Inspired by the recent surge in ALF raids, especially those against laboratories, I have decided to share my own experiences. I feel that my fellow brothers and sisters now leading the fight against vivisection and exploitation of all beings should know what the struggle was like in the early eighties.
When I was doing what was most important in my life, my close inner circle and the FBI knew me as Joseph. We were the West Coast cell of the ALF. We pulled off some of the most precise, well-thought-out, and expertly executed raids known to the animal rights movement in this country.
Our first raid (the largest on the US West Coast at the time) was at UC Harbor Medical in Torrance, California. On Christmas, 1983 we liberated 12 medium-large dogs, even though the facility had their own police department about 300 feet away from the where the animals were kept. But after several weeks of surveillance, we knew their schedule better than they did.
In 1983, the animal rights community did not have the ALF support base or militant minded faction that exists today. When I made the decision that I would break into the UC medical center and rescue the animals inside, recruiting other activists willing to cross the line proved a difficult task. No one had ever even heard of this timely and effective method of directly saving animals' lives.
We had no selection process to put out feelers for willing activists or carefully gauge the opinions of others concerning direct action and the ALF. No one had opinions on the ALF because no one knew what it was. I asked a few friends for a favor and we carried out the first raid by a west coast ALF cell. It was a huge risk, but maybe the best decision I ever made. What grew from those tentative beginnings evolved into what was arguably the most effective ALF cell in this country to date.
I had been in many labs before the one at UC Harbor Medical, but our first illegal forced entry felt very eerie. When we entered this particular vivarium and began carrying most of the dogs out they were so quiet. All I could hear was my heart beating and the pattering of my comrades' feet.
The dogs knew why we were there. There is no question in my mind. We had specially constructed cages in two vans for the long haul to make it as comfortable as possible for them. While driving, one young fella chewed his way out of the cage through the makeshift wall to sit up front on my lap. To be in the front was not enough; he sat on my lap and would not move. And they say animals can't think or feel. People who say this are the ones who can't think or feel.
So for seven hours, we drove - my partner, my new loyal and appreciative friend and myself. He lived to be 19 1/2 years old and was still going strong until the very end. Times like that made it all worth while.
While security may have been less sophisticated back then, it was still very strong. Our skills evolved, and we later employed a variety of techniques to get in and get the animals out. It is my belief that almost any facility could be raided and every animal liberated with enough careful planning and expertise. This theory has been proven by the latest handful of lab raids.
Avoid sloppiness in surveilling, planning and executing a raid. It's important that good dedicated activists don't go to jail. You are of more help to the animals out here. It is equally important that activists not be too paranoid or over-zealous in their security precautions - this can impede the progress of an action, and far too often stand in the way of a raid being carried out at all. Being security conscious and getting the job done are both equally important.
Some factors to consider when planning a successful liberation include media and public opinion. It is vital to get maximum media coverage. Only very few types of ALF actions can be carried out without regard for public opinion. The Animal Liberation Front operates outside the law and strikes without public permission, but it is nonetheless vital to win the favor of public opinion when possible. This will give the vivisectors millions of opponents, not just a handful of angry activists.
One of the best ways is to film and document the conditions in the lab before the raid to send this video to the media immediately after completion. It is also vital to video and document the raid itself so this can be released a few days later to the media for more coverage. Keep the action in the public eye for as long as possible.
Once an action is big news, anything that you can give the public and news media will be picked up and broadcast to millions. Ride the wave. Seize and release documents and video to the media detailing the specifics of lab experiments, animals used, feeding and veterinary logs, anything that will shine a negative light on the researchers and their animal experiments. Even the most seemingly insignificant documents and bits of information can reveal the cruelty of the vivisectors.
Remember, don't take for granted that everyone knows the horrors of animal experimentation. Most people will be shocked when they receive their first glimpse behind laboratory doors. As activists, we know the facts and are reminded every day through graphic photos on AR flyers and anti-vivisection videos. We forget that others are not so aware. What is old news to you will have a powerful impact on the public.
It is also very important to make sure the video footage is well shot and well thought out. Know what you're going to film ahead of time. Showing the horrific conditions of the animals and the cruelty inflicted on them in the labs should be a top priority.
I personally don't believe in random graffiti or vandalism you should send a very clear message. A well thought out slogan on a wall makes your motivation unmistakable to the public and unalterable by the media. Just throwing books, desks and other things over may make the ALF look bad in the eyes of the public. Remember, it is the public we are trying to educate so we can ultimately outlaw these barbaric practices.
In my mind we want to create an image of Robin Hood or of David and Goliath. Americans and the British can relate to this, and will root for the good guys. It is crucial to present yourselves as the good guys. So, again, know what you want the media to see and how the public will construe this information and footage. One has to look at the big picture in order to accomplish our ultimate goal: liberation for all animals.
I will in further articles explain the other raids and what we went through. I am so proud of everyone who puts his or her life on the line.
One last thing. If you are not ready to give up your freedom or life then maybe you should ask yourself if you are ready for the Animal Liberation Front. There is always as important work in the support groups you may want to consider because there is nothing worse than someone that rolls over and gives up his comrades to save himself.
Recently I've noticed a new batch of young activists ready to go the distance. You are the best! Keep up the fight and be safe. We all need you and love you.