The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a radical animal rights group which practices direct action on behalf of animals. The organization became especially controversial in the early 21st century, when it was classified as a domestic terrorist organization by both the United States and Great Britain. Animal Liberation Front actions have resulted in millions of dollars worth of damage to laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, and other facilities which handle animals in ways that the group finds unacceptable.
The roots of the Animal Liberation Front are actually quite old. In 1824, a group called the Bands of Mercy was founded in England. Members of the group wanted to put a stop to the practice of fox hunting, and they used direct action and sabotage to accomplish this goal. In the 1960s, the group was revived, and the aims of the group quickly expanded to include multiple forms of animal exploitation. By the 1970s, the Animal Liberation Front was active in multiple countries, claiming responsibility for a range of acts of sabotage.
Several things distinguish the Animal Liberation Front from other animal rights groups. The first is the organization, or lack thereof. The Animal Liberation Front has no official leaders, board of governors, or other officials. Anyone can undertake direct action on behalf of animals and label it an Animal Liberation Front action, and these actions are organized through covert cells in as many as 35 countries. Some activists run press offices to publicize actions by member cells, and the organization also has a website to disseminate information.
Because of the way in which it operates, many members of the Animal Liberation Front compare it to the Underground Railroad. They argue that the organization will be very difficult to eradicate because of its highly decentralized nature, and most governments appear to agree. According to the ALF, “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.” This concept mirrors the ideals of abolitionists, who argued that anyone who was opposed to slavery could help to end it.
The organization has several goals. The first is to inflict economic damage on individuals and companies who profit from the exploitation of animals. To accomplish this goal, the organization often orchestrates liberations of animals from labs, farms, and similar confinement facilities before destroying the facilities, frequently through arson. The Animal Liberation Front also exposes gruesome conditions for captive animals. Finally, the organization labels itself as a non-violent group, urging activists to avoid injury to all animals, including humans. So far, no one has been killed as a result of an ALF actions.