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Context of '1995: Animal Rights Activist Jailed for Arson, Firebombing'

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A number of small, loosely affiliated “ecoterrorist” groups begin to form, mostly in California and West Coast areas of the United States, though their operations are evident throughout the nation. Some of the more prominent groups include: the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976); Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997); and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC—see 1998). Generally, the groups’ ideology embraces the concept of using property damage to hinder or stop the exploitation of animals and the destruction of the environment. These organizations usually target the operations of companies in related industries, or sometimes terrorize executives and employees of these firms. The companies usually targeted include automobile dealerships, housing developments, forestry companies, corporate and university-based medical research laboratories, restaurants, and fur farms. As of 2005, no one will have been injured in these attacks, though the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will predict that the steady escalation of violence from the groups may result in injury or even death. The groups will cause millions of dollars in damage to property and items, usually through arson, bombings, and vandalism. The “ecoterrorist” groups tend to be small, and made up of environmental and animal rights activists on the “fringes” of the mainstream movements who have become frustrated with the slow pace of change. Some members are also affiliated with one or another of the various “anarchist” groups. The ADL will contrast the typical “ecoterrorist” group with racist and white supremacist groups, noting that their organizational structure tends to be extremely egalitarian and sometimes almost nonexistent: “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.” (Anti-Defamation League 2005) The term “ecoterrorism” does not gain widespread usage until after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will note that “members of Congress, conservative commentators, and the FBI [will join] in a chorus decrying the acts as ‘ecoterrorism.’” Charles Muscoplat, the dean of agriculture at the University of Minnesota—a targeted site—says: “These are clearly terroristic acts. Someone could get hurt or killed in a big fire like we had.” ALF spokesman David Barbarash (see 1998) says in response: “I mean, what was the Boston Tea Party if not a massive act of property destruction?… Property damage is a legitimate political tool called economic sabotage, and it’s meant to attack businesses and corporations who are profiting from the exploitation, murder, and torture of either humans or animals, or the planet.… [T]o call those acts terrorism is ludicrous.” (Beirich and Moser 9/2002)

A semiofficial logo for the Animal Liberation Front.A semiofficial logo for the Animal Liberation Front. [Source: Animal Liberation Front]The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) forms. It is widely considered the US’s most active “ecoterrorist” movement (see 1970s) and focuses primarily on attacking companies that perpetuate cruelty to animals, often in the form of animal experimentation. It is very loosely organized, and composed of anonymous underground cells that mount operations to rescue animals from what it calls “places of abuse” and, it says, to “inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.” ALF traces its origins to a group of British activists in the late 1960s called the Hunt Saboteurs Association, whose prime goal was to disrupt fox hunts. 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.” The Band of Mercy went farther than its parent organization, and in 1974 two of its members, Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman, were jailed for firebombing a vivisection research center in Great Britain (see 1974). When Lee is released from prison in 1976, he and some of his Band of Mercy colleagues found the ALF. The organization first begins operations in Great Britain, but quickly moves to America and begins escalating events. Its first known operation will be in 1979, when ALF activists break into a medical school and release animals being used for research (see 1979). Before it establishes a small press office in 1991, ALF’s activities will be publicized and praised by a somewhat more mainstream animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). (Anti-Defamation League 2005) The ALF primer explains the “leaderless resistance” model followed by the group: “Due to the illegal nature of ALF activities, activists work anonymously, and there is no formal organization to the ALF. There is no office, no leaders, no newsletter, and no official membership. Anyone who carries out direct action according to ALF guidelines is a member of the ALF.” The primer states the following as ALF guidelines:
bullet To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e. fur farms, laboratories, factory farms, etc. and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives free from suffering.
bullet To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.
bullet To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors by performing nonviolent direct actions and liberations.
bullet To take all necessary precautions against hurting any animal, human and nonhuman.
The primer states: “In the third section it is important to note the ALF does not, in any way, condone violence against any animal, human or non-human. Any action involving violence is by its definition not an ALF action, any person involved not an ALF member. The fourth section must be strictly adhered to. In over 20 years, and thousands of actions, nobody has ever been injured or killed in an ALF action.” (Animal Liberation Front 2002 pdf file)

In 1993, the Departments of Justice and Agriculture report to Congress that over 313 “animal release” incidents have occurred, usually involving activists breaking into university or private research facilities and releasing animals being used for research and vivisection (see 1979 and 1992). The most active group behind these releases, or “liberations” as the activists term them, is the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976). Investigators call the ALF the most significant “radical fringe” animal rights group currently operating in the US. (Anti-Defamation League 2005)

Rod Coronado.Rod Coronado. [Source: Fur Commission (.com)]Rod Coronado, an animal rights advocate affiliated with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) and a Vancouver organization, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is jailed for his roles in a 1987 arson at a University of California-Davis veterinary laboratory and a 1992 firebombing at an animal research laboratory at Michigan State University. The UC-D bombing caused over $3.5 million in property damage. Coronado will serve three and a half years in prison. He will become one of ALF’s public representatives, lecturing around the country on behalf of ALF and other extremist animal rights and environmentalist groups (see 1970s). Coronado will tell a Michigan State University reporter, “I wish I could do it again,” referring to the MSU bombing. “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.” (Anti-Defamation League 2005) The third edition of the ALF Primer will quote an anti-vivisection activist in defense of Coronado. Susan Paris, the president of the above-ground organization Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) will say: “Because of terrorist acts by animal activists like Coronado, crucial research projects have been delayed or scrapped. More and more of the scarce dollars available to research are spent on heightened security and higher insurance rates. Promising young scientists are rejecting careers in research. Top-notch researchers are getting out of the field.” A 1993 report to Congress (see 1979-1993) made a similar observation, stating, “Where the direct, collateral, and indirect effects of incidents such as this are factored together, ALF’s professed tactic of economic sabotage can be considered successful, and its objectives, at least towards the victimized facility, fulfilled.” (Animal Liberation Front 2002 pdf file)

Rod Coronado displays a jug of gasoline and oil that can be used as an incendiary device.Rod Coronado displays a jug of gasoline and oil that can be used as an incendiary device. [Source: Fur Commission]Environmental and animal rights activist Rod Coronado (see 1995 and March 2004), a convicted arsonist and member of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), gives a speech urging activists to commit arson and telling them how to build an incendiary device. Coronado’s speech comes on the heels of the firebombing of a San Diego condominium complex in which an ELF banner was left behind (see August 1, 2003). Coronado gave a similar presentation to a conference in January, where he displayed a milk jug filled with gasoline and oil, and told listeners: “Here’s a little model I’m going to show you here. I didn’t have any incense, but—this is a crude incendiary device. It is a simple plastic jug, which you fill with gasoline and oil. You put in a sponge, which is soaked also in flammable liquid.… You put the incense stick in here, light it, place it—underneath the ‘weapon of mass destruction,’ light the incense stick—sandalwood works nice—and you destroy the profits that are brought about through animal and earth abuse. That’s about two dollars.” In February 2006, Coronado will be indicted for charges stemming from the August 2003 speech. (Los Angeles Times 2/23/2006; Fur Commission 2010)

Environmental and animal rights activist Rod Coronado, long affiliated with both the Earth First! (see 1980 and After) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) organizations (see 1995), and another activist, Earth First! member Matthew Crozier, attempt to prevent officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department from capturing and killing mountain lions in Sabino Canyon near Tucson. Both will be charged with attempting to impede or injure an officer. (Anti-Defamation League 2005)


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