Action For Animals # 1 – (1989, Essex, England)
While there isn’t much stand-alone importance to this particular publication, the critical role played by grassroots newsletters in the 1980s in undeniable. Prior to the popular use of the internet local groups were run by a small core of organizers who communicated with their own membership and the broader public using these cheaply produced zines. Ideology, protest dates, campaign information, news from other organizations, fundraising efforts, and prisoner support were all shared, and with results that often dwarf what we see from Facebook based organizing.
Action for Animals produced a newsletter very typical of its era and geography. Those of you who take the time to look closer at this publication will notice excerpts from the London Greenpeace leaflet (co-written, as it turns out, by an undercover cop) that lead to the McLibel case. Also of note are AFA’s anti-capitalism sentiment, and the diversity of actions embraced by their group- from Christmas carolling to support for underground direct action.
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 #6-11 (1992 – Northampton, England)
One of the big frustrations of working on the TALON site is that the materials we archive contain so much information it becomes difficult to organize and contextualize it all. Our posting of the Barry Horne SARP newsletter revival has made this sense of frustration more distinct than ever.
1992 was an eventful year for the movement: Mike Hill was murdered by hunter Alan Summersgill, the Doddlestone six were arrested protesting that murder, in North America Darren Thurston was arrested, Ronnie Lee was released, Kieth Mann was on remand and just about to escape from prison… This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the significant events that took place over twelve long months twenty one years passed. We could spend pages discussing how these incidents shaped the future, how recent revelations about police informants in the UK have changed our understanding of old arrests, and so on. Unfortunately there is no time to pull at all of these strings- but the SARP newsletters certainly will provide inquisitive readers with many threads of their own to pull. From details of Operation Fox to “Laugh Along with the ALF,” each newsletter if filled with intriguing bits of our collective history.
Supporters Group Newsletter No.1 (1987 – London, England)
After the original Animal Liberation Front Supporters Group newsletter was repressed out of existence, an attempt was made at a second volume that could survive government harassment. Steps were taken to clear each article with attorneys and the majority of the content was reposted from mainstream news articles. Calls to action were kept out of editorials written by the SG (Although they still appeared in the many first hand accounts and communications sent from those underground) and, in general, the tone was far less militaristic than the final issues of Volume 1.
Sadly, this didn’t save the SG’s volunteers from further political prosecutions.
During this time British security services estimated that up to four hundred direct actions were happening every day in the United Kingdom, with more financial damage being incurred by animal abusers than the British government faced at the hands of the IRA in Northern Ireland. The state was not willing to risk these actions spreading no matter how legal the efforts of those publicising them. So, after a single, wonderful issue, the SG newsletter was once again put out of business. At least they went down fighting! This newsletter features inspiring reports, hilariously snarky editorials, and some of our favorite images from the frontlines of the fight against speciesism. It is truly a must read, and we are proud that, despite the efforts of Scotland Yard and other British law enforcement, The SG is still available here at TALON.
ALFSG – Diary Of Actions #1-3 (1986-1987. London, England)
After the end of volume one of “The SG,” England’s ALF Supporters Group produced the short lived “Diary of Actions.” Each issue was distributed for free and contained brief accounts of anonymous direct actions across the globe. In the pre-internet world this was the best available source for such information, and these magazines are still an excellent catalog of resistance against animal abuse in the mid-1980s.
The Hillgrove Campaign Newsletter – (1997- 1999. Oxford, England)
Reading these newsletters gives me a feeling of elation that is rare in our work as animal liberationists. After witnessing the worst abuses against our non-human neighbors, most of us are left with a sense of deep despair. In the instance of the Hillgrove Campaign, however, those abuses were countered and ultimately stopped in a most satisfying way!
These newsletters offer some of the best documentation of one of our movements most watershed moments. Each issue shows the escalation of the campaign, the police response, and the slow downfall of Farmer Chris Brown’s cat breeding business. No punches are pulled, and from blockades, to mass demos, to the beating of Chris Brown by two elderly women, the newsletter shows step by step how the campaign was won.
While this makes for invigorating reading, there are also disappointing, even racist material in the newsletters. One example is Dr. Vernon Cole’s comparing being stopped by police during a lecture to the sort of harassment and brutality faced by black youth in Britain. A well meaning mistake possibly, but a comparison that misses the mark by an offensive distance none-the-less.
As you can see, we are missing issue #2 and #10! Please get in touch if you are in possession of either issue by clicking HERE.
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.
Arkangel #8-9 (1992. London, England.)
After serious problems with police raids and repression, Arkangel managed to produce two issues in 1992. The focus of the magazine was still the networking of local grassroots organizations and opinion pieces by members of the movement, but some wonderful morsels of history pop up between these covers. Beyond the charm of finding out where the graphics that we’ve been reprinting forever come from, you will also learn about the early days of the McLibel case, how the British government prepared for Ronnie Lee’s release from prison, and many other interesting tidbits.
What was of greatest interest to me, however, was a short article in issue #9 written by Sue Smith. Sue is an unsung hero of the animal liberation movement, one of the founders of the Band of Mercy, and an original ALF activist. She was never caught for illegal activity, and it was only after her death that her participation in direct action became known. There is little written about her, but her brief article gives us a tiny sense of her level of compassion and concern. If any of our readers have more information about Ms. Smith, please contact us.
Animal Info #1-8 (1995-1996. Christchurch, New Zealand)
Animal Info was a thin, photocopied newsletter that was published with the hopes of increasing the militancy of New Zealand’s animal activists. It’s pages contained news relevant to local campaigns, alongside the home addresses and phone numbers of various animal abusers. The zine’s rhetoric was, at times, over the top and even once racially insensitive. Issue #1 contains an N-bomb on the front page that was seemingly intended to make an anti-racist / speciesist point, but instead has the exact opposite effect.
Still, Animal Info is an inspiring example of committed activists organizing on a grassroots level and agitating for greater commitment in the struggle against speciesism. It’s international news coverage was impressive given the magazines small number of pages, and nicely bridges the U.S. coverage lapse between the time Open the Cages stopped publication and No Compromise began. All of us at CG would love to see this type of paper return to regional organizing in the United States and abroad.
Facklan (1996-1997 Umea, Sweden)
(Editors note: Facklan is a Swedish language publication that we bring to you due to its historical significance. Umea, Sweden produced one of the most remarkable animal liberation communities of the 1990s. Their influence was so strong that politicians in Sweden stated in national media that they feared animal rightists may collapse the countries infrastructure, both through sabotage and the conversion of the nations youth to veganism. Facklan was produced during the infancy of this tiny, but formidable uprising. One of our readers from Sweden has offered the summary that follows.)
Facklan (The Torch) was a Swedish magazine supporting the A.L.F. and
other radical groups fighting for the animals. It was released in four
issues in 1996-1997, during the biggest peak of A.L.F. activity in the
1990:ies in Sweden. The magazine was based in the northern city Umea,
which was well known for it’s number of vegans and animal rights
activists, militant (all fur shops closed in Umea as a result of the
A.L.F.) as well as non militant (almost 50 percent of the students at
some schools were vegetarians). Umea was often referred to as the
“Vegan Mecca”, and was also well known for bands promoting the animal
rights message, such as Refused.
The first issue contained translated interviews etc from mainly UK and
US sources, and also had copied text from the Swedish militant
activist/anarchist manual Lila Svarta. Of course there was also a
diary of actions and addresses to imprisoned animal rights activists.
Two spreads were also dedicated to show mainstream media articles from
the time, also serving as a sign of the impact of the A.L.F. activity.
During the later issues, more of the content was produced by Swedish
authors. In the second issue, there were a lot of more news from
Sweden and Finland, letters to the editor, communiques from the newly
started group The Wild Minks, a report from the riot against the fur
auction in Skara, a piece on the repression of Umea acitivists,
reviews of records under the headline “Activist Core”, and now also a
diary of actions focusing on Sweden. Content from abroad was still
used though, this time information from The Final Nail and on Barry
Horne. On the last page, a summary in English was also published for
the foreign readers.
The third issue contained an exclusive interview with The Wild Minks,
the group that got most feared among the fur farmers, for liberating
minks and setting fire to properties of the fur industry. An address
list to all Swedish fur farms was published together with slogans such
as “What are you waiting for?”. There were critical articles directed
to hardcore posers, as well as articles about how animals that had
been liberated were doing in their new homes.
The fourth and the last issue contained more articles like “How the
Raid was Done” – often raids that the police had said were so
professional it had to have been carried out by professionals from
abroad… One person urges for a Swedish A.L.F. Supporters Group, and
a spokesperson who could defend the actions openly. Til now, this had
only been done my anonymous activists in balaclavas, or by Emelie
E:son, an anonymous A.L.F. activist from the 1980:ies. Focus was also
targeted on groups trying to attack Peter Singer (who was at a visit
in Sweden during this period), there was a big report from the animal
rights campaigning and activity against the vivisection at the Umea
University, as well as more information directly from The Wild Minks.
After the last issue, a Swedish A.L.F. Supporters Group was founded,
doing both work towards the media as towards prisoners and the animal
rights movement in general. They also released their own magazine,
later named Befriaren (The Liberator).