attacks had been claimed in conjunction with ALF). The group made national headlines the following year when it claimed responsibility for the arson of a ski resort in Vail, Colorado, causing $12 million in damages - the costliest act of ecoterrorism in American history at the time. The attack included seven separate fires, which destroyed three buildings and damaged four chairlifts. In its communiqué, ELF said, "putting profits ahead of Colorado's wildlife will not be tolerated….We will be back if this greedy corporation continues to trespass into wild and unroaded [sic] areas."

$12 Million Arson in Vail, 1998
$12 Million Arson in Vail, 1998

Since the Vail arson, hundreds of crimes have been committed in the name of environmental protection nationwide. The most damaging occurred on August 1, 2003, when arsonists burned down a housing complex under construction in San Diego, destroying a five-story building and 100-foot-high crane; losses were estimated at $50 million. A 12-foot banner reading "If you build it, we will burn it," along with the ELF acronym, was found at the scene. (Six weeks later, ELF set fire to three other homes under construction in the area.)

These arsons typified, in an especially destructive way, ELF's ongoing battle against "urban sprawl," which it views as a wasteful and unnecessary encroachment on natural habitats. Direct actions targeting urban sprawl have occurred in different parts of the country (sometimes in clusters that suggest copycat cells), including Long Island, New York; Chico, California; and locations in Michigan.

$50 Million Arson in San Diego, 2003
$50 Million Arson in San Diego, 2003

Car dealerships and sport utility vehicles are also common targets for ELF. On August 22, 2003, approximately 40 Hummers and SUVs were destroyed or damaged in a fire at a West Covina, California, dealership, causing about $2 million in damages. "Fat Lazy Americans" and "ELF" were among slogans painted on the vehicles. The movement has taken credit for vandalizing SUVs in dozens of other cities. At an auto dealership in Erie, Pennsylvania, for instance, jugs of gasoline were ignited under three vehicles, engulfing them and a nearby car in flames. ELF said the dealership was targeted "to remove the profit motive from the killing of the natural environment."

Craig Rosebraugh
Craig Rosebraugh
Craig Rosebraugh

ELF's ideological direction in recent years has been shaped by Portland area native Craig Rosebraugh. Rosebraugh became involved in the movement in the early 1990s as a member of a local animal rights group in Oregon. Also active in opposing the first Gulf war, Rosebraugh said he came to believe that "animal rights issues, environmental issues, social justice, are all related."

In 1996 he and another activist, Leslie James Pickering, formed the Liberation Collective in Portland, which linked ELF's struggle to other social justice problems - all caused, Rosebraugh said, "by our main ideological structure in the country, which we continue to operate under, and in my view that is capitalism." More than any other activist, Rosebraugh was able to infuse the ecoterror movement with a strong anti-capitalist and anti-government bent, which had the effect of broadening its potential targets as well as recruits.

Rosebraugh became the movement's spokesperson in late 1997 and would go on to handle ELF messages taking credit for acts of sabotage resulting in millions of dollars in damages. Additionally, it was not uncommon for him - and other spokespersons - to receive communiqués from both ELF and ALF; the two movements declared solidarity in 1993 and members who affiliate with either movement often carry out acts on behalf of both.

In 2000, Rosebraugh and Pickering established the North American Earth Liberation Front press office in Oregon. The office operated like ALF's, receiving and posting or otherwise distributing messages from cells and handling media inquiries. According to Pickering, who served as co-spokesperson, the press office is the "public face ideologically in support of the ELF and similar acts of economic sabotage." ELF's Web site was then launched to "educate both the general public and the media on the ELF and actions that the group has taken in defense of the earth" (ELF's Web site is currently registered to ALF activist Darren Thurston in Vancouver).

"In light of the events on September 11, my country has told me that I should not cooperate with terrorists. I therefore am refusing to cooperate with members of Congress who are some of the most extreme terrorists in history."

In April 2001 Rosebraugh's home was raided by agents from the FBI, ATF and Oregon State Police; he was also served with a subpoena relating to a fire that destroyed over 30 new SUVs at a car dealership in the Portland area. Although he was not charged in the investigation, the increased scrutiny may have led Rosebraugh and Pickering to resign their ELF positions in September 2001.

Later that year, Rosebraugh was subpoenaed by the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health to testify at a hearing on ecoterrorism in February 2002. During his testimony, Rosebraugh invoked the Fifth Amendment in response to all but a few questions. In a written explanation, he said that "in light of the events on September 11, my country has told me that I should not cooperate with terrorists. I therefore am refusing to cooperate with members of Congress who are some of the most extreme terrorists in history."

Arissa Web Site
Arissa Web Site

Although no longer ELF's official publicist, Rosebraugh remained influential in the movement and continued to give lectures and presentations at colleges and universities. On March 17, 2003, he issued a message addressing antiwar activists that was posted on a number of left-wing Web sites. Rosebraugh said that "the only possibility of stopping this current military action is to engage in strategies and tactics which severely disrupt the war machine, the U.S. economy, and the overall functioning of U.S. society." He recommended large scale urban riots and attacking financial and media centers, as well as U.S. military establishments.

On March 28, 2003, shortly after Rosebraugh issued this manifesto, five cars and a van at the Navy recruiting headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama, were spray-painted with anti-war slogans and a two-ton truck was set on fire. All the graffiti was signed "ELF." A few days after the attack, ELF issued a communiqué claiming responsibility for the incident, saying, "This is the first specifically anti-war action carried out by the ELF in North America."

The Logic of Political Violence

In April 2003, Rosebraugh and Pickering launched a new organization, Arissa, aimed at linking other social movements, especially the antiwar movement, to environmentalism. In addition to serving as a forum for Rosebraugh and Pickering's anti-war proclamations, Arissa sells their books on its Web Site. Titles include Rosebraugh's The Logic of Political Violence, which says that "revolution in the United States must be comprised of a variety of strategies" and that "it cannot be successful without the implementation of violence."

Rosebraugh's credibility was slightly undermined after he opened a natural food restaurant in Portland in January 2004 and fired workers who threatened to go on strike. Nevertheless, his influence in the movement remains high and ELF likely will continue to bundle other social concerns with its environmentalist mission. In a March 2004 television interview, Pickering underscored this ideological expansion: "Violence is a necessary element of an oppressive struggle…to overthrow an oppressive government…[ELF is] only part of a larger building revolutionary movement that won't stop until it has a successful overthrow of this country."

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Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty

In 1998, the BBC broadcast a graphic documentary alleging mistreatment of animals by Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a British-based research firm. In response, outraged animal rights activists in Britain began to pressure financial institutions associated with HLS to drop their support of the company and thereby force HLS to discontinue using animals in its tests. The campaign, which borrowed from the ideology and tactics of ALF and ELF, named itself Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). SHAC quickly become a transatlantic cause among radical animal rights activists, with chapters in Germany, Italy, Portugal and the United States. To date, its activists have claimed responsibility for several bombings and dozens of acts of vandalism and harassment in both the U.S. and Europe.


Activists in the U.S. became involved with SHAC after HLS was sold to Life Sciences Inc., a New Jersey-based holding company, and its headquarters moved to New Jersey. Stephens Inc., an investment company based in Little Rock, Arkansas, bought HLS's bank loan and became its senior lender. In response to Stephens' purchase, SHAC started a Web site called StephensKills that was dedicated to informing activists "of the cruelty that Stephens Inc. invests in as shareholders" in HLS. Several months later, activists traveled to Little Rock and staged a protest against Stephens that resulted in 26 arrests. In the following months, the company's employees were harassed and its e-mail and faxes jammed. In 2002, Stephens sold its investment in HLS at a loss, while denying that pressure from SHAC influenced its decision.

Kevin Kjonaas
Kevin Kjonaas & Friend

By this time Kevin Kjonaas had become SHAC's spokesperson in the U.S. Kjonaas had been introduced to animal rights while studying political science at the University of Minnesota and he briefly served as an ALF spokesman when, in 1999, activists liberated 166 animals from the university and damaged and vandalized equipment, causing $700,000 of damage.

In May 1999, as part of a federal investigation into the crime, FBI agents searched Kjonaas's apartment, and the U.S. Attorney in Minneapolis brought him before a grand jury. To avoid appearing at a second grand jury, he subsequently went to England and became active with SHAC there. Returning two years later, he established SHAC's American headquarters - first in Philadelphia, then in New Brunswick, New Jersey, closer to HLS offices. He has been the group's public face since, despite a 2003 raid of his home by the FBI, and he has organized several anti-HLS demonstrations and appeared at other animal welfare conferences. In 2004, Kjonaas was arrested on various charges relating to his activity with SHAC, but he continues to appear at various animal rights events. See "Recent Arrests" below.

Campaigns: From Marsh to Chiron

After the Stephens campaign, SHAC began targeting other U.S. companies that did business with HLS. "Rather than protesting [HLS] itself," the group said on its Web site, "the SHAC campaign targets secondary targets - those companies that HLS needs so desperately to operate, but that don't need HLS or the pressure that comes with doing business with them."

SHAC next took aim at Marsh Inc., the company that insured HLS at the time. In February 2002, organizers sent an e-mail to the group's supporters noting that British activists had aggressively targeted Marsh. "Let's show them that the US is no different and let Marsh know that…we are about to raise the premium on pain," they continued. The e-mail included a list of Marsh offices, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail and home addresses of employees. SHAC posted to its Web site maps with the locations of Marsh's 60 domestic offices and a statement announcing that by "hitting" Marsh the group hoped to "attack HLS in a way they could never have predicted nor defend themselves against."

SHAC soon began targeting Marsh offices and employees. One executive received a letter saying, "You have been targeted for terrorist attack." The home of another executive was doused with red paint. "Puppy Killer" and "We'll Be Back" were painted on another's home. In April 2002, the address and telephone number of a Marsh employee in Boston were posted online with a note that said, "Let [X] know that it does not end until Marsh USA severs its ties with HLS." A dozen activists protested at [X's] home, chanting through a megaphone: "what comes around goes around…burn his house to the ground." A communiqué on SHAC's Web site referred to [X], his wife and his 2-year-old son as "scum." Twelve protesters were arrested (39 charges against them, including extortion, stalking, threatening and conspiracy, were dismissed in 2004).

In July 2002, activists released smoke bombs in two Seattle high-rises that housed Marsh offices, forcing hundreds of office workers into the streets.

At the end of the year, Marsh announced that it would no longer insure HLS. A victory statement on the SHAC site credited "those who smashed windows" as well as "those who held vocal protests outside Marsh offices and homes of executives."

"No lawsuit, private investigator, or criminal prosecution prevented this victory," said an activist quoted in the release. "Until HLS is closed we will not apologize, we will not compromise, and we will not relent."

Several other companies have stopped doing business with HLS after enduring sustained pressure by SHAC activists, including Citibank, Merrill Lynch, HSBC and Deloitte & Touche. The group's success seems to have emboldened its members, which has led to an increasing level of violence and threats.

Protest at a Chiron Employee's Home
Protest at a Chiron Employee's Home

SHAC's campaign against the biotechnology company Chiron demonstrates this heightened militancy. Activists began protesting at the homes of the company's employees in April 2003. On June 11, 2003, SHAC posted an anonymous message on its Web site containing information allegedly provided by a Chiron employee. The message listed the names and social security numbers of company staff, as well as information on "how to bypass security at a Chiron office." Addressing Chiron, the message said, "Send a fax to SHAC saying you will never use HLS again, and you can avoid paying for lawyers, security, and broken windows."

Two months later, activists calling themselves the "Animal Liberation Brigade" and "Revolutionary Cells" took responsibility for setting off two pipe bombs at the Chiron office in Emeryville, California. The bombs caused relatively minor damage, but a communiqué posted to one of SHAC's Web sites stated, "You might be able to protect your buildings, but can you protect the homes of every employee?"

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Ecoterror and Violence: Targeting Humans

In September 2003, the "Animal Liberation Brigade" and "Revolutionary Cells" took responsibility for another bombing, this time at the offices of Shaklee Inc. in Pleasanton, California. Shaklee was targeted because its parent company, Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical, does business with HLS (ironically, Shaklee is listed as a "Caring Consumer" on PETA's Web site). In December 2003, the FBI announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of fugitive Daniel Andreas San Diego, a 25 year-old Sonoma man who is the prime suspect in the Chiron and Shaklee bombings.

An anonymous e-mail claiming responsibility for the incident said that activists had used a 10-pound ammonium nitrate bomb "strapped with nails." Although the building sustained minimal damage, the e-mail warned that "we will now be doubling the size of every device we make" and that "customers and their families are considered legitimate targets."

"You never know when your house, your car even, might go boom….Or maybe it will be a shot in the dark."

"We gave all the customers the chance, the choice, to withdraw their business from HLS," the e-mail said. "Now you all will have to reap what you have sown….You never know when your house, your car even, might go boom….Or maybe it will be a shot in the dark."

Threats of violence like these have become a troubling trend in the ecoterror movement. Although no one has yet been injured in a domestic attack, the language of movement activists suggests that harming those perceived as responsible for animal or environmental abuse may be seen as justifiable.

In England, ecoterrorists have already committed several acts of violence. These include:

  • During the 1990s, offshoots of ALF like the "Justice Department" and the "Animal Rights Militia" injured several people using letter-bombs.

  • In 1998, the "Animal Rights Militia" threatened to kill 10 scientists if Barry Horne, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for waging a 1994 firebombing campaign that caused £3 million in damage to stores in England, died while on a hunger strike. Horne eventually discontinued the strike after 68 days. In November 2001, he died of liver failure in prison at the age of 49.

  • In a 1999 attack, a British reporter who had infiltrated ALF the year before with a hidden camera - capturing footage of ALF UK spokesperson Robin Webb supplying a bomb-making manual and suggesting a target to activists - was abducted by a number of men. They branded the letters ALF on his back.

  • In February, 2001, SHAC activist David Blenkinsop and two other masked assailants severely beat HLS's managing director Brian Cass with bats in England; a passer-by who interceded was sprayed in the face with tear gas. Kevin Kjonaas responded to the incident by saying, "I don't shed any tears for Brian Cass. He is responsible for 500 animals agonizing and dying every day at Huntingdon."
In the U.S., threats of physical violence against humans have not yet been realized, though they increasingly accompany radical activism:

  • In an intended act of violence in 1999, 80 university researchers received threatening letters booby-trapped with razor blades. One of the letters, sent to a Harvard researcher, said, "You have until autumn 2000 to release all your primate captives and get out of the vivisection industry. If you do not heed our warning, your violence will be turned back upon you." The "Justice Department" claimed responsibility for the mailing.

  • In 2002, after ELF claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a U.S. Forest Service research facility in Irvine, Pennsylvania (causing more than $700,000 in damage), it issued a communiqué suggesting a willingness to take action:

    While innocent life will never be harmed in any action we undertake, where it is necessary, we will no longer hesitate to pick up the gun to implement justice, and provide the needed protection for our planet that decades of legal battles, pleading, protest, and economic sabotage have failed so drastically to achieve.

  • In July 2004, Jerry Vlasak, a forty-six-year-old heart surgeon from Los Angeles, was banned from entering Britain to attend a conference held by SHAC-UK and SPEAK, an anti-vivisection group, for remarks he made to an audience at an animal rights conference in Los Angles in 2003. Vlasak said that the assassination of scientists working in biomedical research would save millions of animals' lives. "I think violence is part of the struggle against oppression. If something bad happens to these people [animal researchers], it will discourage others. It is inevitable that violence will be used in the struggle and that it will be effective."

    Vlasak, who is a member of the Animal Defense League, a radical animal rights group that carries out various direct actions, including home demonstrations, also reportedly said, "I don't think you'd have to kill too many. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives." Although he was not allowed to attend the conference, Vlasak addressed the gathering via video link.
Given the loose structure of ecoterrorist groups, there is little to restrain an anonymous cell, or activist, from committing an act of physical violence against another person.

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Ecoterrorism and the Internet

In February 2001, two teenagers pleaded guilty to burning down housing under construction on Long Island, New York. One of the teenagers, Matthew Rammelkamp, testified that he "obtained and received information from the ELF Web site and used that information in furtherance of that conspiracy. I and others then reported, by press release, those acts."

Rammelkamp's testimony demonstrates the link between the increasing levels of ecoterrorism in recent years and the growth of the Internet. Electronic message boards, list services and chat rooms link virtual communities of like-minded ecoterrorists regardless of location. Dozens of ecoterror-related Web sites supply information on how to make bombs and implement attacks, and also offer ideological support and motivation. Activist cells report their actions to these sites, and news of these acts circulates widely. Some of the sites also provide activists with encryption keys so that e-mails cannot be traced.

SHAC online

No ecoterrorist group has used the Internet more effectively than SHAC, which provides activists with specific targets - HLS investors or "puppy killers" (a person or company associated with HLS whom SHAC singles out for targeting). Along with names and addresses, the group has posted spouses' names, social security numbers and bank account information.

Once the information is relayed electronically, SHAC activists protest outside the homes of targeted employees. In May 2003, for example, Los Angeles protestors gathered at 3:00 a.m. in the neighborhood of a manager of a company that sold software to HLS; the group yelled through bullhorns, set off sirens and leafleted the neighborhood. Afterward, on its Web site, SHAC warned "we'll be back" and "we know where you live, we know where you work, and we'll make your life hell until you pull out of HLS."

The bombings against Chiron and Shaklee at the end of 2003 coincided with the launching of a new SHAC site providing a list of companies tied to HLS that can be sorted by company or state. SHAC's main site also has a "targets" section, which the group hopes will inspire visitors "to get out and smash HLS in any way you can - no matter where you are." Another SHAC site offers tips on how to gather and leak personal information about customers of HLS.

Online Guides and Information
ALF's Arson Guide

Publications like the ALF Primer provide operational instructions and advice and are available for download on several Web sites. The Primer advises activists, for instance, that if "you are using tools such as crowbars or bolt cutters (this is mostly for liberations), sharpen or file them after every action, since slight markings on the tool can leave traceable markings on what is opened." The Primer also offers instructions on gluing locks; damaging vehicles, telephone lines and security cameras; conducting surveillance; arson; and creating timers for incendiary devices.

Another manual, ARSON-Around with Auntie ALF, provides step-by-step instructions and diagrams for preparing various igniters and incendiary devices, as well as home-made napalm. "Arson is not always used by ALF in the course of an action, but when it is, it can be devastatingly effective," the guide notes.

Devices described in ARSON-Around have been used in a number of actual attacks. In one instance, the destruction of an Oregon slaughterhouse in 1997, an ALF communiqué taking responsibility described how activists drilled holes in the walls, poured in 35 gallons of homemade napalm and then set three electrically timed incendiary devices to "halt what countless protests and letter-writing campaigns could never stop."

A guide published by ELF and posted on its Web site, Setting Fires With Electrical Timers: An Earth Liberation Front Guide, claims that "nothing on the following pages is beyond the talent of any activist." While allowing sympathetic groups and bookstores to copy and distribute the manual, the book's authors warn that public officials are "expressly forbidden" to do so on pain of "prosecution or retribution. "

Another guide available online is The Final Nail: Destroying the Fur Industry - A Guided Tour: it lists addresses for fur farms, which are common targets. In August 2003, for instance, ALF activists released approximately 10,000 mink from their pens on a farm in Sultan, Washington. An ALF communiqué claiming credit for the incident, which caused an estimated $500,000 in damage, warned that "all institutions of animal exploitation - regardless of any attempts to conceal their bloody operations - will be located and the animals liberated." The mink release was the area's third in three years.

ALF and ELF propaganda is also circulated on the Frontline Information Service (FIS), an e-mail-based initiative created in 1994 that offers an "uncensored clearing house for information and news about animal liberation activities and activists." In September 2003, it was renamed Direct Action Frontline Information Service to reflect the "wide-range of actions that we support through publishing information on it." Posts increasingly included anti-capitalist and anti-war themes.

ALF Targets McDonalds

The cover of ARSON-Around with Auntie ALF includes a cartoon of a McDonald's burnt to the ground. It is no surprise that McDonald's has been one of ALF's main targets. For example, on September 8, 2001, an arson attack against a McDonald's in Tucson caused $500,000 in damages. In a statement released by ALF and ELF claiming credit for the blaze, the groups said the fire was meant as a warning to corporations worldwide.

In another incident involving McDonald's and incendiary devices on March 3, 2003, two explosives designed to spread fire quickly once ignited were found at a McDonald's in Chico, California. The phrases "meat is murder" and "species equality" were spray-painted in red, as was "Animal Liberation Front." A note connecting ALF to the crime was found in a nearby phone booth. Although the two incendiary devices failed to ignite, a week later a different McDonald's in Chico was damaged by another device. "Liberation" and "ALF" were also spray-painted on the walls.

McDonald's Arson in Tucson - 2001
McDonald's Arson in Tucson - 2001

Prisoner Support
Jeff 'Free' Luers in Oregon State Prison
Jeff 'Free' Luers in Oregon State Prison

The Internet also helps eco-activists support associates imprisoned for animal or environmental direct actions. Earth Liberation Prisoners (ELP), which produces the online newsletter The Spirit of Freedom, provides information about convicts (described as "political prisoners") and attempts to mobilize support and aid for them. "Make no mistake," ELP warns its followers, "a war is being waged on the Earth and all its creatures…Failure to support our prisoners is tantamount to sanctioning repression by the state."

Jeffrey "Free" Luers and Craig "Critter" Marshall, perhaps the two most well-known ecoterrorists in jail, are among those listed by ELP as political prisoners. The men were sentenced to 22 and 5 ½ years, respectively, for their role in a 2000 arson attack that destroyed 36 SUVs in Eugene, Oregon. Since their sentencing, many from the environmentalist, animal rights and anarchist movements have solicited financial support for them, created Web sites to generate publicity and organized concerts on their behalf to raise both awareness and funds.

Craig 'Critter' Marshall
Craig 'Critter' Marshall

Green Anarchy, a Eugene, Oregon-based newspaper also includes a list of "prisoners of war" organized by movement (anarchist, anti-imperialist, animal liberation, etc.) and prisoner contact information. The Earth First! Journal has a political prisoners section that provides contact information for anarchists, "ecological resistance," anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist convicts.

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Recent Arrests
Because they often operate anonymously in small cells, ecoterrorists have been difficult to apprehend. However, during the past two years law enforcement authorities have made a number of significant arrests and several ecoterrorists have been charged for their criminal activity and sentenced to prison terms.

  • March 2005: Peter Daniel Young, an animal rights activist wanted for allegedly releasing thousand of animals from Wisconsin fur farms in 1997, was arrested in California. Young, 27, had been a fugitive for over seven years when he was arrested in San Jose for shoplifting at a Starbucks. Authorities say Young broke into three Wisconsin fur farms, releasing thousands of animals and causing more than $200,000 in damages. The Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the releases.

  • March 2005: Jeremiah Colcleasure, 24, Eva Rose Holland, 25, and Lili Marie Holland, 20, all from Newcastle, California, were arrested on conspiracy charges related to an attempted firebombing at a housing development in Lincoln for which the Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility. Eva Holland was also charged with assisting a similar attempt in Auburn.

  • March 2005: Justus A. Ireland was sentenced to seven years in federal prison. He earlier pleaded guilty to starting a fire at a lumberyard in West Jordan, Utah, in June 2004. The arson caused $1.5 million in damage, destroying a building and some forklifts. Ireland sent a fax to news media claiming responsibility on behalf of the Earth Liberation Front.

  • March 2005: Jason Hall was charged with a misdemeanor for his alleged role in setting fires last year at Brigham Young University's Ellsworth Farm that burned two tractors and more than 3,000 pounds of cardboard. He is accused by federal prosecutors of aiding and abetting animal enterprise terrorism. Two other men, Harrison David Burrows and Joshua Demmitt, are already serving sentences of 2 1/2 years for their part in the fires, which were claimed on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front.

  • February 2005: Christopher McIntosh, a 22-year-old New Jersey man, was charged in U.S. District Court with setting a fire on the roof of a McDonald's near the Space Needle in Seattle in January 2003. The FBI apprehended McIntosh after identifying his fingerprints on a spray-paint can left at the scene. McIntosh also allegedly left a message on a Seattle arson hot-line, saying, "There was an ELF ALF hit at McDonald's across from the Space Needle."

  • February 2005: Twenty-one-year-old Ryan Daniel Lewis, of Newcastle, California, was arrested on arson-related charges for his alleged role in planting five incendiary devices at an office building under construction in Auburn. All five devices failed to ignite. Lewis admitted transporting "components of the incendiary devices knowing that they would be used to commit arson," according to the criminal complaint. ELF claimed responsibility for the attempted arson in Auburn, as well as in Lincoln, in a letter sent to several area newspapers. Lewis also faces charges in the Lincoln case and in an arson at a Sutter Creek apartment complex on February 7 that caused $50,000 in damages.

  • January 2005: Harrison David Burrows was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for his role in an arson at Ellsworth Farms, an animal husbandry building on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Burrows, 18, pleaded guilty to destruction of property by fire. Burrows and co-defendant Joshua Stephen Demmitt, who earlier pleaded guilty to the same charge and received the same sentence, admitted setting the July 2004 fire on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front.

  • November 2004: Rod Coronado was indicted in Arizona on a felony charge of conspiracy to impede or injure an officer. Coronado, a longtime activist and spokesperson for extreme environmentalist movements, attempted to disrupt an effort by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to capture and kill mountain lions in Sabino Canyon near Tucson in March. Matthew Crozier, who like Coronado is affiliated with the ardent environmentalist group Earth First!, faces the same felony and misdemeanors charges.

  • November 2004: California graduate student William Jensen Cottrell, whose vandalism attacks on car dealerships caused more than $2 million of damage in 2003, was found guilty of arson and related crimes in a Los Angeles court. A jury convicted Cottrell, 24, on eight of nine federal counts in connection with the attacks, acquitting him of the most serious charge - attempting to use a destructive device in a crime of violence. Cottrell damaged approximately 40 Hummers and SUVs at three Southern California dealerships. Cottrell admitted to spray-painting Earth Liberation Front slogans on SUVs, but said he was unaware that two un-indicted co-conspirators, Tyler Johnson and Michie Oe, intended to throw Molotov cocktails.
    Torched Hummer at West Covina, CA, Dealership
    Torched Hummer at West Covina, CA, Dealership

  • May 2004: Federal agents in New York, New Jersey, California and Washington arrested seven people at their homes in connection with their SHAC activities. Spokesperson Kevin Kjonaas was apprehended in Pinole, California, as were Lauren Gazzola, whom the indictment identified as SHAC's campaign coordinator, and Jacob Conroy. Darius Fullmer and John McGee were arrested in New Jersey. Andrew Stepanian, a member of the Animal Defense League, an animal rights group that works with SHAC, was arrested at his Long Island, New York, home. In Seattle, Joshua Harper, a self-described anarchist and SHAC activist, was arrested as well. The indictment against the so-called "SHAC 7" alleges that the defendants encouraged harassment and intimidation of HLS employees and tried to force the company out of business through acts of vandalism, stalking and computer hacking as well as e-mail blitzes, telephone calls and faxes. The indictment further charged that SHAC targeted employees and shareholders, as well as companies that provided services to HLS, by posting personal information on its Web sites and encouraging followers to "operate outside the confines of the legal system."

    Michael J Scarpitti
    Michael J Scarpitti

  • March 2004: Michael J. Scarpitti, (a.k.a. Tre Arrow), who had been a fugitive on the FBI's most-wanted list for more than 19 months, was arrested in Canada after allegedly trying to steal bolt cutters from a home improvement store in Vancouver. An FBI warrant for Scarpitti's arrest had been issued in August 2002 after he and three others were charged in a June 2001 logging-truck arson. Scarpitti, 30, is also suspected of being involved in an April 2001 arson of three Mack trucks belonging to a Portland mining company.

  • January 2004: Three former students from Douglas S. Freeman High School in Henrico County, Virginia, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to destroy vehicles and property used in interstate commerce. John B. Wade, 19, was sentenced to three years in prison and Aaron Labe Linas, 19, was sentenced to 3 ½ years for vandalizing and damaging new homes, SUVs, construction equipment and fast-food restaurants in Richmond. Linas, who was active in his school's Friends of the Earth club, reportedly learned of ELF through the Internet. A third defendant, Adam Virden Blackwell, 20, was expected to receive a similar federal prison term.

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Green Anarchy

Many eco-activists affiliate themselves with a brand of anarchism that opposes modernization and its effects on the natural environment. Some call themselves primitivists, or green anarchists, and contend that humans were better off thousands of years ago, before the advent of farming. Based on an ideology devised by John Zerzan and centered in the Eugene, Oregon, area, primitivism "views technology and civilization as an unnecessary evil and believes humanity would be much happier and healthier outside the modern industrial world," according to the Eugene-based radical publication Green Anarchy.

Green Anarchy #8
Green Anarchy #8

Various anarchist publications and Web sites articulate the movement's ideology. For example, Green Anarchy provides ideological support for anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian groups, as well as for the animal and earth liberation movements. A letter written by the imprisoned activist Craig "Critter" Marshall, published in Green Anarchy, illustrates the connection: "Only by hitting corporations and government establishments where they 'feel it' will they ever collapse and take this 'whole stinking order' with them." Marshall continues: "when someone picks up a bomb, instead of a pen, is when my spirits really soar."

In 2002, activists joined forces for the Green Anarchy Tour, which traveled the country in "an attempt to bridge the gap between the punk movement, the revolutionary anarchist movement, the ecological movement, and the prisoners of war that have been incarcerated for their involvement in the struggles listed above." More specifically, the tour aimed to raise awareness for the movement and to raise money for convicted ecoterrorists. According to the tour's Web site, proceeds were intended to help "West Coast anarchist and Earth Liberation Front prisoners" like Jeffrey "Free" Luers and Craig "Critter" Marshall.

A similar tour was scheduled to travel across the country in the summer of 2004. The "Total Liberation Tour," which promoted a radical social agenda and sought to gather hardcore bands and speakers representing radical animal rights and environmental groups, was scheduled to make stops in nine cities throughout the U.S. The tour was a failure, however, and the only stops that received any notable media attention were Syracuse, New York and Salt Lake City, Utah.

The tour was so disappointing that the Web site promoting it stated, "The days of Vegan Straight Edge, and hardcore music as a vibrant political force, have long since passed." The post had a militant tone and recommended that activists familiarize themselves "with modern weapons and weapon-craft, as well as combat tactics on par with or superior to those of our enemies. Every one who wishes to participate in this struggle should obtain a high-quality combat handgun and rifle of common model and caliber." The site also links to Web sites selling firearms.

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Terrorism in the name of animal and environmental protection has steadily increased during the past decade in the United States. Automobile dealerships, forestry companies, corporate and university-based medical research laboratories, restaurants, medical-supply firms, fur farms and other industries continue to be targeted. Although no one has yet been injured in a domestic ecoterror attack, the increasingly violent nature of attacks suggests that someone will be hurt before long.

In a statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2004, John E. Lewis of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division noted the "upswing in violent rhetoric and tactics" among ecoterrorists and said that in recent years ALF and ELF "have become the most active criminal extremist elements in the United States."

Despite a few successes by law enforcement in capturing those responsible for ecoterror-related crimes, most acts remain unsolved. Ecoterror cells remain extremely difficult to identify and infiltrate, and it is unlikely that this rapidly growing movement will disappear soon.

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1 Although activists calling themselves Band of Mercy claimed responsibility for a couple of "liberations" in Maryland in the 1980s, it took a few years before the movement fully emerged in the U.S. using the name ALF.   back to text

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