Organizations like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society often defend animal rights by staging protests or placing themselves between hunter and hunted. But groups like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) don't stop there. Their members vandalize things like animal testing facilities, meat packing plants, slaughterhouses and mink farms, causing millions of dollars in damage and disrupting operations.
The U.S.-based ALF originated in England, the offshoot of a 1960s group known as the Hunt Saboteurs Association formed to protest fox hunts. In 1972, some members started the Band of Mercy to undertake more violent actions such as firebombing. ALF migrated across the Atlantic in 1979, and in the last several years, has torched a McDonald's in Arizona, burned down a primate facility in New Mexico and raided a fur farm in Oregon, among other activities.
SHAC also started in the U.K., dedicated to protesting one of the largest contract animal testing facilities in Europe, Huntingdon Life Sciences. SHAC's comprehensive Web site outlines its mission and paints a disturbing picture of the testing lab that houses approximately 70,000 animals.
The organization now has activists working across Europe and in the United States. U.S. activists became involved when HLS moved its headquarters to New Jersey. These activists have gone to great lengths to stop what they label as atrocities at HLS. Not only do they target the facility itself, they also target the business partners of HLS. By closing off the facility's sources of money, the Web site states, SHAC hopes to eventually shut it down. The group maintains a list of the more than 100 companies it says it has forced to stop doing business with Huntingdon.
How do they do it? Unlike extreme animal and environmental activists in the United States, their counterparts in Europe do not shy away from physical violence. Members of animal rights groups in Europe injured several people with letter bombs in the 1990s and beat the president of HLS with clubs in 2001 [source: Anti-Defamation League].
Based on the recent fires in Seattle, it doesn't look as though eco-terror is losing any steam. As long as oil companies continue to drill, construction companies continue to build and loggers continue to log, these activists likely will stick around and continue to fight their war. You can find more information on eco-terror and animal rights groups on the next page.