The Animal Rights movement began in the second half of the twentieth century as a radical effort not so much to improve the lives of animals in the care of humans, but to terminate entirely the connection between people and animals.
Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), summed up the goal of today's modern Animal Rights movement in a speech at the Animal Rights 2002 convention, where she said: "Our goal is total animal liberation." That term refers to the permanent elimination of what animal rights activists consider “exploitation”; i.e., any use of animals for purposes of food, labor, and entertainment. The world they envision has no place for the meat, dairy, leather, fur, silk, and wool industries. They likewise object to fishing, horse racing, zoos, circuses, the use of animals in medical research, and even pet ownership.
On the extremist fringe of this Animal Rights movement is a violent element willing to inflict violence on people and institutions it perceives to be mistreating animals. Such an approach is embodied by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a loosely organized, self-identified “animal rights” organization that is classified as a terrorist group by the FBI. ALF's members and affiliates "carr[y] out direct action against animal abuse in the form of rescuing animals and causing financial loss to animal exploiters, usually through the damage and destruction of property." Counted among these "exploiters" are hunters, fishermen, butchers, factory farmers, restaurateurs, and those who use animals to entertain the public (in zoos, circuses, and rodeos). The fur, meat, egg, and dairy industries are also viewed as major offenders, as are scientists and technicians involved in laboratory animal testing. All of these pursuits, charges ALF, "profit from the misery and exploitation of animals."
ALF candidly acknowledges that it takes "illegal actions ... to bring about animal liberation." These actions usually involve rescuing animals from laboratories or inflicting economic damage (by means of theft, vandalism, arson, and sabotage) on those that ALF sees as “animal abusers." In 2004, John E. Lewis, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI's counterterrorism division, stated that during the preceding ten years ALF and a related group, the Earth Liberation Front, had engaged in more than 1,000 criminal acts and had caused more than $100 million in damage.
The RESOURCES column located on the right side of this page contains a link to the section where profiles of animal-rights groups can be found. It also contains
links to articles, essays, books, and videos that examine the worldviews, tactics, and agendas of organizations affiliated with, or supportive of, the Animal Rights movement.