The arson that damaged or destroyed 26 houses under construction near a wetlands area in Maryland apparently was not ecoterrorism. But no wonder this was the first suspicion, considering the torch remains the primary weapon of Americas greatest domestic terror threat – and one the media greatly ignore.
The ELF condominium fire near San Diego
During Senate testimony last May, FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism John E. Lewis said the two main ecoterror groups – the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front – have committed more than 1,100 criminal acts since 1976, resulting in damages estimated at $110 million. He called them, "the most active criminal extremist elements in the United States."
According to the American Legislative Exchange Council in Washington, D.C., the ELF or ALF attacked sites in 20 states in 2003 including arson, bombings, destruction of biotechnology labs, damage to genetically modified food crops and freeing of livestock.
The ALF claims its devoted to ending abuse and exploitation of animals. Thats you if youve ever eaten a hamburger, had a glass of milk, or worn leather shoes. Youre an exploiter if youve ever popped a pill, since all drugs are tested on animals.
The ELF specifically calls for the destruction of laboratories and research facilities that use animals for scientific study, fur farms, horse ranches, meat-processing plants, and anything associated with the logging industry.
"Arson has increasingly become the means of trying to achieve their goals," says Arnold. "Its easy and its frightening. Almost every human responds viscerally to fire. It does what terrorism is supposed to do; it terrorizes.
A sampling of ecoterror arsons:
- What was to be a five-story, 206-unit condominium complex near San Diego was burned to the ground in August 2003 causing an estimated $20 million in damage. ELF members took the credit.
- ALF claimed responsibility for the firebombing of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of California-Davis in April 1987, causing an estimated $4.6 million in damages. The building was eventually completed and now provides diagnostic services and information to help control animal diseases.
- ELF members in October 1998 danced around like fireflies at the Vail Ski Resort in Vail, Colorado. They destroyed Vail Ski Resort four ski lifts, a restaurant, a picnic facility, and a utility building. Estimated losses were $12 million.
The Vail Ski Resort Fire. Ecoterrorists burn with hate.
Unfortunately, he says, all too many people – including many in the mainstream media – treat these firebrands as heroes.
Until fairly recently, ecoterror wasnt a hot issue because "Nobody believed environmentalist would do such things," says Arnold. "They believed that nature was harmless and therefore anybody who allegedly defends nature is harmless. The media were as gullible as anybody."
Importantly, the ecoterrorists claim that not a single person has so much as injured in one of their fires, a claim the media parrot. But, observes, Arnold, "We actually dont know how many people have been hurt or killed in ecoterror arsons because they always wait a few days before sending a notice of responsibility."
But even if they havent killed yet, the day must come. "Much like terrorist groups of the past, animal rights and environmental terrorists are adopting increasingly militant positions with respect to their ideology and chosen tactics," says the FBI report. These people burn with hate. "I cheered when the plane hit the Pentagon" on September 11 said an ELF member in a Details magazine interview. Another added, "Anyone in their right mind would realize the United States had it coming."
Read Michael Fumentos additional work on the environment.