series of daring actions by the Animal Liberation Front has animal abusers across
the San Francisco Bay Area feeling the heat and running for cover. The A.L.F.
offensive, which has drawn intense media attention to animal rights issues, began
in December of 1999 and has continued into the new year. Using arson and other
property destruction techniques, the Bay Area A.L.F. cell has so far caused more
than $500,000 in damage to businesses that exploit animals and forced one laboratory
supply company to move out of California.
The offensive began with firebomb
attacks on two meat-processing plants and an egg farm in Sonoma County, a heavily
agricultural community north of San Francisco.
Several incendiary devices
planted in the offices of Fulton Poultry failed to ignite properly, though the
slaughterhouse was shut down for hours the next morning while arson investigators
did their work. But the ALF had more success at Rancho Veal in Petaluma, where
an arson attack caused thousands of dollars in damage to the slaughterhouse facility,
in which workers kill more than 100 animals a day. An attack on Petaluma Farms
caused an unknown amount of fire damage to several company trucks. But the A.L.F.
wasn't ignoring the plight of animals in laboratories. In January, the group firebombed
trucks at B&K Universal, a European company with offices in Fremont that supplies
animals and equipment to vivisectors. In April, above-ground activists demonstrated
at B&K's office and caught the manager outside. After expressing fear and
anger over the arson attack, he quickly retreated behind the safety of a locked
door and a line of cops.
In February, the A.L.F set its sights on Primate
Products, a Redwood City company that supplies animals and restraint devices to
labs. The media initially reported that an arson attempt on Primate Products had
failed. But above-ground activists who visited the site in April reported that
the company's empty offices showed signs of significant fire damage. Neighbors
in the building told activists that Primate Products had moved to Florida after
In late February, the A.L.F. struck again, this time dealing
a surprise blow to the fur industry. In a daring early-morning action in the heart
of downtown San Francisco, the group smashed 29 windows at Neiman Marcus in Union
Square. The attack caused more than $100,000 in damage to the upscale department
store, part of a Dallas-based chain that continues to sell fur coats in defiance
of a nationwide campaign.
The situation grew more intense the next day when
activists from the San Francisco chapter of the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade
arrived for a regular Sunday demonstration outside Neiman Marcus. After the news
cameras left, the police arrested two activists and charged them with the crime.
But after both the accused passed a lie detector test, the case was dropped in
Following several months of silence, the Animal Liberation Front took
credit for all of the above actions through the North American office of the A.L.F.
Support Group. The admission attracted a firestorm of media attention, including
articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and stories on CNN. One local TV news
show produced a remarkable three-part series on the A.L.F. that offered an overwhelmingly
positive view of the organization's efforts to achieve animal liberation.
other Bay Area actions were not claimed by the A.L.F. In March, an unidentified
person took 250 mice from a research project at the College of Notre Dame in Belmont.
That same month, someone ransacked the offices of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau
shortly after that organization offered a $50,000 reward in connection with the
arson attacks on local slaughterhouses.
The A.L.F. actions provoked a fairly
predictable response from both law enforcement and animal abusers. The police
promised swift arrests, and the targeted businesses offered huge rewards. The
San Francisco Police Department has dedicated two investigators to animal rights
"crimes," and above-ground activists have been interrogated and intimidated.
One law enforcement officer even went so far as to offer a substantial bribe to
an activist for information.
Sonoma County ranchers and farmers have apparently
become extremely frustrated and fearful since the attacks, reportedly resorting
to patrolling their properties with guns, vowing to shoot trespassers. Reaction
from above-ground animal rights groups has been mixed. One Bay Area-based national
organization went so far as to condemn the actions. But grassroots activists from
three groups-the Freedom Offensive, the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, and
Animal Rights Direct Action Coalition-conducted a series of demonstrations in
support of the A.L.F. that attracted significant media attention.
despite all the efforts of law enforcement, the A.L.F. appears to have pulled
off a devastating series of actions and escaped capture. No one knows what to
expect next, but one thing is certain: Bay Area animal abusers are looking over
their shoulders, fearing the worst.