The extreme elements of the animal rights movement, led by outfits like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), had been strangely quiet for several years.  They’ve often and gleefully characterized themselves as Molotov cocktail tossing terrorists on a mission to free every little old lady’s pet cat.  Bombing research sites and threatening university professors and their families with great harm has been their modus operandi.

I’m using that Latin phrase because those groups seem to appreciate using big words, probably to wrap their questionable cause and insane tactics in a cloak of imagined “big ideas.”  They don’t do press releases, for instance.  They issue ‘communiqués’ and make non-negotiable demands.

Very 1918 Bolshevist revolutionary tactics, don’t you think?  I’m sure they have imaginary friends in their organizations with the last names of Marx and Lenin, maybe a Guevara, too.  They might not be fellow-travelers politically, but their strategies are taken from the same fire-singed page.

And they’re back with all the nastiness and sneak-thief tactics they used 20 years ago. They’ve bubbled up to the surface, again, like the noxious fumes that rise from untreated sewage.  CBS/AP/REUTERS reported about the firebombing of the Harris Ranch facility, “Animal rights activists have claimed responsibility for a fire that engulfed 14 tractors and damaged several trailer rigs parked at California's biggest beef processor.”

A few of the tractors had sleeper units where truck drivers can sleep during their down time. Fortunately, none were occupied at the time of the fire, averting a human tragedy and a statewide manhunt for murderers.

The fire was deliberately set at around 4:00 AM on Sunday, January 8. The next day, the North American Animal Liberation (NAAL) press office announced that an anonymous animal rights group was responsible for the fires.  Later reports identified the “perp” as the notorious, felonious Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

The Department of Homeland Security calls ALF a domestic terrorist organization. They’ve threatened scientists who use animals for life-saving medical research. They’ve issued death threats, vandalized businesses, and preached violence as a strategy to end animal agriculture.

These animal rights groups seem to share a common goal and freely exchange manpower. One of the most well-known is John “J.P.” Goodwin, Director of Animal Cruelty Policy for the Humane Society of the United States.  If he had a published resume, you would find that he served as a spokesman for ALF where he said he was “ecstatic” after a 1997 fire that caused $1 million in damage to a Utah feed co-op.

NAAL spokeswoman Nicoal Sheen said her office does not take part in illegal actions, but does distribute communications from those who do.  Here is an exact cut-and-paste of the communique as it appeared on their web site.  Errors in spelling and punctuation are included.  I’ll attribute it to the cowardly ‘Mr. Anonymous.’

at about 3:40 am on sunday, january 8th, 14 cattle trucks caught fire at the harris feeding company in coalinga, ca. containers of accelerant were placed beneath a row of 14 trucks with 4 digital timers used to light 4 of the containers and kerosene-soaked rope carrying the fire to the other 10 (a tactic adapted from Home Alone 2 [if you're going to try this make sure to use kerosene, gasoline dries to quickly]). we weren't sure how well this was going to work, so we waited until there was news reports before writing this. we were extremely pleased to see that all 14 trucks "were a total loss" with some being "completely melted to the ground."

we're not going to use this space to expound upon the horrors and injustices of factory farming. there is more than enough armchair-activists and those of passive politics who are more than willing to do that (anything to keep from getting their hands dirty). we, the unsilent minority (the 1%, if you will), choose a more direct form of action.

we're not delusional enough to believe that this action will shut down the harris feeding company, let alone have any effect on factory farming as a whole. but we maintain that this type of action still has worth, if not solely for the participant's peace of mind, then to show that despite guards, a constant worker presence, and razorwire fence, the enemy is still vulnerable.

finally, to all those who fantasize and romanticize about direct action yet remain on the fence: there is a lot of stuff that needs to be destroyed and we can't count on spontaneous combustion and careless welders to do all the work.

until next time...

Here is who is talking about the crime:

NAAL spokesperson Nicoal Sheen defends the attack:

Jolley: Five minutes with animal rights extremism"These individuals believe these cows have a right to live a life, free of exploitation, not used for the industry's selfish purposes.  They know it won't shut the industry down but it's a warning to the industry that there will possibly be more actions because the communique was left open-ended."

Mike Casey, Harris Farms Vice President of Risk Management and Human Resources and company spokesman, gives their first reaction: “The company has not received recent threats from animal rights activists. All it is is a claim, and we don't have anything to back that up one way or another. Everything is on the table. Those going out there and claiming responsibility, if the claims are true, we condemn these actions and those responsible will be brought to justice for what they did,”

Bill Donald, NCBA President, talking about the attack in a press release:

Jolley: Five minutes with animal rights extremism“This is not only an attack on a family-owned and operated business; this is a domestic terrorist attack on our nation’s providers of food and fiber. This extremist behavior goes above mere activism and the freedom of speech. These criminals are threatening lives and causing substantial economic harm.”

Talking about the danger to America’s ranchers: “Anyone concerned about the welfare of animals would not orchestrate attacks on individuals who are experts at caring for these creatures. Ranchers are undoubtedly the very best caretakers of livestock. Cattlemen and women implement the highest animal handling and food safety standards designed by veterinarians, animal behavioral experts and researchers.”

Talking about the criminals: “These extreme attacks are nothing more than bad people doing bad things and they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, just as any other criminal would be in this country.”

Paul Wenger, California Farm Bureau President, in a CFBF web site press release:

Jolley: Five minutes with animal rights extremism"The terrorists who attacked a beef production company in California . . . must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We know the local authorities are working hard to find the attackers and we offer our full support."


Wenger called for industry-wide cooperation: "We encourage animal-welfare organizations to help authorities find those responsible. Farmers, ranchers and everyone involved in agriculture do their best to grow food safely and responsibly. They should not have to fear attacks on their property or on themselves for producing products that Americans want.”


And talked about the responsibility of animal rights groups:      "If they sit by silently while animal rightists attack law-abiding businesses, they are passively endorsing domestic terrorism.”

Beth Caffrey, Central California SPCA, speaking to KGPE CBS 47, Fresno:

Jolley: Five minutes with animal rights extremism"We much prefer the legal method of handling things. Going through legislature, working through groups that can combine all together to make needed changes so that animals can be treated humanely.”

John Harris, owner of Harris Ranch, wrote about the destruction:

Jolley: Five minutes with animal rights extremism“We live in a free society and firmly believe in free speech rights, but that does not include the destruction of others’ property or making threats. A civil society cannot tolerate the egregious behavior and destructive mind set some of these radical groups espouse. We must all admire and defend our Constitutional Rights, and we can never tolerate anarchy. Anarchists leading radical movements care little about anyone’s rights, they just want to generate publicity for themselves.”

And defended his right to do business: “I love animals and feel humans need to be good guardians of their welfare, but humans and animals are not the same. Cattle are not human beings and are raised for food, and wouldn’t be here except for that. They provide a vital protein source that has enabled a better life for humans for thousands of years.”

Sarah Hubbart, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, talked about her reaction to the attack:

Jolley: Five minutes with animal rights extremism“Hearing about this violent attack against such a well-respected agricultural family business made me feel sick to my stomach. I sincerely hope that the individuals responsible for this horrible act are brought to justice.

I thought it was very telling that none of the major animal rights organizations who claim to be mainstream have issued any sort of condemnation of the extreme violence employed by these anonymous activists on behalf of their shared cause. Make no mistake - the ultimate goal of these extremists, regardless of the tactic that they choose, is to put a stop to America's animal agriculture industry. This goal does not reflect the values of most Americans – after all, 97 percent of us include meat, milk, and eggs as part of our diet. And virtually all of us rely on household supplies and medicines that are made possible by animal by-products.”

“Unfortunately, we have seen this sort of violence before, and for that reason, the Animal Liberation Front is listed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a domestic terrorist organization. Other animal industries have also been targets of its violence. For example, scientists using animals for life-saving medical research at UCLA have frequently been threatened with bomb scares and intimidation.”

She expressed concerns about the tactics of militant animal right groups: “While this incident of apparent arson may seem unrelated to other tactics that extremist groups use – such as ‘undercover’ video exposes – the public must recognize the threat posed by individuals who enter private property for the sole purpose of destroying a business. Activist groups work collaboratively and are strategically connected in many ways.

“In the case of ‘undercover’ activists, these individuals have access to internal security information and protocols, and blatantly disregard all company policies pertaining to the care and handling of animals – often just for the sake of creating video that can devastate a company's reputation, and therefore, its business. This incident shines light on the need for the agricultural community to be able to protect itself from senseless bullying tactics by those who seek to destroy the industry by any means.”

And suggested vigilance is key to protect the safety of your family and property: “Vigilance is key. Take extra precautions to ensure your grounds are secure and train your long-time employees to be your ‘eyes and ears.’ The Alliance works continuously to protect farmers and ranchers from extremist threats by providing security resources and training, including an updated guide entitled ‘Farm Security for the 21st Century.’ To request our security resources, visit or contact”

Bottom line: If you are in animal agriculture, take Nicoal Sheen’s comment to heart.  She said, “. . . there will possibly be more actions because the communique was left open-ended."  NAAL might be more than an innocent conveyor of messages.  I suspect they might be much closer to the problem than their lawyers will allow them to admit.  I’m sure Sheen is being a little cagey when she pulls a Sgt. Schultz and says, “I know nothing!

The threat is real and you must be vigilant.  Attacks like we’ve just witnessed put your home, your family and your livestock at serious risk.  To prove their bizarre point, these people have demonstrated a complete lack of respect for life and property.  The odds that you will suffer an attack from a terrorist – either foreign or domestic – are exceedingly slim.  The damage, if it happens, could be catastrophic.  Make sure you’re protected.

If you want to do some research on animal rights organizations, here is a list that does not include animal welfare groups.


Animal rights organizations

Vegan/vegetarian-oriented groups





Groups focused on farm animals

Leaderless resistance movements, campaigns and organizations

Movements/campaigns focused on hunting


Movements/campaigns focused on animal testing


Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for Vance Publishing.


·         Abolitionist Approach

·         AnimaNaturalis

·         Animal Defense League

·         Animal Defence Society

·         Animal Equality

·         Animal Freedom

·         Animal Legal Defense Fund

·         Animal Liberation Brigade (ALB)

·         Animal Liberation Leagues

·         Animal Liberation Press Office

·         The Animal A.R.K.

·         Animal Rights Party USA

·         Anonymous for Animal Rights

·         Center on Animal Liberation Affairs (CALA)

·         Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT)

·         Compassion Over Killing (COK)

·         Equanimal

·         Friends of Animals (FoA)

·         Fox Watch

·         Human Society of the United States

·         In Defense of Animals (IDA)

·         International Primate Protection League (IPPL)

·         Justice Department (Animal Rights)

·         Last Chance for Animals (LCA)

·         Libera!

·         Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition (MARC)

·         Mercy For Animals (MFA)

·         Midlands Animal Rights Coalition

·         Party for the Animals USA

·         People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

·         People for Animal Liberation (PAL)

·         Responsible Policies for Animals (RPA)

·         Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

·         Southern Animal Rights Coalition (SARC)

·         The Snake Man - Bringing Animal Rights To Snakes

·         TARVE "The Voice For Farmed Animals"

·         Western Animal Rights Network (WARN)

·         World Event to End Animal Cruelty (WEEAC)

·         [1] (WEEAC)

·         World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)

·         Uncaged Campaigns