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Journal for Critical Animal Studies
Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?
Steven Best, Ph.D., Anthony J. Nocella, II
Review by Lauren E. Eastwood


Best and Nocella's edited volume Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals effectively engages in one of the more important discussions of our time, namely how it is that activist resistance is mediated and managed by ruling relations through the use of politically-loaded language. While this mediation and management takes myriad forms, Best and Nocella's book allows the reader to engage critically in one key way in which politically-loaded language has been used to discredit activist resistance. The term "terrorist" has historically been applied to resistance movements in order to attempt to disable the critical character of those movements. For example, we have seen this term applied by the South African government to activists who opposed South African Apartheid. Additionally, a similar move was used by the U.S. government in an attempt to discredit the Black Panther Party. While the term has always held particular political sway, it currently evokes a particularly visceral response in a post-9/11 world.

It is in this larger context that the particular subject area of Best and Nocella's volume should be viewed. While the contributions to the volume provide a wide range of information about the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), collectively they allow the reader to interrogate the ways in which the term "terrorist" gets used for larger politicized purposes. As various resistance movements are currently finding their actions monitored and managed by ruling relations, this is a crucial and topical debate to be having.

In addition to this larger purpose, the book also provides an important contribution to the literature on Animal Liberation itself. Regardless of one's position on the Animal Liberation Front as a movement, or on the subject of animal liberation, the book contains such a comprehensive variety of materials that any reader will come away more informed about the history and philosophy of the movement itself. This scope of contributions is unique and highly informative from the introduction on through the entire 377 pages. The informative nature of the volume is effectively set up by the Introduction by Best and Nocella, entitled "Behind the Mask: Uncovering the Animal Liberation Front," followed by contributions grouped under the subheadings of "History," "Liberation," "Motivation," "Perception," "Tactics," and "Terror." As is characteristic of Best and Nocella's publications, the volume contains contributions from a wide range of individuals, from activists to academicians.

Best and Nocella are clearly conscious of the wider implications of the animal liberation debate. It is for this reason as well as the wide range of contributions to the volume that Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals represents such an important contribution to animal liberation literature.