Shadow Activist: Getting Started
from No Compromise Issue 25

This column is produced independently of No Compromise. It is intended purely for entertainment, educational and other legal purposes. It is in no way meant to encourage anyone to take illegal action. No Compromise, its steering committee, volunteer staff, and other contributors assume no liability for any such actions.

How does one join the A.L.F.?

A person joins the A.L.F. simply by doing A.L.F. actions. There is no official membership. One simply becomes a member by taking action in accordance with the A.L.F. Guidelines:

  • To liberate animals from places of abuse (i.e. laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, etc.) and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives, free from suffering.
  • To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals.
  • To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors, by performing non-violent direct actions and liberations.
  • To take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, both human and non-human.

One should not email No Compromise magazine asking how to join the A.L.F. or ask other aboveground activists. This will only alert law enforcement agents who may be tapping phone lines, opening mail, etc.

An A.L.F. activist typically begins an action by her (or his) self, or with a small core group of people who have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be selflessly committed to animal liberation. Typically, they are also people the activist has known for several years. People who cannot keep quiet when the A.L.F. is discussed or who like to speculate about who may be doing actions ought to be avoided. On the rare occasion that A.L.F. members feel it is necessary to approach someone they haven’t known for years already, it becomes vital that they spend extensive time alone with the person, discussing issues that are not related to animal rights, looking for indications of honesty, sincerity, and soft-spokenness. Most of all, they ought to look for a sign that the person has a serious understanding and a healthy concern for the legal consequences of illegal direct action, yet is not deterred by such concerns.

What are some of the types of security concerns new A.L.F. activists need to think about?

First and foremost, any and all plans for A.L.F. actions are made in-person. They are never discussed over the phone, the computer, in one’s own house, or in the homes of other activists. Instead, A.L.F. members take a walk when they want to discuss anything sketchy, and they are careful to avoid cloak-and-dagger suspicious behavior like what you’d see in the movies.

With careful planning, meticulous reconnaissance and security precautions, A.L.F. activists can reduce their risk of getting caught to an absolute minimum. The experienced activist recognizes the importance of trusting his own intuitive sense of danger, avoiding patterns (like only striking on weekends), showing respect to fellow warriors, and remembering that whatever activists go through in a jail cell is nothing compared to the pain inflicted on the animals.

Should A.L.F. actions be done close to home?

Underground activists typically recognize the importance of not operating in areas where they may become a suspect simply because they are known activists. Engaging in actions outside of one’s own state is often preferable. The first suspects in A.L.F. activity are always local animal rights activists with arrest records or connections to the militant animal liberation movement.

If an A.L.F. member lives in the city, s/he is most likely going to operate in a different city or out in the country. And s/he is certainly not going to visit other above-ground activists in the area s/he is operating in. Neither is s/he going to grab a bite to eat at the local vegetarian restaurant (no matter how good the food is)! It’s also important to gas up well away from the target area and to inspect one’s vehicle for broken lights or expired registration tags and to remove any identifying stickers or decals (although D.A.R.E. stickers or “Support Your Local Sheriff” decals can’t hurt).

If an A.L.F. cell is doing an action, and a fur farmer or police officer catches one of the members, what should the other cell members do?

One of the most important discussions an A.L.F. cell has before an action is what to do if caught. You should never enter into illegal activity with anyone who has not assured other cell members that they will support and take care of them should they be caught. No one can ever guarantee that you won’t get caught, and you should refrain from ever telling fellow activists there is “no chance” of being apprehended. Such statements build a dangerous sense of false security, which can lead to getting caught.

Besides the promise of legal and moral support once caught, cell members should decide before doing an action on how to handle a confrontation with law enforcement or security forces. Cell members should assume these people will be armed, and most likely have the law on their side, should they use violent force. Even if you’re versed in martial arts, any time you initiate physical confrontation, the risk of injury skyrockets. I’ve heard of some A.L.F. cells carrying pepper spray and stun guns for self-defense, but these certainly don’t make one invincible.

In the 1940s, the French Resistance to Nazi occupation was labeled by the Germans as “Noah’s Ark,” since captured resistance fighters could only identify each other through animal code names, even when tortured. They operated on a need-to-know basis, as does the A.L.F. Many times, French resistance fighters would be traveling to an undercover safe house in Nazi-occupied territory, only to see their fellow operatives being dragged away.

At these times, the resistance fighters were taught to not even blink an eye and to keep walking, as nothing could be gained in a fruitless effort to try to rescue them, (except, of course, for another fighter to go down). Strategically, it should be agreed that should one member be captured, the others should not risk their own capture to secure the individual’s release. It’s one thing if a member sprains an ankle and needs assistance to retreat, but if a cell member is being physically held or is at gun point, then damage control is needed to guarantee that other cell members get away.

Of course, here is where emotional thinking often overrides logical thought. When A.L.F. members witness someone they love in distress it is hard, if not impossible and commendable, to not try to help them. A.L.F. members must think of which is more productive, though: going to jail with their comrades, or proving their love and solidarity for them by continuing animal liberation actions in their honor.

A.L.F. activists strive to stay in good physical shape, carefully discuss a contingency plan should the unexpected take place, avoid being unexpectedly separated from their fellow warriors during an action, and remember that the capture of an A.L.F. members isn’t just a personal loss; it’s a loss for the animals as well.