N.A.L.L. Newsletter – Summer 1985, Spring News 1985 (1985, Manchester, England)
Every time we receive a NALL related donation everyone at TALON can’t wait to read it, even if it is just a small newsletter or leaflet. Our fascination with the group stems from their early socialism, their insistence that mass-militancy trumps individual direct-action, and their acts of solidarity with other movements. While their publications don’t always touch on those factors, fans of the Leagues will not be disappointed with these two issues of the NALL Newsletter, especially the Spring News, which comments on the unstrategic militarism happening at the time, specifically the Mars bar poisoning hoax and publicity stunts of groups like the Hunt Retribution Squad.
The excitement doesn’t end there, however! Despite the poor editing, these volumes contain many clues as to the organizing model, rhetoric, history, and strategies employed by NALL- and then there are the small tidbits that will make you love them even more! An embracing of ecological politics, a tendency towards anonymity for the sake of rejecting the big egos that cause so much damage to movements, the fact that NALL was originally called Manchester Animal Liberators, the mention of a cafe run by three NALL members… If you are as fascinated with this classic organization as we are you will absolutely love these two dispatches!
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.
PeTA News, Various issues (1985-1990. Washington, D.C.)
“Why Property Damage? ALF action goes beyond acts of protest. Animals will always be rescued where possible, but the main purpose of the action is often economic sabotage. Property and “things” hold no sacred value-the opposite, in fact, if they are used to cause pain and death. To STOP the very real violence of torture and killing, inanimate objects must be rendered unusable. When equipment is broken, work cannot go on as usual with a new batch of victims, insurance rates go up and so do security costs, making the enterprise less profitable.” PeTA News, Volume 2 #1
“When questioned on Irish television about an action against a butcher shop, Morrissey, an avid vegetarian, was asked “What about the safety of the butchers?” Responded Morrissey, “When you think of the horror experienced by millions of animals in slaughterhouses each year, what’s a few butchers?” His song Meat Is Murder topped the charts in 1985.” PeTA News Volume 3 #1
Imagine for a moment that a young animal rights activist with very little knowledge of the movement’s history finds a time machine and heads back into the early 1980s. Upon arrival they decide to get involved with a militant group and begin asking who they should join. At every turn they are told that PETA is the most militant group in the United States. This seems absurd to our young activist! “All PETA does is embarrass the movement with offensive ad campaigns and nudity! They are celebrity driven and devoid of substance, they kill healthy feral cats and don’t even have a rights based philosophy! They even demoted an employee for publicly supporting politically motivated arson!” Angered, our imaginary friend stomps into the DC area offices of the group to re-write history, and is shocked with what they find…
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals experienced a meteoric rise in membership and notoriety in the early 1980’s as a direct result of their support for (and participation in) illegal direct action. Their relationship with the Animal Liberation Front was symbiotic: PETA provided the ALF with whistlebower information, credible spokespeople, and sympathetic coverage of raids. In return, PETA was placed in the media spotlight and received undercover footage and documents from the ALF that were often parlayed into high profile (and lucrative) campaigns. The atmosphere of popular militancy was exciting, and after years of slow progress people felt that supporting PETA meant backing a faster, more direct path to rights for non-humans.
PETA sold ALF support merchandise in their newsletters, ran a legal defense fund for people accused of unlawful activism, and helped popularize the concept of mischief in defense of animals. For example, PETA News sold squirt bottles of red permanent fabric ink alongside the warning that since the damage done to furs would be permanent, you should only spray the ink on your own furs! Articles talked about a likely apocryphal 15 year old who got grounded for passing out “Throw a Brick Through McDonald’s Day” pamphlets, and later chuckled as he got caught with paint bombs under his bed. Incidentally, the same article described how young “Kevin” made the paint bombs. These examples only just barely scratch the surface of the early militancy of Alex Pacheco and Ingrid Newkirk’s fledgling organization.
The story of animal rights in the United States can not be told without a thorough examination of the early days of PETA, an era sure to shock newcomers. In the coming months we will begin a more in depth analysis of their early days, but in the meantime jump into the TALON time machine and prepare to have your mind blown by these early issues of PeTA News.