Learn how you can help stop animal cruelty with basic steps in daily life. ALF – Animal Liberation Front – consists of small autonomous groups of people who carry out direct action (direct action is explained in the interview) according to the ALF guidelines. Activists work anonymously, either in small groups or individually, and do not have any centralized organization or coordination. ALF is a nonviolent campaign and carries out direct action against abuse in the form of rescuing and causing financial loss to animal exploiters.
The ALF’s short term aim is to save as many animals as possible and directly disrupt the practice of animal abuse. Their long-term aim is to end all animal cruelty and suffering by forcing animal abuse companies out of business.
We’re honored to share with you our written interview with Ann, who shares her insights, knowledge and efforts with ALF’s mission: “To help the world’s masses emotionally connect the animals they abuse for food, clothing, and product safety to the domestic companions they love”. This is such a powerful topic, and we would like to give our audience a basic understanding of ALF’s actions.
How and when did your personal adventure in animal activism begin?
There was no specific event that led me to become an animal activist. I learned about animal rights from my older sister who was a vegetarian solely out of compassion for animals. Even though we fought like sisters on most subjects I accepted her logic about animal rights. That logic is in a slideshow here.
Activists take many different paths to the accepting the animal rights philosophy. For some it is gradual and evolution. For others there is an epiphany. Musician Paul McCartney tells the story of looking a window with his wife Stella and seeing a sheep and it just dawned on them that the sheep had a life. Author Alice White (“The Color Purple”) was eating meat when she had her epiphany and she spat out the meat.
Do you operate worldwide?
Yes, in over 100 countries.
You take direct action to help animals – what does that mean exactly?
“Direct Action” has the reputation of dramatic zealotry, yet it is often quieter than this stereotype. If you’re working against hunger, direct action might be giving someone a meal. If you’re working against homelessness, it might be taking over an abandoned house and making it livable. If you want to end animal cruelty, it might be saving the life of an animal whose eyes you have been looking into — often with the feeling that that animal is looking to you to help them.
In what business sectors are animals abused and which are the biggest of these industries?
Estimates, in the approximate order of the amount of abuse in the only the United States:
1. Factory farming (including fur) – over 10 billion (plus 10 million fur animals)
2. Animal testing (medical, product testing, and education) – 100 million in US laboratories, in everything from burn and starvation experiments to weaponry testing and space research. Another 14 million plus are killed in product tests.
3. Blood sports – hunters kill more than 250 million animals per year
4. Animals used in entertainment.
You have a section where you shed light on Animals Used for Entertainment. Some families will not like the idea that they should not go to the zoo, circus or a dog/horse race. What’s wrong about it?
Most animals, like humans, have hard-wires desires to create and be with families, and do certain natural things. Being denied these opportunities makes them unhappy (even though they might adjust to captivity just as a human slave might). Each activity has its own examples. Here is a short two-minute example.
Do you have numbers regarding how many animals get killed every year in research labs?
Animal testing (medical, product testing, and education) – 100 million in US laboratories, in everything from burn and starvation experiments to weaponry testing and space research. Another 14 million plus are killed in product tests.
You enlighten people to become vegetarian and vegan on your website. Why should people stop eating meat or even stop drinking milk?
You will be healthier, you will not be responsible for the exploitation of vulnerable beings, and the planet will be healthier. A short video, “Why Vegan?” is here.
Would you describe an average life of a cow or a pig raised to end up displayed at the supermarket?
To many people, what you do and your activism might be scary. What type of personality joins a organization like yours?
The spectrum of direct actions, and the people who take them, can be divided roughly into four categories: personal actions, proselytizing, organizing, and civil disobedience. Consider first personal actions. Here are some of the personal actions you can take in support of AR:
- Learning — Educate yourself about the issues involved.
- Vegetarianism and Veganism — How to become one.
- Cruelty-Free Shopping — Avoid products involve testing on animals.
- Cruelty-Free Fashion — Avoid leather and fur.
- Investing with Conscience — Avoid companies that exploit animals.
- Animal-Friendly Habits — Avoid pesticides, detergents, etc.
- The Golden Rule — Apply it to all creatures and live by it.
- Proselytizing is the process of “spreading the word”.
Here are some of the ways that it can be done:
- Tell your family and friends about your beliefs.
- Write letters to lawmakers, newspapers, magazines, etc.
- Write books and articles.
- Create documentary films and videos.
- Perform leafletting and “tabling”.
- Give lectures at schools and other organizations.
- Speak at stockholders’ meetings.
- Join Animal Review Committees that oversee research on animals.
- Picket, boycott, demonstrate, and protest.
Organizing is a form of meta-proselytizing–helping others to spread the word. Here are some of the ways to do it:
- Join an AR-related organization.
- Contribute time and money to an AR-related organization.
- Found an AR organization.
- Get involved in politics or law and act directly for AR.
- The last category of action, civil disobedience, is the most contentious and the remaining questions in this section deal further with it. Some draw the line here; others do not. It is a personal decision. Here are some of the methods used to more forcefully assert the rights of animals:
- Sit-ins and occupations.
- Obstruction and harassment of people in their animal-exploitation activities (e.g., fox hunt sabotage). The idea is to make it more difficult and/or embarrassing for people to continue these activities.
- Spying and infiltration of animal-exploitation industries and organizations. The information and evidence gathered can be a powerful weapon for AR activists.
- Destruction of property related to exploitation and abuse of animals (laboratory equipment, meat and clothes in stores, etc.). The idea is to make it more costly and less profitable for these animal industries.
- Sabotage of the animal-exploitation industries (e.g., destruction of vehicles and buildings). The idea is to make the activities impossible.
Raids on premises associated with animal exploitation (to gather evidence, to sabotage, to liberate animals). It can be seen from the foregoing material that AR activism spans a wide range of activities that includes both actions that would be conventionally regarded as law-abiding and non-threatening, and actions that are unlawful and threatening to the animal-exploitation industries.
Most AR activism falls into the former category and, indeed, one can support these actions while condemning the latter category of actions. People who are thinking, with some trepidation, of going for the first time to a meeting of an AR group need have no fear of finding themselves involved with extremists, or of being coerced into extreme activism. They would find a group of exceedingly law-abiding computer programmers, teachers, artists, etc. (The extreme activists are essentially unorganized and cannot afford to meet in public groups due to the unwelcome attention of law-enforcement agencies.)
“One person can make all the difference in the world…For the first time in recorded human history, we have the fate of the whole planet in our hands.” –Chrissie Hynde (musician).
Examples of other actions, from writing to protesting, are here: – Get full list here.
ALF operates mostly in the underground and some of your actions are non-violent – but still, some are not legal. Why get activists arrested?
Men and women have demonstrated throughout history that laws can be immoral, and that we can be justified in breaking them. Those who object to law-breaking under all circumstances would have to condemn:
- The Tiananmen Square demonstrators.
- The Boston Tea Party participants.
- Mahatma Gandhi and his followers.
- World War II resistance fighters.
- The Polish Solidarity Movement.
- Vietnam War draft card burners.
- The list could be continued almost indefinitely.
Conversely, laws sometimes don’t reflect our moral beliefs. After World War II, the allies had to hastily write new laws to fully prosecute the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg. Dave Foreman points out that there is a distinction to be made between morality and the statutes of a government in power.
It could be argued that the principle we are talking about does not apply. Specifically, the law against destruction of property is not immoral, and we therefore should not break it. However, a related principle can be asserted. If a law is invoked to defend immoral practices, or to attempt to limit or interfere with our ability to fight an immoral situation, then justification might be claimed for breaking that law.
In the final analysis, this is a personal decision for each person to make in consultation with their own conscience.
“Certainly one of the highest duties of the citizen is a scrupulous obedience to the laws of the nation. But it is not the highest duty.” –Thomas Jefferson (3rd U.S. President)
“I say, break the law.” –Henry David Thoreau (essayist and poet)
As a citizen, how can I take action in daily life?
In addition to what was previously mentioned, here are some tips:
- Internet opinion polls–Expense: 5 minutes to read and vote. Gain: Our follow-up on the opinion polls that we thought were meaningful revealed the websites considered them ‘for fun’ to ‘attract web traffic’ and ‘not deemed scientific’. No course of action was changed. Your time is better spent with e-mail campaigns (below).
- Letter writing / e-mail campaigns–Expense: 10 minutes to cut, paste, hopefully modify (if you have time), print, and mail. Gain: Our follow-up shows that many industry leaders, judges, and politicians count each letter, frequently respond to the individual who sent the letter, and many of them change their course of action. Many admit to being unaware of the AR Activists’ perspective. Time is well spent if the issue is important to you.
- Answering questions from people who are seeking AR information. This is tricky. My first answer should be brief to evaluate the intent of the person and not to to overwhelm them. I have inadvertently overwhelmed people in my enthusiasm to share my knowledge. After I have answered their first question, what next? Now I judge whether they want info, or they want to argue (see 4, below). If they want to argue, I nod politely and save my breath for cooling my soup. And few people can make a lot of changes to their lives. When I have seen long-term change in folks, here is how the discussions started:
- Vegetarian/Vegan health–many people have a positive reaction to the facts in books like ‘Diet for a New America.’
- Hunting/Fishing–if you tell someone about the evils of factory farming and they still eat meat, logically it is hypocritical to be concerned about someone who hunts. At least hunters aren’t having someone else do their killing. Wait for them to ask.
- Entertainment–Zoos, circuses, rodeos, etc. Save this for when you learn they are attending such an event.
- Factory farming–share some info about beef, pork, and chicken. It might help them stick to their new veggie diet.
- Animal testing–it is surprising difficult to get folks to change their shopping habits, which include grabbing the same old products without examining the box. It sometimes helps to tell people they can save money and help animals by buying ‘generic’ brands. These are usually copies of the same product the major companies make.
- Debating with opponents of AR–This will frequently begin with someone asking for information (see 3, above). You might as well spend your time talking to yourself. In 15 years the only folks who approached me with an attitude and then actually listened and discussed issues, were folks who calmed down immediately when presented with a cool response. If they remain argumentative and don’t care about your first several answers, they won’t change. Even if one did, it is not a statistically reasonable way to allocate your time. Your knowledge of AR is a valuable resource. Don’t waste it.
- Demonstrations–In this age of the media sound byte, demonstrations that get news coverage further the awareness of the masses, who, for the most part, are not evil–just uninformed.
- Donations to AR organizations–There is clout in numbers. Support them, but be aware of organizations that consider animal welfare to mean protecting animals for hunters. Stay with the big orgs unless you’ve done your homework.
How can I join the efforts and mission of ALF? Who should I contact?
The ALF is a “decentralized organization” with “self-proclaimed” members who follow the credo/guidelines listed here. It has no official members and no official leaders. It is probably easier to think of the ALF as a philosophy in which the major tenet is that animals should not be “property” with which humans can do whatever they wish.
You may find animal rights groups by Googling “Animal rights” or “Vegan” and “Meetup” and “Your city”.
One thing you can do is help to eliminate the bottleneck in liberating animals (the bottleneck is finding good homes for them). We do our best, but sometimes we have to take them to no-kill animal shelters. Most no-kill animal shelters are full and short of funds. Volunteers do all that they can. You can directly help animals by donating either time or money to these shelters. There is a list of these shelters on our website. Shelter – List
We love the quote: “You’d never force your best friend to drink shampoo. So why buy from a company that would?” Can you name some companies to avoid, if we do care and want to take action?
This question can be answered best by visiting the following link, which will link you to shopping guides by BUAV, AAVS, Peta, and others. These organizations maintain the most current cruelty-free shopping guides.
AR deals with Animal Rights and ELF is the Earth Liberation Front. Do you all work/operate together?
No. ALF cells don’t even operate together.
www.animalliberationfront.com provides tremendous information about animal rights. Your AR Orgs section lists important links, one of which fits perfectly with a favorite topic of ours: The No-Kill movement. Is there anything in you’d like to share with us about this?
Our No-Kill Animals Shelters list is arguably the most important contribution of our website. In the last decade we have received thousands of emails from folks who had animals for whom they were desperate to find homes and for whom they were considering animal shelters. Most of them were unaware of the variation in policies of animal shelters. Our No-kill Animal Shelters list starts an important discussion with them.
Can you describe an experience that has particularly moved or inspired you?
Nothing compares to the joy one feels when an animal they have observed being abused is freed from torture.
What would you say is your personal goal?
Happiness. And the path to that goal is best stated in a quote by Helen Keller. “Many people have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
My “worthy purpose”, of course, is making lives better for any being in my power.
Do you have pets?
Yes, I have some rescued animal companions. A parrot is always trying to help me with my typing.
If you could give pet owners one piece of advice what would it be?
Most of them have read this, but it is worth repeating the 10 commandments for a pet owner:
1. My life is likely to last 10 to 15 years. Any separation from you will be very painful.
2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.
3. Place your trust in me–it is crucial for my well-being.
4. Don’t be angry with me for long, and don’t lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainment. I have only you.
5. Talk to me. Even if I don’t understand your words, I understand your voice when it’s speaking to me.
6. Be aware that however you treat me, I’ll never forget it.
7. Before you hit me, remember nature gave me weapons that I could easily injure you with, but I choose not to hurt you.
8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right food, I’ve been out in the sun too long, or my heart may be getting old and weak.
9. Take care of me when I grow old. You too will grow old.
10. Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say, “I can’t bear to watch it” or, “Let it happen in my absence.” Everything is easier for ME if you are there.
Which websites, books or movies would you recommend to PackPeople?
- A Bird Shall Carry the Voice – by Leigh Farris
- Aftershock – by Pattrice Jones
- All Creatures of Our God and King – by Teri Wilson
- An Eagle Named Freedom: My True Story of a Remarkable Friendship – by Jeff Guidry
- Animals and Cruelty and Law – by Noel Sweeney
- Animals and Why They Matter – by Mary Midgley
- Animal Factory – by David Kirby
- Animal Liberation – by Peter Singer
Get the full list of Animal Rights Literature here.
Spreading the word can help save lives! If you liked the interview please share it with your community by clicking the Facebook and Twitter icons at the bottom of this article or feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.