A.L.F. Goes on Offensive in Bay Area
from No Compromise Issue 16
 

A 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 the attack.

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 May.

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.

Two 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.

Meanwhile, 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.