The modern animal-rights movement, which began in England and the United States in the late 1960s, has spawned several groups dedicated to protecting animals, and in many cases these groups employ illegal and dramatic tactics in order to attract media attention. Consequently animal-rights activists are sometimes called terrorists, though few actually resort to the kind of violence that can be considered terrorism.
Among those who do use violence, the most prominent is the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which was established in Page 37 | Top of Article1971 in England and in 1979 in the United States. This group has not only broken into research labs, pet stores, and other facilities to release caged animals, but also has severely damaged such facilities, sometimes committing arson in the process. In addition the ALF has assaulted people during at least two attacks in England in October 1984, one at a dog kennel and the other at the home of the director of a medical research center. After the U.S. branch of ALF set fire to a university research facility in California in 1987 (killing the animals there in the process, which ALF members later said was necessary to save future animal victims at the site), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classified the group as a terrorist threat. Nonetheless the group continued to engage in violent activities, particularly against aspects of the fur industry. For example, in 1997 it released minks at a fur farm in Oregon and then blew up the facility.
Other violent animal-rights groups include the Animal Rights Militia (ARM) and the Justice Department. Both of these groups, the first in Canada and the second in Great Britain, use fear to intimidate people into abandoning practices that might directly or indirectly harm animals. For example, during the 1990s ARM sabotaged products on store shelves then warned the public about its actions. ARM's goal was to encourage consumers to stop buying these products because the manufacturers employed product testing procedures that harmed animals in the process. Also during the 1990s, the Justice Department mailed envelopes contaminated with various poisons or tainted materials to people involved in industries that harmed animals.
Another animal-rights group often accused of engaging in terrorism is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), because members of this group have attacked individuals who appear to disregard the well-being of animals. For example, PETA members have thrown red paint, symbolizing blood, on people wearing fur coats, and they have disrupted fox hunts by scaring horses in attempts to unseat riders. However, these attacks, though upsetting to the victims, are essentially nonviolent, and PETA does not promote violence, preferring to create change through political activism and media campaigns that influence public opinion. Consequently, though its tactics might be shocking, it is no more a terrorist group than the first animal-rights organizations, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), founded in England in 1824, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), founded in the United States in 1867. These two organizations, and others like them, have fought for improved treatment of animals and have been responsible for many animal-protection laws and policies.