A Historical Scholarly Collection of Writings on the Earth Liberation Front

by Anthony J. Nocella II (Volume editor) Sean Parson (Volume editor) Amber E. George (Volume editor) Stephanie Eccles (Volume editor)
©2019 Textbook XVIII, 344 Pages


As the inevitable, unsustainable nature of contemporary society becomes increasingly more obvious, it is important for scholars and activists to engage with the question, "what is to be done?" A Historical Scholarly Collection of Writings on the Earth Liberation Front provides an analysis and overview of an under-discussed but important part of the radical environmental movement, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which actively tried to stop ecocide. Through engagement with the activism and thought behind the ELF, volume contributors encourage readers to begin questioning the nature of contemporary capitalism, the state, and militarism. This book also explores the social movement and tactical impact of the ELF as well as governmental response to its activism, in order to strengthen analytic understanding of effectiveness, resistance, and community resilience. A Historical Scholarly Collection of Writings on the Earth Liberation Front is sure to inspire more scholarly work around social change, eco-terrorism, environmental studies, and environmental justice. This book is a valuable text for criminologists, sociologists, environmental advocates, politicians, political scientists, activists, community organizers, and religious leaders.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Praise for A Historical Scholarly Collection of Writings on the Earth Liberation Front
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword (Carolyn Drew)
  • Introduction: A Call to All Scholars to Defend Revolutionaries (Sean Parson / Anthony J. Nocella II / Amber E. George / Stephanie Eccles)
  • Part I: Classic Writings on Revolutionary Environmentalism
  • 1. Rhizomatic Resistance: The Zapatistas and the Earth Liberation Front (Michael Becker)
  • 2. Understanding the Ideology of the Earth Liberation Front (Sean Parson)
  • 3. Nihilism and Desperation in Place-Based Resistance (Mark Seis)
  • Part II: Classic Writings on Ecoterrorism Rhetoric
  • 4. Ecoterrorism? Countering Dominant Narratives of Securitization: A Critical, Quantitative History of the Earth Liberation Front (1996–2009) (Michael Loadenthal)
  • 5. Activism as Terrorism: The Green Scare, Radical Environmentalism and Governmentality (Colin Salter)
  • 6. The Myth of “Animal Rights Terrorism” (John Sorenson)
  • 7. Leaderless Resistance and Ideological Inclusion: The Case of the Earth Liberation Front (Paul Joosse)
  • Part III: Classic Writings on Political Repression
  • 8. Standing Up to Corporate Greed: The Earth Liberation Front as Domestic Terrorist Target Number One (Anthony J. Nocella II / Matthew J. Walton)
  • 9. Mapping Discursive and Punitive Shifts: Punishment as Proxy for Distinguishing State Priorities Against Radical Environmental Activists (Lawrence J. Cushnie)
  • 10. Speaking About “Ecoterrorists”: Terrorism Discourse and the Prosecution of Eric McDavid (Joshua M. Varnell)
  • Part IV: Current Perspectives
  • 11. Radical Environmentalism as Teacher: A Pedagogy of Activism (Meneka Repka)
  • 12. Those Mischievous Elves of Lore: The Legend and Legacy of Earth Liberation (Alexander Reid Ross)
  • 13. Magic Kills Industry: Reclaiming ELF and Witch Deviance as Ecoqueer and Anticapital (Mara Pfeffer / Bethany Richter)
  • 14. Problematising Non-violent “Terrorism” in an Age of True Terror: A Focus on the Anarchic Dimensions of the Earth Liberation Front (Richard J. White)
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

← viii | ix →



Table 4.1. Most Commonly Attacked Targets.

Table 4.2. Comparison of 1st, 2nd, 3rd Most Commonly Utilized Tactics.

Table 4.3. Comparison of 4th, 5th, 6th Most Commonly Utilized Tactics.

Table 4.4. Comparison of the Presence of ELF Communiqué or “calling card”.

Table 4.5. Comparison of Group Claims.

Table 4.6. Comparison of Location.

Table 4.7. Comparison of US Attack Location Regionally.

Table 9.1. Sentence Lengths, in Months, of Environmental Activists— Property Crimes. ← ix | x →

← x | xi →



The editors of this book would like to thank all our fellow editors for the fun and challenging important experience in putting this book together. We would also like to thank all the contributors of the book—Paul Joosse, Michael Becker, Sean Parson, Bron Taylor, Mark Seis, Michael Loadenthal, Colin Salter, John Sorenson, Anthony J. Nocella II and Matthew J. Walton, Lawrence J. Cushnie, Josh Varnel, Meneka Repka, Alexander Reid Ross, Mara Pfeffer, Bethany Richter, and Richard J. White. Everyone that wrote pre-published reviews of the book, for the book—Jason Del Gandio, Joe Leeson-Schatz, Peter McLaren, Scott Hurley, Lauren Eastwood, Madelynne Kinoshita, Chris Mendoza, David Pellow, William Shanahan. We would also like to thank Peter Lang Publishing especially—Sarah Bode, Sara McBride, Timothy Swenarton, Heather Boyle, Megan Madden, Jackie Pavlovic, Janell Harris, and Sophie Appel. We would also like to thank Save the Kids, Transformative Justice Journal, Eco-ability Collective, Durango Food Not Bombs, Durango Peace and Justice, Arissa Media Group, Institute for Critical Animal Studies, Total Liberation Working Group, Peace Studies Journal, Green Theory and Praxis Journal, Hampton Institute, Houston Animal Rights Team, Dirty Hands Collective, Durango Prisoner Letter Writing, Poetry Behind the Walls, Journal for Critical Animal Studies, Wisdom Behind the Walls, Outdoor Empowerment, Academy for Peace Education, Institute for Hip Hop Activism, Terrorism and Political Violence, University of Hong Kong Department of Sociology, Anarchist Developments, and Anarchist Studies. ← xi | xii →

← xii | xiii →




The domination of civilization over nature has been the underlying story of humankind, from our first steps to dominate the world around us with our hand-made tools to a post-industrial future where our understanding of the earth is mediated by the idea to such an extent that the idea is all and the actual a mere shadow. Each step has taken us further away from our animality, our wild. Each step has seen us, in turn, try to de-animate the wilderness. Each step has seen us trash the environment as we pursue a Platonian world where idea-over-object attempts to dominate the very breath of life itself, while around us shattering ice shelves, the destruction of once great forests, the desertification of once fertile soils, the dying rivers, threats to marine life and the rapid extinction of land-based wildlife remind us of the precarious state of the earth.

Considering this, the collection contains important writings on the Earth Liberation Front, a group dedicated to the end of this destruction. It tells the story of its roots, through its birth and the road it walks. The collection gives the reader an opportunity to understand and engage in the problems that we all must face as the earth is battered with often irrevocable consequences.

Many will argue, when faced with problems such as these, for turning to the very same system of alienation driving the present destruction. Thus, we scrabble around in our glass and steel caves searching for ever more sophisticated tools repeating the behavior that has brought us to this tipping point.

However, the Earth Liberation Front takes a different approach. Since its inception there has been much discussion about who, and what, it is. There has been speculation about its purpose, motives and endgame. There has been much debate over the value of its approach and tactics, when fighting to end the destruction that marks our time, the Anthropocene. Indeed, this ← xiii | xiv → naming is as Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection and is indicative of the peril in which the earth and its children are placed and the challenges that confront those of the Earth Liberation Front. Often condemned as terrorists by those in power and sometimes disparaged by those they would consider their own, the Earth Liberation Front, like those who have come before, has been involved in raising awareness of, and attempts to stop, the destruction of the wilderness, the destruction of the earth.

Images of clandestine figures moving through the night setting fires, gluing locks, spiking trees, burning SUVs are what most people think about when they hear of the Earth Liberation Front. Chaos and random acts of senseless crime are images that often flood the media and its readers. Of course, this is exactly what the corporations, the various industrial complexes, want people to imagine. But, as the collection will show, the group is much more than this. Though its actions may indeed incorporate property destruction and other seemingly irrational ways to stop the corporate industrial obliteration of the natural landscape, what drives this, what underpins these and other actions is what this collection seeks to clarify and record.

And to this point, the history of groups like the Earth Liberation Front is rarely recorded on their own terms. What is often presented as history is typically from the point of view of those who feel threatened by groups such as these. This collection, instead, seeks to draw a fuller, richer account of the group, its grounding, in ways that allow the reader to gain a window into a world they seek to understand. And thus the importance of this book. It is a much-needed collection which analyses the roots of the Earth Liberation Front. It analyses its inception and its philosophy. The collection looks at perceptions and misunderstandings. The reader is given insight into the rhetoric and the push back from the system as it struggles to contain ideas it fears may spark a revolution. Further, the collection analyses the ties with the Animal Liberation Movement and anarchism. Then, as a way of drawing breath after this historical ride it finishes with the current perspectives. Importantly, it gives the reader a clear understanding of the milieu out of which the Earth Liberation Front was born and hence a deeper appreciation of its clarion call for the earth first. ← xiv | 1 →

← xiv | 1 →


Introduction: A Call to All Scholars to Defend Revolutionaries


The Time Is Now

The planet is facing a myriad of ecological crises from climate change and ocean acidification to species die off and the depletion of topsoil. Even though activists, scientists, and artists have been warning the public about these issues for decades the political and economic elite throughout the entire world have been slow to act. When it comes to climate change, the only major international agreement, the Paris Accords, developed a volunteer climate mitigation plan that is designed not to harm large corporations or alter the global economic and political order. Even so, President Donald Trump, in one of his first major moves as presidents, signed an executive order calling for the United States to leave this American and corporate-friendly agreement. Trump is not the only major leader who has expressed disdain for international climate agreements. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a figure loved by liberals throughout the Western world, has sided with the Canadian tar sands industry over environmentalist concerns for the climate and indigenous first nations activists anger toward the neocolonial practices at the root of resource extraction in Canada.

While political leaders dither, delay, and deny, the scientific community wonders if there is anything that can be done to stop catastrophic climate change from occurring. This February, the United Nations Climate Chief stated, “The transformation has started. I think it’s unstoppable” and they are right. The impacts of climate change are here and we, as a planet, experience them, albeit in uneven and unequal ways. Droughts, flooding, heat waves, ← 1 | 2 → chaotic weather, and the like are becoming commonplace. For the first time since the last ice age, the past is no longer a valuable metric to understand current and future weather patterns, and this is only going to get more pronounced and troubling as time goes on.

As the reputed anarchist poet Utah Phillips famously said: “The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.” The killing that Phillips referenced has only accelerated in recent decades, putting all life on the planet in peril and foreclosing any possibility for liberal or reformist politics. At a moment like this, when the planet and human civilizations are on the precipice, we must think, theorize, and act in defense of life. We need to reimagine fanatical environmentalism and agitate for revolutionary and radical action. We cannot save the planet while acting reasonably in the legal parameters of the law. If the world is going to be defended, it is going to take mass civil disobedience, including the possibility of armed struggle against governments and corporations.

The first major U.S. Earth Liberation Front (ELF) communiqué in 1996 started off with the phrase: “We are the Burning Rage of a dying planet.” Since 1996 the ELF has served as the most well-known revolutionary environmental group, using ecotage and property damage as a tool to undermine and resist the destructive actions of advanced industrial capitalism. Since the first ELF actions in North America, the right wing think tanks and press, as well as fearful and milquetoast liberal environmental and media organizations, have dominated the discussion of the group, framing them as ecoterrorists and denouncing their actions as a threat to mainstream environmental efforts. This book is an attempt to change that and focus on academic articles that explore many facets of the group—from their ideology to their strategic importance—and the governments’ response to them. This collection of articles serves as a critical, academic, response to the partisan and polemical right wing and liberal denouncements of the group. One should not assume this means the authors in this volume fail to critically analyze the ELF; they all do. Critical engagement is essential at a moment like this, when the fate of the planet is on the precipice. What we need right now is a new, empowered, and strategically effective environmental movement to resist the power of capital. In order to do this, we, as activists and scholars, need to step back and learn from and reevaluate the past.

The ELF (Best & Nocella, 2006) influenced by the Animal Liberation Front (Best & Nocella, 2004; Colling & Nocella, 2011) are both decentralized nonhierarchical anarchist-influenced clandestine underground groups who have very similar guidelines (Amster, DeLeon, Fernandez, Nocella, & Shannon, 2009; Nocella, White, & Cudworth, 2015). There is ← 2 | 3 → no membership and leadership, and no one publicly claims to be a member of this underground organization. If you obey the guidelines, your actions can be claimed as associated with the ELF and the Animal Liberation Front. The only representation of the ELF is from communiqués, which risk their privacy and safety by communicating since their correspondence can produce an internet fingerprint if sent via e-mail. The guidelines of the ELF are:

  1. To cause as much economic damage as possible to a given entity that is profiting off the destruction of the natural environment and life for selfish greed and profit,
  2. To educate the public on the atrocities committed against the environment and life,
  3. To take all necessary precautions against harming life.

The Animal Liberation Front guidelines are:

  1. To liberate animals from places of abuse, that is, laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, etc., and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives, free from suffering;
  2. To inflict economic damage on those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals;
  3. To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors, by performing nonviolent direct actions and liberations;
  4. To take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and nonhuman.

These guidelines represent the only leadership guidelines of the ELF and the Animal Liberation Front. These two groups have proven themselves highly effective and successful in their goals, so much so that law enforcement have identified them as top domestic terrorist groups due to the threat they pose to domination, capitalism, and fascism.

A Call to Scholars

This book, which discusses the ELF and is edited by critical animal studies scholar-activists (Best, Nocella, Kahn, Gigliotti, & Kemmerer, 2007; Nocella, Sorenson, Socha, & Matsuoka, 2013), is part of a broader intellectual project that seeks to develop revolutionary and radical environmentalism for the 21st century. As editors, have put together a collection of the most important ← 3 | 4 → scholarly articles about the ELF from the last decade. We are calling all scholars willing to risk their plush academic jobs as professors to write, organize, and speak out for the ELF. No more should academics and public scholars write liberal critics about the government and President Trump. We cannot keep asking students to learn how to write papers, read their textbooks, and prepare for their finals. Professors and teachers must, as Paulo Freire argued, educate students on what they need, rather than what the system wants (hooks, 1994). Teachers need to teach students how to liberate and achieve justice, not in abstraction, but in real, tangible actions such as how to blockade roads, fight against Nazis and the KKK (Nocella II, Bentley and Duncan, 2012). Teachers need to organize in the face of academic repression (Nocella, Best, & McLaren, 2010). The time for total liberation and revolution for all, human and nonhuman, is now. This world is being destroyed by capitalist-driven fascists such as Donald Trump. His supporters for racism, anti-Semitism, hate, and oppression need to retreat into their holes and never come out.

Unfortunately, the 1st Amendment in the U.S. Constitution only defends those in power and domination, it never and will never include the marginalized and oppressed such as People of Color, women, people with disabilities, economically disadvantaged, LGBTTQQIA people, immigrants, noncitizens, dissenters, and the economically disadvantaged. There is law after law repressing, suppressing, and oppressing these individuals to assure they will have the freedom of assembly or freedom of speech. Any one that is for social justice that argues for freedom of speech for all is supporting fascism and is morally bankrupt.

If you are reading this text because you want to become an activist for social change and liberation, there are a few suggestions the editors of this book recommend you follow. These guidelines include: (1) be organized in life and tactically like a chess game, (2) be sober, drug free, and healthy so you are prepared to take on physical challenges from sabotage to defense, (3) be networked and build community to gather the support you need to promote a cause or defend those in prison, and (4) finally always expand your diversity of methods you outreach locally and globally from the media to society. Furthermore, activists need to (1) take risks, (2) go beyond the nonprofit industrial complex, (3) do constant self-reflection, (4) listen more than speak, (5) not take credit for their work, (6) challenge not just one form of oppression, but all forms of oppression, (7) support total liberation, (8) strive to be decentralized, and (9) oppose hierarchical organizational structures. ← 4 | 5 →

Outline of the Book

This book is broken up into four sections. The first section “Classic Writings on Revolutionary Environmentalism” explores the structural and social movement dynamics of the ELF, while the second section “Classic Writings on Ecoterrorism Rhetoric” primarily explores the ideological and intellectual underpinnings of the movement. The third section, “Classic Writings on Political Repression” shifts the focus away from the ELF to how the media and state have criminalized and repressed the group. In the last section “Current Perspectives” contemporary scholars reflect back on the ELF and explore aspects and strands of the group’s thoughts and actions and explore their contemporary relevance.

The first chapter, “Rhizomatic Resistance: The Zapatistas and the Earth Liberation Front,” written by Michael Becker, links the ELF and the Zapatistas’ revolutionary by exploring the way that both use rhizomatic resistance networks. He argues that the EZLN and the ELF, in their ideological bricolage, their anarchical and underground organization, and their now you see them now you don’t tactics mark a form of organized resistance unique to the conditions of the new corporatized, globalized, surveilled, (para)militarized, and neoliberal/neo-fascist world order.

The second chapter, “Understanding the Ideology of the Earth Liberation Front,” written by Sean Parson, attempts to patch a hole in the current research by analyzing the ideology of the ELF as stated in the group’s key communiqués from 1996 and 2003. He argues that unlike what most critics have stated, the ELF has a complex and multivariant group ideology, one that shifts away from the deep ecology perspective of the ELF in favor of its own unique perspective of “revolutionary environmentalism.” This revolutionary environmentalism incorporates components of deep ecology, social ecology, and, increasingly over the last decade, green anarchist thought.


XVIII, 344
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Vienna, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XVIII, 344 pp.

Biographical notes

Anthony J. Nocella II (Volume editor) Sean Parson (Volume editor) Amber E. George (Volume editor) Stephanie Eccles (Volume editor)

Anthony J. Nocella II, Ph.D., a long-time community organizer and environmental justice scholar, is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology in the Institute for Public Safety at Salt Lake Community College. He has published over forty books on socio-political issues and is interviewed by the media regularly. Sean Parson, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Politics and International A_ airs at Northern Arizona University. He is the author of Cooking Up a Revolution and co-editor of Superheroes and Critical Animal Studies. Amber E. George, Ph.D., is a scholar-activist who teaches philosophy at Galen College. She is the editor of the Journal of Critical Animal Studies and co-editor of Screening the Nonhuman and The Intersectionality of Critical Animal, Disability, and Environmental Studies. Stephanie Eccles, MSc., is an activist-scholar currently based in Montreal, Quebec. She is a Ph.D. student at Concordia University, focusing her dissertation research at the crossroads of critical animal geography and ethology.


Title: A Historical Scholarly Collection of Writings on the Earth Liberation Front
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