Arkangel #10-11 (1993-1994. London, England.)
The early 1990s were a tumultuous time for the movement in England. Hunters began hiring professional security services to beat and harass saboteurs, the violence became so extreme that when Tom Worby was murdered by a hunt masters vehicle, the hunters nearby laughed and mocked his death. The hopefulness of the 1980s was fading away, and campaigners were becoming more hardened, which in turn led to a decline in public support as groups like the Justice Department began sending out small mail bombs. Many organizations were mired in infighting over strategy and issues of class and race. And then there was the problem of repression. Scotland Yard’s Animal Rights National Index had gathered detailed profiles on over 21,000 animal liberationists by 1990, and their spying on the movement was only set to intensify.
Through it all a dedicated core of individuals forged ahead and took animals from places of abuse, educated others about the plight of non-humans, and spread the message of compassionate action across oceans and artificial borders. Arkangel tells the story, and we are happy to continue our posting of the complete set here on TALON.
S.A.R.P. Newsletter #1-5 (1991 – Northampton, England)
After a brief existence and quick demise in the 1980’s, the Support Animal Rights Prisoners organization was re-founded by Barry Horne and some friends in 1991. At the time Barry was imprisoned for possession of incendiary devices, but he never let incarceration keep him from participation in the movement. So, using a prison typewriter, he set to work writing the SARP newsletters. There are claims in the first issue that the material in SARP was written by a committee of five volunteers, but information we have received from reliable sources suggest that in actuality Barry wrote every issue of SARP except for the final issue, which was written by ALF Press Officer Robin Webb.
Barry was one of the most dedicated activists our struggle has ever known, but it would be a disservice to him to strip him of his humanity by pretending that he was without error. There are some poorly examined ideas in the pages of SARP that deserve measured critique, most especially that animal rights activists must, in all instances, preserve “unity.” Calls for unity are often used by those guilty of the most destabilizing behaviors as a way to avoid criticism for their own complicity in pushing people apart. During the era that SARP was being published there were concerted efforts by organized racists to join the movement, for car and postal bombings to be supported, and so on. Under such conditions total unity wouldn’t exactly be a good thing, right?
But for every weak idea presented in the pages of SARP, there are also beautiful moments that give voice to our imprisoned comrades, that remember our dead, and that call for nothing less than a revolution to liberate non-humans from the tyranny of the human species. Barry wrote with an intensity and single minded dedication that reminds us of just how precious each second spent fighting is, and how we must stop wasting those ticks of the clock. To Barry, life, and even death, should be utilized battling the scourge of speciesism. These newsletters are Barry’s voice ringing out from decades past, telling us to ACT NOW in solidarity with the animal nations.
The ALF Supporters Group Newsletter #1-19 (1982-1986. Nottingham / London, England)
When this archive project was founded two years ago, a list was made of the ten publications that we “had to have.” Number one was a complete set of the first volume of “The SG.” This was a tall order, and we knew it. First off, the Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group must be one of the most raided entities in England, and its members were frequently raided themselves! The result was that many copies of the magazine ended up in police custody both before and after distribution, never to be seen again. Second, it was a relatively old newsletter, and since the first issues were mimeographed on cheap paper, finding intact copies was going to be difficult. We persevered though, and now these rare pieces of movement history are preserved digitally and online for everyone to read and learn from.
Started by Dave Nicholls in 1982, the ALF Supporters Group was an effort to do two things: 1.) To raise funds for people arrested for animal related direct actions. 2.) To create a broader base of support for the Animal Liberation Front inside the movement. Both goals were met quickly. Within two weeks of their founding, the Supporters Group hit the number of members they had set as their long term goal. Through direct donations, memberships, fundraising events, and sales of merchandise, the SG was able to contribute towards the sizable legal costs of activists being arrested across England.
The newsletter itself went through varying degrees of quality in writing, layout, and value to the movement. The early days of the Nicholls run may have had a drab interior, but the hand illustrated covers were sometimes gorgeous, and the rhetoric had not yet strayed into the more-militant-than-thou nonsense which came later. Eventually the writing would border on the cultish, but there is scarcely an issue of the magazine that doesn’t have some redeeming value. When read critically and as a whole body of work, this magazine follows the rise and spread of underground action for animals across the globe, illustrates the value of coalition building, and provides solid examples of extremism to be avoided through coverage of groups like the Animal Rights Militia. It also provides many historical details found nowhere else!
“The SG” has gone through several incarnations since British Law enforcement shut this one down in 1986. (While carrying out the investigation for the notorious Sheffield trial that sent Ronnie Lee to prison for 10 years, the police raided the SG and charged it’s editors with incitement. Everything published by the SG afterwords had to be run past a lawyer first, but this didn’t stop further raids, arrests, and convictions of those involved in the newsletter.) It is still being published today, copies can be ordered from www.alfsg.org.uk.
Into The 90s With The ALF (1991, City Unknown, England)
This Is The ALF #2 (1994, City Unknown, New Zealand)
First things first: the posting of these two old ALF publications requires a little uncomfortable honesty. You see, neither zine is particularly well written, the advice given on tactics (and strategy) isn’t particularly insightful, and everything covered inside has been dealt with better elsewhere. However, these were both widely distributed in their time, and as we aim to be a complete archive both of these anonymously distributed tracts deserve a place here on the site.
With that said (or written, as it happens to be!) these zines provide us with a view into the issues and campaigns being discussed by radical animal liberationists during the early 90s. The focus on economic damage versus rescue is particularly interesting, and some might argue resulted in a public relations failure for the movement. Also intriguing is tracking the way the contents traveled around the world to be republished in different countries. Into the 90s carries material originally published in Canada, This Is the ALF has content from the United States and England. The loose network of animal liberation militants that existed prior to the popular use of the internet is fascinating, and imagining how the anonymous authors of these publications received the items they ultimately reprinted is entertaining fodder for the imagination.
All told, these primers were meant to provide newcomers with a quick overview of the Animal Liberation Front, and to spread the use of direct action in their respective countries. They do so, just not in a particularly inspiring manner.
Animal Liberation: The Movie (1992, England)
An early and wonderful example of DIY video production and anonymous distribution, Animal Liberation: The Movie was brought to the US by Freeman Wicklund in the early 90s. Often sold on the same tape as the moving Kieth Mann documentary “Angels of Mercy,” it quickly became a must have in the video collection of activists everywhere.
Documenting the high-water mark of daylight raids, department store arson, hunt sabotage, and undercover investigations in England, this sub-rosa video remains one of the best catalogs of direct action in the 80s and early 90s.