In the more than 25 years of the Animal Liberation Front,
relatively few people have been arrested and an even smaller
number have been convicted. Considering the tens of thousands
of animals that have been saved, the millions of dollars of
damage that have been inflicted on abusive industries, and
the invaluable images of suffering and rescued animals that
have resulted from A.L.F. actions, it seems a fair trade indeed.
Why have so few been caught? According to most A.L.F. activists,
preparation and reconnaissance is the key to staying safe.
Of course, luck always plays a small role. In the end, those
who have been arrested have typically been discovered for
two basic reasons: dumb luck and/or snitches.
In the former situation —dumb luck—police or
other witnesses just happen to be in the right place at the
right time. This was the case with “the Santa Cruz 2,”
Matthew Whyte and Peter Schnell. On January 23, 2001, police
arrested the duo in Capitola, California, after spotting them
with plastic milk jugs, a drill, birthday candles, and gasoline.
Unbeknownst to the two, they were located behind a police
station as they assembled the incendiary devices, which they
planned to use on dairy trucks. The two pleaded guilty and
Schnell was sentenced to two years, while Whyte was sentenced
to 14 months. This is not the only case in which activists
were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The main lesson
here is that being careful is the best precaution one can
take against getting caught.
The second, and unfortunately more common, factor in the
arrest and conviction of ALF activists is the involvement
of an informant or a snitch. Throughout the years, there have
been several instances of snitches and informants landing
activists in jail. Here, we focus on a few in the hope of
driving home two points: Few activists are ever caught for
A.L.F. activity, and those who are caught are usually discovered
via the use of an informant or snitch.
The lessons to be learned here are many. As long as the repercussions
for snitching/informing are fewer than the potential time
an activist is facing for participating in ALF activity, snitching
will be seen as a viable option for those lacking the moral
fortitude to stick it out. We as a movement have a responsibility
to ensure that the consequences for snitching are many and
severe. Second, as the old adage goes, don’t do the
crime if you can’t do the time. The reality is that
many go out and engage in direct action without considering
the consequences. Under the tremendous pressure of questioning
and of a potentially lengthy prison sentence, some have cracked
and turned informant on their (former) allies.
In early June 1992, the Animal Liberation Front entered
the labs at the University of Alberta (Canada), liberating
29 cats and causing over $100,000 in damage.
Shortly thereafter, Darren Thurston and a friend of his,
Grant, were arrested for allegedly participating in the raid.
An arrest warrant was subsequently issued for the arrest of
The three were charged after police contacted Jessica Michelle
Charlotte Sandham, who had rented the motel room where the
cats were taken after the raid. Police identified Sandham
as a suspect in the U of A raid after her name was located
in the motel registry and she was determined to be an animal
rights activist. During her 4 ½-hour interview with
police, Sandham fell for the standard police tricks and traps.
In the end, she talked freely about all she knew, including
rumors about the U of A raid. She never served any time in
jail for her part in the action.
Those she turned on, however, did suffer. Although Grant’s
charges were dismissed for lack of evidence, Thurston eventually
served two years in prison. Barbarash disappeared underground
but was later arrested in California and extradited to Canada,
where he was found guilty of participating in the raid and
served two years in prison. Both Barbarash and Thurston maintain
they would have likely never been identified by police if
Sandham had not turned snitch.
In October 1997, the A.L.F. took credit for raids on five
fur farms in Wisconsin and surrounding states. Thousands of
mink were released, and it is estimated over one million dollars
of damage was caused.
Justin Samuel and Peter Young were pulled over by police
in the vicinity of the farms after suspicious fur farmers
contacted authorities. A vehicle search allegedly yielded
animal rights literature, as well as other “suspicious”
items. In September 1998, a federal grand jury indicted the
duo on charges of animal enterprise terrorism and unlawful
interference with interstate commerce. Both Samuel and Young
went underground and nothing was heard from the two until
September 4, 1999, when Samuel was arrested in Belgium and
eventually extradited to the U.S. to face criminal charges.
Despite an enormous outpouring of support from the activist
community, on August 30, 2000, Samuel entered into a plea
agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office in which he implicated
Peter Young (his co-defendant) and promised to "make
a full, complete, truthful statement regarding his involvement
in violations of federal criminal statutes charged in the
original Indictment, as well as the involvement of all other
individuals known to him regarding the crimes charged in that
Indictment. And the defendant agrees to testify fully and
truthfully at any trials or hearings."
Samuel eventually served two years in prison and is now free
and living in San Diego, California. Despite his repeated
efforts to reintegrate himself into the animal rights movement,
most activists and organizations have shunned him as an untrustworthy
individual and a snitch.
While bad timing and dumb luck led to the initial indictment
of the two, Samuel’s fear and lack of moral fortitude
is responsible both for his own prison time and for the likelihood
that Peter Young (if apprehended) may be found guilty and
sentenced to a lengthy imprisonment. Like so many others under
police pressure, Samuel clearly fell for the oldest tricks
in the book of law enforcement: To this day, he claims he
did not tell his inquisitors anything they did not already
know. Unfortunately, it is not Justin who will pay the price
for his fears, but Peter Young-- and any other activists Justin
chooses to name to protect himself.
Robyn Weiner and Alan Hoffman
In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 30th, 1997, five
Michigan animal rights activists were arrested for allegedly
raiding a Canadian mink farm. According to media reports,
at Ebert's Fur Farm, fences were cut, breeding cards were
removed from cages and 1,500 mink were released, effectively
costing the fur farmer half a million dollars.
Those charged in the mink raid were Patricia Dodson, Hilma
Ruby, Robyn Weiner, Gary Yourofsky and Alan Hoffman. All five
were charged with breaking and entering, as well as criminal
mischief. Robyn and Alan were also charged with possession
of stolen property (breeding cards), and Patricia was charged
with possession of burglary tools.
Within two weeks after the arrest, two of the defendants--Alan
Hoffman and Robyn Weiner-- made damaging statements to the
police that were read in court. Alan, Youroufsky’s uncle,
gave an alleged blow-by-blow account of everyone's actions
(including the scouting out of farms in the U.S.), and Robyn's
statement included the implication of one of the other activists
in a previous raid. While Robyn claimed her informing was
in everyone’s best interests, the reality is that her
betrayal seriously compromised her co-defendant's legal defenses.
With two of the five defendants turned informants, the remaining
defendants, “the Chatham 3,” continued to fight
the case. In the end, Dodson and Ruby pleaded guilty and received
90 days in jail and a $24,000 fine. Yourofsky took his case
to trial, where he was found guilty and sentenced to 6 months
in jail plus $34,000 in restitution for his part in the raid.
As for Hoffman and Weiner, they incurred hefty fines and community
service in addition to the scorn of the animal rights community.
Robyn Weiner is, as of this writing, living in the Washington
D.C. area, where she periodically shows up at animal rights-related
events. No information is available on Alan Hoffman, but it
is believed he is no longer involved in the animal rights
The Ellerman Brothers
Early in the morning on March 11, 1997, A.L.F. activists
entered the grounds of the Fur Breeders Agricultural Cooperative
in Sandy, Utah. A pipe bomb and incendiary materials were
placed inside the co-op, while five pipe bombs were placed
beneath commercial transport trucks outside the facility.
At approximately 2 a.m., all six devices exploded, causing
$1 million in property damage. There were no injuries.
In June 1997, a federal grand jury handed down a 16-count
indictment against activist Douglas Joshua Ellerman, who later
pleaded guilty to three counts. Although he disappeared one
month before sentencing, he turned himself in June 1998, whereupon
he was sentenced to seven years in prison. He was reportedly
given considerable leniency in exchange for substantial cooperation
In September 1998, further federal indictments were issued
in the bombing case against Clinton Colby Ellerman, Josh’s
younger brother; Andrew N. Bishop; Alexander David Slack;
Adam Troy Peace; Sean Albert Gautschy and one other person.
The information for these indictments was garnered from statements
made to law enforcement by the Ellerman brothers and fellow
snitch Kevin Clark.
Later, it was learned, authorities had little direct evidence
tying anyone to the action at the co-op. It was simply the
Ellerman brothers falling for all of the authorities’
tricks and traps and caving under pressure that provided ammunition
law enforcement needed to seek indictments.
Colby Ellerman went on to serve six years in federal prison,
during which time the three remaining defendants went to trial.
Ironically, because there was little direct forensic evidence
tying anyone to the crime, these three were acquitted.
Both of the Ellerman brothers have recently been released
from prison and are believed to be residing in Utah. Although
the animal rights community had previously generated tremendous
support for the Ellermans, upon learning of their cooperation
with law enforcement, members of the activist community have
When dealing with traitors like the Ellermans, like Justin
Samuel, Robyn Weiner and Jessica Sandham, our movement has
no choice if we want to survive to continue the fight for
the animals. It is up to all of us to create an atmosphere
that is not just unwelcoming--but hostile--to those who assist
authorities in putting activists behind bars. We have to make
the consequences for snitching more painful than potential
jail time; until that time, we will have traitors in our midst.