Ecoterrorism, ecological terrorism or terrorism to defend the environment

In an archive document of the FBI dated 12th February 2002, a type of serious extremism carried out by groups belonging to Animal Rights Militia (ARM) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) was recorded. In 2002, it was estimated that these groups had committed over 600 criminal acts and had cost damaged valued at over 43 million dollars in the United States over a six-year period. According to the same document, the ARM was established in Great Britain in the mid-70s and became active in the USA at the end of the same period. The ARM was committed to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals via direct action against companies or individuals using animals for research or to make profit (farms, restaurants, animal research laboratories, etc.). Later, in 1992, the ELF was founded in Brighton (England) and in 1993 both organisations made a declaration stating solidarity with each other’s actions. This second organisation committed acts of sabotage and terrorist attacks against the property of those industries and entities that, via their activities, caused damage to the environment.

The Europol annual report on the terrorist situation has documented this form of extremism since 2008. The latest report, from 2017, which includes incidents corresponding to 2016, indicates that the activism of these groups was basically focused on peaceful and legal action both in a physical and virtual context. Despite this, several violent incidents were recorded because of the infiltration of anarchist and extreme left-wing groups, which imposed their modus operandi. The most noteworthy incidents took place in Belgium, Germany and Italy.

Specifically in Belgium, activists in favour of human rights organised several protests against experimenting with and sacrificing animals without anaesthesia. In general, the activities were peaceful, with the exception of some illegal entering of farms to film the living conditions of animals and denounce the abusive situation.

In Germany, extremist groups sabotaged railway cables.

In Italy, there is an important movement against the construction of a high-speed train (No Tav); in this context, there were acts of sabotage in Bologna and Rome. The movement No Tav has spawned other groups with a similar inspiration like No Grandi Navi against the arrival of large cruisers in Venice; the group No Ponte against the construction of a bridge over the Messina Strait and the group No Ombrina against oil drilling in the Adriatic.

In our country, we cannot talk of eco terrorist activity, although isolated incidents have been recorded such as massive mink freeing from breeding farms.[1] There is growing social awareness of the mistreating of animals and in favour of a more sustainable lifestyle, which is mainly manifested peacefully; and, until now, has remained within legally acceptable and legitimate margins.

[1] See also:


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