Skip to content


Unfinished Manuscript (Early to mid 1980s, England)

A few months ago we contacted our friend Robin Webb to borrow some of his animal liberation publications for scanning. Robin cheerily agreed to send us a package, and when it arrived it included some of the rarest publications we have yet received. We gingerly pulled one gem after another from the box, and just when we thought we couldn’t be more excited we found this unfinished history of the ALF written by Ronnie Lee.

Drafted almost thirty years ago, this publication spent decades in police custody before ending up in the possession of the ALF Press Office. After its trip through the evidence room the manuscript is missing over a hundred pages, but still bristles with history.

We are still investigating the story behind this document, but felt it would be unfair to our readers to keep it out of circulation any longer. Here, distributed to the public for the first time, is the story of the Animal Liberation Front as told by one its founders.

Ecotage! (1971, New York, New York.)

For the last several months we have been pursuing some of our favorite activists and friends to write blogs introducing classics from our archives. As it turns out, our friends and favorite activists are lazy and regularly delinquent in transmitting promised writings. We still love them, even ol’ Ginger Rage, AKA Will Potter. He wrote the first of these guest editorials, and it was well worth the wait.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is widely credited with igniting the modern environmental movement, which is true, but less well known is how quickly the movement radicalized.

By the first Earth Day in 1970, anonymous individuals were making headlines by targeting polluters. Illinois’s “The Fox” and Florida’s “Eco-Commando Force” developed a cult following. They were environmental vigilantes taking on the big, bad corporations, and people loved them.

By 1971, Environmental Action held a national contest soliciting tips on “ecotage.” The tips were compiled in a book and featured in national media.

The tone and honesty of Ecotage is refreshing and a bit surprising when read in the context of the current political climate. Reader-submitted ideas for tactics included re-painting billboards, pulling survey stakes, subscribing CEOs to hundreds of magazines, waging phone blockades, and sabotaging pollution-spewing pipes.

As described in the introduction: “…if ecotage is condemned, the condemnation is of a system which demands ecotage, a system which is so unresponsive to the needs and dreams of its constituents that it forces them underground to effect change.”

During the 1970s and 80s, this mainstreaming of animal and environmental concerns, combined with tiers of lawful and unlawful groups, was undeniably a threat to the corporations targeted. They needed to displace activists from their moral high ground.

A key development in orchestrating this fall from grace was the decision to wield the power of language. For those who break the law in the name of animal rights or the environment, industry groups would change the language from “ecotage” to “eco-terrorism.”

Ecotage should serve as a reminder that there is nothing inevitable about this. The FBI labels “eco-terrorism” the “number one domestic terrorism threat,” but public support is not, and has never been, with the corporations destroying the environment; it’s with those trying to stop them.

Love and Anger, 1st and 2nd Editions (1980?, Westport, CT. USA)

“Animals have rights, interests, desires, and needs equal, within the context of their lives, to those of humans, and we have an obligation to recognize this, and act accordingly. Animal Rights is a philosophical orientation, and a practical necessity if creatures are to be spared the systematic cruelty to which they are currently subjected. But perhaps most importantly, the designation of and agitation for animal rights is part of a revolutionary process aimed at restructuring the major institutions of our society. Indeed, in struggling to change the way humans treat animals, and one another, we work towards nothing less than the transformation of the world.”

– Richard Morgan, from the introduction.

For the last several years, I have been trying to understand why the animal rights movement rode a wave of success in the early 80s, only to fall so sharply by the end of the decade. This inquiry has led me to read old books and magazines, to interview participants from that time period, and even to reading the history of other causes in an attempt to find parallels in their peaks and troughs. I still have not arrived at a conclusive answer to the question, and it appears that many factors played a part in our recession. What is more clear, though, is that one figure played a major role in our rise, only to be quickly forgotten. His name is Richard Morgan, and after working towards civil rights and an end to the war in Vietnam, he took up the cause of animal rights in the late 1970s.

Early figures in the movement speak of Morgan as a pioneer, and his group, Mobilization for Animals, planned some of the largest and most visible demonstrations of the time, drawing thousands of people to multiple locations across the United States. He introduced his organizing model in 1979 with the the first edition of Love and Anger, a book which many people in the fledgling animal rights community cited as their inspiration to start a local group.

Written in a style that blends 70s leftism with 80s self-help jargon, Love and Anger can, at times, be a frustrating read. Morgan certainly has a touch of the arrogant liberalism that repulsed the generation of activists that followed his into the 90s. Scattered throughout the book are unsupportable claims, like American pacifists ending the war in Vietnam with sit ins, and new-agey feel good calls for demonstrations to provide “spiritual nourishment.” Some of the book’s advice is remarkably egalitarian, including calls for work within a group to rotate and for everyone, even supposed leaders, to do “shit work.” But some of the book is strangely authoritarian, with calls for “marshals” at demonstrations to squelch the spontaneous actions of others present. If a reader can get past these snags this book also contains a lot of wisdom.

Written at a time when there was almost no movement to speak of in the United States, the author set out to make a handbook to teach people who had never held a sign before to grow a resistance from scratch. He was concerned about the personal and political development of each new member of this tiny cause, and wanted them to think big. Four years before the first civil disobedience action for animal rights (which took place in New York at the Macy’s Fur Department, not in Sacramento as widely reported elsewhere), Richard Morgan wrote about developing personal courage to face law enforcement and overcome private doubts about organizing ability. He gave practical advice on bringing out large numbers to demonstrations, making literature, contacting media and writing press releases, and other basics that helped make animal rights the breakout issue of the 1980s.

Richard Morgan disappeared from activism in the mid 80s. Attempts to track him down have been fruitless, and even his old friends don’t seem to know what happened to him. But, before he walked out of view, he left us with some powerful advice. I hope young activists will read this book with a critical eye, and consider how these words helped lay the foundation for the movement they participate in today.

(first edition)

(second edition)

Spectacular Times #10: Animals (1980? UK.)

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Larry Law authored a series of booklets analyzing various issues from a situationist perspective. Consisting of statements by Law, cut and paste articles taken from newspapers at the time, and a little bit of humor, the Animals issue of Spectacular Times reminds of us the deep connections between animal liberation and situationist thought. (Ronnie Lee says that the founding of the ALF was influenced by his appreciation for the Angry Brigade, a British armed revolutionary group whose politics some, Lee included, mark as situationist.)

One article inside concerns the ambivalence and even animosity directed at the animal rights movement from the British left. “Despite all this activity the animal liberation groups are largely ignored by other political groups. Perhaps the politicos are ashamed. In the past five years the animal liberation activists have undertaken more direct action and caused more physical and financial damage to their enemies than the entire British revolutionary left put together. (Including those groups who claim to hold ‘direct action’ as a basic tenet of their philosophy.)” The booklet continues in much the same vain and makes for a great, albeit short read.

DISCLAIMER: animal liberationist is an online archive preserving the history of protest movements for animal rights and environmentalism. Its owners, contributors, and designers are not responsible for actions taken by third parties which may be harmful or unlawful to the individuals or entities named in archived publications. This web site is provided for the purpose of historical research and analysis, and is not intended to incite, encourage, or condone any criminal action on the part of its readers. All opinions expressed in our archives are those of their original authors only.