Blast From the Past - '80s Lab Raids
1999 saw the return of the quintessential A.L.F. action: the lab raid. After 7 years of dormancy, the Animal Liberation Front has resurrected its laboratory liberation campaign, and in the last year has broken into 4 research facilities, liberating nearly 200 animals. These actions mark the return of a daring high-risk, high-skill operation and reintroduce an urgent "get-in-and-get-the-animals-out" approach not seen since the 80's.
Decades of legal anti-vivisection campaigning, including letter writing and sign waving, failed to effect change for animals in laboratories as swiftly as a few active bands of the A.L.F. in the 1980s. These selfless individuals, wielding crowbars, brought the American public its first glimpses of the horrors committed on animals in laboratory torture chambers through the huge media exposure the early lab raids generated throughout the '80s.
The achievements and victories of these few bands of caring warriors must never be forgotten and must never be understated. And though we may have failed the animals in labs for a dark era of inaction, let us look back at their story and now pick up where they left off.
MONUMENTAL LAB RAIDS OF THE '80s
Breaking Down the Doors
The 1984 raid of the University of Pennsylvania marks the A.L.F.'s greatest lab raid success.
On May 28 the Animal Liberation Front picked the lock to Thomas Gennarelli's head injury research lab at the University of Pennsylvania, smashing every piece of equipment in the lab and confiscating over 60 hours of Gennarelli's own research footage on his head smashing experiments with live primates.
Gennarelli, who had for years hidden behind a laboratory door and thumbed his nose at animal advocates, had just met the animal rights movement's new answer to vivisection secrecy: the A.L.F.
The footage revealed the most horrific glimpse inside a vivisection lab ever seen before or since 60 hours of inadequately anesthetized primates plastered into restraining devices receiving blows to the head at up to 1000 times the force of gravity. The video brought the evil of animal research to the attention of the nation and its "reallocation" became the A.L.F.'s most publicized action ever.
The A.L.F. of the 1980s found its greatest voice in PETA, who acted as a mouthpiece for the A.L.F. following the raids, holding press conferences and distributing videos and seized documents to the media. The PETA press conference following the Gennarelli raid set off a media-wildfire surrounding the confiscated footage and sparked a fierce standoff between the compassionate public and the animal researchers. The biomedical research PR machine swung into motion, reassuring an outraged public of the "necessity" of head injury research. They said the choice was simple: the baboons or their children.
The A.L.F. responded two months later by breaking into the University of Pennsylvania Vet School and liberating one dog.
A witchhunt was already underway for the A.L.F. raiders, introducing to the movement the now routine grand jury. High-profile animal rights activists and PETA employees were subpoenaed to answer questions before a panel closed to the public. The A.L.F.'s answer to these attempts at neutralization and to the blatant lies of vivisectors came 4 days after the previous break-in: UP Vet school raided - four cats, one dog and eight pigeons were liberated. The A.L.F.strikes again.
When the smoke cleared it was a victory for the A.L.F. and the animals: NIH funding was revoked and Gennarelli's lab was shut down.
From one lab to the next throughout the '80s, the Animal Liberation Front saw the suffering, the torture, the legal means ignored, and implemented their timely and direct reaction to the slaughter - break down the doors, smash the labs, get the animals out. The U of P break-ins displayed what best characterized the A.L.F. raids of the '80s - a sense of urgency. And the A.L.F.never rested long.
City of Hell
By the end of 1984, the East Coast had seen 10 lab break-ins compared to the West Coast's three. In the east were NYU Medical Center (1 cat, 2 dogs, 2 guinea pigs), University of Southern Florida (55 gerbils, 35 rats), University of Massachusetts (2 rabbits), University of Maryland (42 rabbits), Howard University (30 cats), US Naval Medical Research Institute (1 dog), US Naval Medical Research Institute (3 dogs), John Hopkins University (6 rats), University of Pennsylvania and University of Florida (many rats), and in the west were UC Berkeley (3 cats), UCLA Harbor Medical Center (12 dogs), and Cal State Sacramento (23 rats). December 1984 would put the West Coast A.L.F. on the map and mark the first in a wave of high profile, expertly planned and executed lab break-ins in California during the mid '80s.
Tips from an inside whistleblower filtered down to A.L.F. operatives during 1984 and led to the highly publicized raid on the City of Hope cancer research labs in Duarte, suburban LA.
The A.L.F.'s source inside the lab allowed the band pre-raid entry into the facility, where the A.L.F. noted numbers and varieties of animals, allowing time to arrange homes for the freed prisoners from what would be the A.L.F.'s largest lab liberation to date.
During the early morning hours of December 9, 1984, the Animal Liberation Front gained access to the City of Hope labs via a door left open by the inside hand, destroyed over a half-million dollars in research, and loaded up 13 cats, 18 rabbits, 21 dogs, 50 mice and dozens more. The A.L.F. - 115; City of Hope - zero.
The City of Hope raid showcased the 1980s' expertly orchestrated media campaigns where the highest importance was placed on projecting a Robin Hood-image to the public, and releasing confiscated research documents and video to the media to expose the fraud and lies of animal research. Through post-raid media coverage, the A.L.F. brought vivisection to the forefront and expedited its demise swifter than the hundred years of legal protest that preceded them.
A crucial realization led to this approach - the animals that they liberate always seem to get replaced. The A.L.F. never lost sight of the importance of individual lives, but it was the ripple effect of the A.L.F. raids during the '80s that proved to save the most animals in the long term. Job #1: Liberate. Job #2: Expose. It was the A.L.F.'s steps to "expose" which would ultimately be the vivisectors' biggest threat and what would bring the A.L.F. and the animals their greatest victories.
Video documentation and seized research logs from the raid had the most damaging effect on the City of Hope. When it was all over, City of Hope lost $700,000 in research, many experiments were permanently ended and, citing Animal Welfare Act infractions, the NIH suspended $1 million in funding. Another victory, but the A.L.F. was only getting started.
"This Is Only the Beginning"
By 1985, the West Coast had an active, expertly skilled A.L.F. cell coupled with safehouses and a highly efficient underground railroad. A.L.F. cell members were closely linked with known aboveground animal rights groups. Underground activists had positions inside such groups, intercepting whistleblower tips about research facilities and utilizing the help of sympathetic volunteers at mainstream groups who passed down information gained from such calls. The West Coast cell was quick to utilize the information from concerned employees, research assistants, students and vet techs passed to them, often warming up to and nurturing whistleblowers for their assistance in gaining access to the labs. It was through one such inside hand that the A.L.F. pulled off what would be it's most ambitious raid yet, and left authorities wondering, "How did they get in?"
During the early morning hours of April 20, 1985, the Animal Liberation Front gained access to the psychology labs at the University of California at Riverside, removed laboratory doors form their hinges, and liberated nearly 1000 animals. When vivisectors arrived the next morning, they found their labs trashed. Property damage exceeded $700,000. "Research," vice chancellor of the university said, "has been set back years."
It was the A.L.F.'s largest liberation ever - 21 cats, 9 opossums, 38 pigeons,70 gerbils, 300 mice, 300 rats, 300 rabbits, and a little baby monkey named Britches.
Britches was an infant macaque, the subject of a sight deprivation experiment since birth. When the A.L.F. released video footage of Britches - only slightly larger than a human hand, an electronic implant taped to his tiny head, eyes sewn shut - it was a PR disaster for the biomedical research industry. News coverage of the UC Riverside raid and Britches, the baby monkey, elicited an emotional and outraged response from much of the public, forcing the vivisectors to answer for the unjustifiable cruelty revealed by the raid - starved pigeons, mutilated opossums, cats with eyes sewn shut, and a showpiece in the war against vivisection - a little baby monkey named Britches. News coverage and public response to the A.L.F. rescue missions of the '80s contrast sharply to "terrorist" portrayal in media reports of the contemporary A.L.F. The public and media, it seemed, were in love with the A.L.F.
That the A.L.F. affected permanent change was undeniable. Eight of the 17 experiments interrupted by the A.L.F. at UC Riverside were never begun again. The psychology department no longer allowed baby monkeys' eyes to be sewn shut. Heat was installed to the outdoor primate colony. And one vivisector quit animal research forever.
Above The Law
During the early morning hours of October 26, 1986 the Animal Liberation Front entered the Science I building at the University of Oregon in Eugene, broke into 3 labs and rescued 264 animals from certain torture and death. Damage exceeded $120,000. There was no sign of forced entry.
The A.L.F. released a statement following the rescue stating, "This is just the beginning of our efforts to liberate those oppressed in research concentration camps in Oregon. We will not allow the slaughter to continue without resistance. You will hear from us again soon."
The raid brought into the spotlight the until-then-unknown bloody career of Barbara Gordon-Lickey a researcher at the University, who for over 17 years had tortured over a hundred kittens in pain research experiments and was the stated target of the break-in: "This freedom raid, which included the destruction of instruments inside these torture chambers, was directed at a butcher known as Barbara Gordon-Lickey, and in retaliation for the hundreds of innocent kittens she has murdered in the name of science."
The communiqué went on to explain the finer tactical points of research equipment destruction: "(a) $10,000 microscope was destroyed in about 12 seconds with a 36-inch steel wrecking bar that we purchased at a Fred-Meyer store for less than five dollars. We consider that a pretty good return on our investment." The statement continues, "the primate stereotaxic device...(is) one of the most sinister instruments of torture ever devised by the human mind. We took particular delight in destroying it."
The University of Oregon raid showcased what has been proven in break-in after break-in to ultimately be the A.L.F.'s most damaging tactic - the confiscation of damning documents and photos. The U of O raiders seized veterinary logs, cage notes, and over 400 photographs - many of the most graphic ever obtained by the animal rights movement. The photographs revealed the callousness of the vivisectors and the barbarity of their "research." One photo-series contains a gruesome "staged caesarian delivery," showing a clearly terrified baby monkey being "delivered" from the stomach of a female researcher. These photos, taken by researchers of each other as they abused and made fun of animals, were released to the media at press conferences in Eugene and LA following the raid.
The confiscated photos proved, once again, to be a PR disaster for the researchers. The University quickly moved the "evidence" of such violations asseen in the photos - the remaining primates - to a secret location elsewhere on campus.
Once again the A.L.F. exposed, in a high profile raid, absolute proof of blatant animal abuse inside vivisection labs. And once again the researchers repeated form-response after form-response that the raided facilities were "isolated instances," "an embarrassment to all research" and "not the norm." To alert members of the public, this was becoming difficult to accept.
The University of Oregon brought the movement its second A.L.F.-related arrest.
The night of the University of Oregon rescue Roger Troen, a known animal advocate, received an anonymous phone call. The caller asked Roger if he coulddrive to Eugene without mentioning it to anyone and take some animals in desperate need of a home. No details were offered as to the animals' origin, though as Roger put it, "I didn't need to ask."
Weeks later a veterinarian who had been asked to examine the animals led the police to Roger. The court case that followed put the University of Oregon andits vivisectors on the witness stand where the "scientists" were forced to describe their careers and the barbaric research protocols taking place insidetheir labs, bringing the vivisectors out from behind the walls of secrecy where they would prefer to hide.
Roger Troen received 6 months home detention and ordered to pay restitution for his role in the A.L.F.'s Underground Railroad. 10 rabbits were recovered and returned to the University labs. 254 animals were never located by investigators. Each one is an A.L.F. victory.
The Flames of Justice
The next lab attack brought to America the A.L.F.'s most effective tool against animal abuser Naziism, introducing a strategy of "maximum destruction, not minimum damage," and setting the direction of large-scale A.L.F. actions for much of the next 15 years.
On April 16, 1987, the under-construction Animal Diagnostic Lab at UC Davis was firebombed. The animal research lab designed to cater to the needs of the food-animal industry burned to the ground. Damage was at $4.5 million. It is the most expensive A.L.F. action to date.
It was on that night the American A.L.F. gave birth to its most functional tool to directly render the instruments and structures of animal torture permanently inoperable. Circumventing the effort, risk, and limited damage of a nighttime live liberation after the lab's completion, the A.L.F. simply erased the Animal Diagnostics lab from existence.
After Davis, the fire bombings continued through northern California with further actions claimed by the Animal Rights Militia including a $10,000 fire at the San Jose Veal Company warehouse, followed by a $230,000 fire at the Ferrara Meat Company. Two days later a poultry warehouse was set on fire and sustained $200,000 in damages. The A.L.F. took credit. The arson campaign continued into 1988 with the firebombing of the San Jose Meat Company, burning the building to the ground, and the torching of a fur store in Santa Rosa. The store never reopened. But the A.L.F., as they say, was only "warming up."
"Nowhere To Hide"
Using bolt cutters, crowbars, and blueprints retrieved from laboratory dumpsters, A.L.F. freedom fighters systematically raided four buildings at the University of Arizona in Tucson on April 3, 1989, setting two fires, burning one building to the ground, doing nearly $300,000 in damages and liberating over 1,200 animals. It was the largest live laboratory liberation to date and arguably the most monumental A.L.F. action ever.
The raid began in the early morning hours when A.L.F. operatives broke into a ground floor door of the Bio-West building, took an elevator to the sixth floor, and wheeled out 965 animals before destroying the labs. Simultaneously across campus at the Shantz building, a second team removed an air vent cover approximately 12 feet off the ground, entered an airshaft and broke into a ground floor laboratory. Soon after, raiders broke into a ground floor door at the Microbiology/Pharmacy building, took an elevator to the sixth floor, and rescued additional animals.
Once the animals were out, one lab and one autopsy room was destroyed, the walls soaked in gasoline and the entire area torched. The team then moved off campus where an incendiary was placed under the building housing the office of the UA's director of animal research. The building and all contents were destroyed. Damages neared $300,000, and 1,231 animals were out of the vivisectors' lethal reach.
National news articles after the rescue called it a "Rambo-style remake of the story of Noah's ark."
A police report following the raid testified to the precision of the action. In the ensuing investigation, the UAPD "found little or no physical evidence left behind." The police found " the organization... prepares extensively for its strikes, leaves little or no evidence for police purposes, and operates at peak efficiency."
Investigators estimate the animal rescue and incendiary attacks took less than90 minutes. "The A.L.F.," the report stated, "had thoroughly prepared for this attack." The police had no suspects.
A crucial and intended effect of A.L.F. actions, large or small, is the increase in the cost of killing animals. Following the rescue mission, campus police announced that as a direct result of the break-in, the University of Arizona had "to divest $1 million into animal research protection." By 5:00 PM the day of the raid, 24-hour security by off duty police was ordered at 11 campus research sites. This 24-hour security coverage continued for 6 weeks following the raid at a cost of $40,000 a week. Animal research labs scattered in 11 separate buildings throughout campus were consolidated into two secured facilities. The University of Arizona spent half a million dollars on new security following the raid to prevent against another A.L.F. break-in. With the University of Arizona raid, the A.L.F.'s statement was clear - the cost of torturing animals just went up.
Into the '90s
Direct action in the '80s ended with a break-in at John "Gorem" Orem's Texas Tech lab with 5 cats liberated and $70,000 damage to equipment. Less publicized raids took place into the early '90s with 6 rabbits liberated from a lab in Florida; 100 guinea pigs liberated from Simonsen Labs in Gilroy, CA; 750 mice, rats, and hamsters from a lab in Buffalo, NY; and 11 rabbits and 10 guinea pigs from Cook County Hospital in Chicago. These and the 4-state "Operation Bite Back" campaign to end the fur industry would be the A.L.F.'s final lab raids for several years.
Fast forward to 1999. Modern labs were perceived by many as being impenetrable. Lab liberations had been non-existent for 7 years. Then, on April 5, 1999, ten years and two days after the University of Arizona raid, masked liberators broke into two separate buildings at the University of Minnesota rescuing 116 animals and using wrecking bars and sledgehammers to inflict a $2 million blow to vivisection.
It was the A.L.F.'s most triumphant comeback, setting off a wave of lab liberations and sabotage lasting through the end of the year. 1999 saw the liberation of 193 animals from medical research, more than the previous 9 years combined. Small-scale property damage of the early-mid '90s has given way to mink releases in great numbers, large scale arsons, and now, thanks to small cells of masked liberators with crowbars, the return of the lab raid.
The A.L.F. of the 1980s brought the horrors of vivisection from the shadows and formed the first true threat to the demons in their torture chambers who chose to murder the innocent. Month after month, throughout the 80s, many of these monsters found the Animal Liberation Front coming through their door.
To those demons who were not stopped and still continue - lock yourself inside because the storm is brewing again.
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