Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?
Steven Best, Ph.D., Anthony J. Nocella, II
Review by Michael Wilcock
Terrorists or Freedom Fighters takes a comprehensive and exhaustive look at the inner workings, tactics, ethics, organization and history of the Animal Liberation Front. In the foreword, Ward Churchill sets the stage for readers to examine the methods and belief system of the ALF, a non- hierarchical organization of autonomous groups and individuals bound together by a simple set of guidelines for the protection and equal rights of all animals. Churchill draws correlations between the significance of the ALF ’s struggle for an end to the subjugation of animals and the great battles fought against apartheid, Nazi genocide, and Jim Crow laws, while analyzing the effectiveness of direct action resistance as opposed to more passive protest. The numerous writers who have contributed essays, for the most part, seem to view the actions of the ALF as imperative steps to combat the genocidal mentalities that allow humans to exert their believed supremacy over animals. The book is an impressive and extensive primer to those outside and inside animal rights communities for understanding the motivations of actions that many consider extreme —even terrorist. An underlying theme of the book and the ALF on the whole is a re-evaluation of the inherent speciesism that allows humans to justify animal abuses such as livestock factory farming, lab testing and fur farming.
A quote in the ALF primer (reprinted in the book) says, “When you see the pictures of a masked liberator, stop asking who ’s behind the mask and look in the mirror.” Certainly these founders were the ancestors of the anarcho-punks and black block protestors of new millennium direct activism. Dr.Maxwell Schnurer points out in his essay “At the Gates of Hell: The ALF and the Legacy of Holocaust Resistance,” that these were pages the ALF took from the books of Jewish activists who fought against Nazis in the Third Reich. And these were tactics of the suffragettes fighting for women ’s rights in the early twentieth century, notes Dr. Mark Bernstein in his essay “Legitimizing Liberation.”
Any successful movement should initiate self-reflection and Dr. Judith Barad looks at anger and its link to the motivations for animal liberation acts in her essay “Aquinas ’ Account of Anger.” Should the activist achieve pleasure from fighting for animal lives? The subtlety between retribution as impersonal, implying fairness versus revenge, being personal, involving bias, is defined by revenge being rooted in feelings of anger and its ability to imbue zeal and righteousness when vindicated. Barad looks at the causes of anger, the quandary of its power and the dangers of its excess.
Read either front to back or independently by essay, Terrorists or Freedom Fighters is a powerful compilation of essays that demands readers to question the important issues of animal exploitation and how each of us plays into this systematic oppression. Best and Nocella have compiled an essential reader for both the animal rights newcomer and the seasoned activist.