What is the Earth Liberation Front?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 May 2020
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The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is a radical activist group which performs acts of ecotage in an attempt to put a stop to the exploitation of the environment. In the United States, the ELF has been classified as a serious domestic terror threat by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, thanks to its aggressive tactics. Supporters of the group believe that it is hitting industry where it hurts, forcing people to reevaluate their relationship with the environment. Others condemn the actions of the Earth Liberation Front, pointing out that the organization is often grouped with peaceful, non-violent environmental groups by association, thus weakening the overall cause.

In 1992, a group of breakaway Earth First! members in England founded the Earth Liberation Front, arguing that it was time for direct action to be used in the environmental movement. They modeled the ELF after the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an activist group which claims to promote animal rights through direct action and sabotage. The founders put forward the Earth Liberation Front as an alternative to Earth First! membership for people who felt that the organization was not doing enough on behalf of the environment.

Like the ALF, the ELF lacks formal leadership, and consists of a large and disparate group of members all over the world. Some members act entirely independently, while others band together in cells to perform acts of coordinated sabotage. Depending on the region, ELF members may engage in subtle covert operations, or showy acts of sabotage which are designed to attract attention. One of the more spectacular Earth Liberation Front actions was the 1998 firebombing of a recently expanded ski lodge in Vail, Colorado.

The organization has three guiding principles. The first is that members must be committed to inflicting serious economic damage to individuals and corporations which profit from environmental exploitation such as logging, mining, trapping, and development, among many others. The second goal of the group is to alert the general public to serious emerging environmental issues and threats. Finally, members of ELF are expected to undertake actions without threat to life.

Critics of the organization have pointed out that some of its direct actions have actually harmed the environment, rather than helping it. In addition, the organization's regard for the sanctity of life started to decline rapidly in the early 2000s, with the group essentially declaring war on developers and urban sprawl in press releases. Some Earth Liberation Front members have indicated that they will not hesitate to injure people who exploit the environment, despite the fact that this is in direct conflict with the stated goals of the organization.

In the United States, ELF activists have been heavily pursued and prosecuted, where possible. Some radical environmentalists refer to the growing pursuit of radical activists as the “green scare,” suggesting that the American government is trying to frighten the general public with horror stories about the environmental movement. Given the decentralized nature of the Earth Liberation Front, law enforcement has had trouble with trying to put a stop to ELF actions, since more cells quickly rise up when one cell is taken down.

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Post 3

@parmnparsley- I do not know if I can agree with your assertion that the Environmental Liberation Front members are not terrorists. One of the FBI's most wanted terrorists is an environmental and animal activist that planted and exploded a number of bombs at two different animal testing facilities in California.

I am not sure if the scientists who worked at these companies are comfortable doing their research knowing that there are people who are trying to bomb their labs. I am not saying I agree with some of the reasons they test on animals, but most scientists hold to a code of ethics and do their work to improve the lives of people. Without animal testing, a number of medical procedures that save lives would never make it to market.

Post 2

@parmnparsley- I find fringe activist movements fascinating as well. It amazes me how people can become so passionate about something that they disregard rationale and act in dangerous manners.

After reading this article, I went to the Earth Liberation Front Website and was surprised to find that there seemed to be a lot of animosity towards other members and competing organizations under the same name. The website was essentially one long, incoherent rant that made the author seem very angry. It seems like the organization is crumbling from the inside out, with members turning against other members and turning them in to the authorities.

Post 1

After reading this article, I was interested to learn a little more about the movement. I am against much of the damage done to the planet by unethical companies and governments, but I am not sure if I support causing economic harm through dangerous means. There has to be a better way to gain support for a pro-planet movement than bombing and burning polluters. The latter seems like it would have a polarizing effect, pushing supporters of the Earth Liberation Movement farther to the fringes.

On the other hand, I do not think I would consider what they do as eco-terrorism because their intent is not to do harm to people, and they do not look to incite fear

into the victims of their actions. All their actions accomplish is to try to make environmentally degrading actions economically impossible. I do not believe that what the ELF does is right, but I do not go so far as to call them terrorists.

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