[New publication] Eco-Terrorism? Countering Dominant Narratives of Securitisation: a Critical, Quantitative History of the Earth Liberation Front (1996-2009)


Way back in 2009 I was a graduate student at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, UK.  Though this program is rather orthodox in its approach, I carved out my own little philosophical and methodological niche based in my ongoing (critical) study of violent non-state actors and social movements.  During this time, I was often lured into a debate over violent political protest and its classification as terrorism…specifically, the actions of the Earth (and Animal) Liberation Front.

The conversation would typically go like this:

Classmate: “Yeah but if these animal-eco nuts are just throwing bombs at whatever they don’t like, how can you say this isn’t terrorism?”

Me: “Well typically the use of explosives by groups like the ELF and ALF is quite limited and solely targeted against property, not people.  Despite the rising violence of right wing groups such as so-called ‘patriot’ militias, anti-abortionists, anti-immigrationists, etc, the ELF/ALF are still considered by the FBI to be a ‘number one domestic terrorist threat.’  This claim is not supported by the facts as these groups, for the most part, employ low-scale acts of criminality to economically harm an opponent.  It is not terrorism because it not not intend to terrorize.”

Classmate: “That’s not true.  You know they’ve hurt a ton of people and probably killed a few.  We all know they’re just crazy bombers and arsonists.  Its always the apologists that love to cite these movements’ tendency towards breaking windows and slashing tires, but if this type of behavior was representative of these movements, they wouldn’t be called ‘terrorists.’  If you say that the government is wrong, and that these groups are monkey wrenchers and politically-motivated saboteurs, then prove it.’

Me: “Fine.  I present the following as proof.”


That’s how this paper was developed.  I was tired of trying to argue points of fact.  Therefore, this paper presents an incident-based history of the Earth Liberation Front from its founding until 2009.  So as published in Perspectives on Terrorism (vol. 8, issue 3) edited by Dr. Alex Schmid, I present:

Eco-Terrorism? Countering Dominant Narratives of Securitisation: a Critical, Quantitative History of the Earth Liberation Front (1996-2009)


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