encouraged by other activists, but they can also self-radicalize
through the internet. Activist websites, blogs, social media
sites, and literature are full of propaganda intended to elicit an
emotional response. Personification is used to depict animals
as having human characteristics, emotions, and feelings. The
concept that animal rights and human rights are interconnected
is a common and repeated theme in animal rights literature.
Analogies are often made between the treatment of humans
in concentration camps during World War II and modern
slaughterhouses and research laboratories. Rhetoric, such
as memes, is used to demonize scientists as sadistic, blood
thirsty monsters torturing helpless animals for amusement.
Activists are encouraged to take action by whatever means
necessary to end the suffering of these animals. Those who
engage in direct action for the cause are glamorized as heroes
and those who are caught are treated as martyrs. Incarcerated
activists are labeled as “political prisoners” and activists
are encouraged to write to them in prison or make financial
contributions to them. Their crimes are heralded as a stand
against inequality and contributing to a movement that will
be historically remembered.
Radical activists looking for guidance will have no problem
finding manuals online that serve as how-to guides for committing criminal acts. Manuals such as “Arson-Around with
Auntie ALF,” “Black Cat Sabotage Handbook,” and “Setting
Fires with Electrical Timers—An Earth Liberation Front
Guide” are available for download on activist websites. These
documents explain in great detail how to build improvised
incendiary or explosive devices. Other documents instruct
activists about how to keep a code of silence and what to do
if the police knock on their door.
There are many comparisons that can be drawn between
the radicalization process of international terrorist networks
and animal rights extremists. Each movement uses the internet to recruit, radicalize, and train potential followers. Each
follows a leadership resistance model in which targets are
identified, but followers are encouraged to act independently,
based on general guidance. There are major distinctions, however, between their methodology and tactics.
Extremist groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF)
and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) are not organizations, but
are leadership resistance movements. Non-violent guidelines
include an edict that no life shall be harmed in the commission
Inside the Mind of the Animal Rights
Dressed in all black with masks covering their face, they cautiously approached the perimeter fence in the dark. A combination of anticipation and nervousness overcame them. They could see the object of their hate silhouetted
in the moonlight a short distance away. Inside the building in
front of them were hundreds of research animals.
They longed to forcibly enter the building and rescue the
animals, but they knew they were unlikely to be successful.
They used bolt cutters to make a hole in the fence large enough
to crawl through. Once inside the fence, one of them served as
a lookout, watching for movement. The other two approached
the box trucks parked adjacent to the building and placed milk
jugs full of fuel under the vehicles. They grew angry when they
thought about the fact these trucks had delivered countless animals to research laboratories where they would undergo painful
and horrible treatment before dying a painful death. They spray
painted the words ALF in block letters on the building before
setting the vehicles on fire and escaping.
The next day they sent an anonymous email to an activist
website describing their actions. They claimed to be part of
the Animal Liberation Front and that they burned the vehicles
to inflict economic damage to those who profit from the suffering of animals in research laboratories around the world.
They ended with an ominous warning they would return to
free the animals.
Understanding why anyone would jeopardize their future to
commit such acts involves an understanding of their motivation,
ideology, and mindset. Animal rights extremists are responsible
for approximately 350 criminal acts annually. The vast majority
are minor acts of vandalism, but a small number are serious
crimes like the one described.
Animal rights activists have a deep-rooted ideology that
animals are sentient beings deserving of legal rights. Their
core belief is animals should not be used for food, clothing,
entertainment, or medical research. They have an intense
perception of injustice and feel compelled to act in order to
correct it. While most use peaceful and lawful means to further the animal rights agenda, others are lured into a darker
path of extremism.
Activists who cross the line from lawful to unlawful activity
are radicalized over a period of time. Sometimes they are