Animal Rights: History and Scope of a Radical Social Movement

By Harold D. Guither | Go to book overview

13
Freedom of Expression Out of Control

Direct actions by extremists, both legal and illegal, have undermined the credibility and acceptance of the animal rights movement. Illegal and destructive actions against animal research and production facilities occurred in England in the 1970s and spread to the United States in the 1980s. While property damage has been substantial, no person has been injured despite threats and intimidation.

Since 1977, the federal government has documented 313 individual actions, varying widely in nature and scope, against enterprises or individuals using or marketing animals or animal-derived products.1 The media reports, sought by the perpetrators of these acts, fulfill one of their goals -- attention and publicity for the animal rights movement. Richard Ryder, a philosopher sympathetic to animal causes, suggests, "The chronic deafness of governments to the animal rights message has certainly added fuel to the flames of protest."2Animal activists' activities have been delineated between those that are legal and those that are not. The first group involves protests or demonstrations at institutions using animals or selling products that fall short of being illegal.3 The most controversial actions involve deliberate breaking of the law. Such activities include
• nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, such as sit-ins and breaking into laboratories to gather information and release animals;
• break-ins and destruction of buildings and equipment; and
• threats to human life and safety, such as adulteration of products, fire bombs in stores, and car bombs directed at individual scientists.

In the early 1980s, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) began to claim credit for incidents in the United States involving vandalism and the theft or release of animals. Although the exact circumstances surrounding the ALF appearance remain a matter of speculation, the emergence of ALF activity apparently coincided directly with the popularization of the modern animal rights movement and the formation of its advocacy organizations.4

-152-

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