Excerpt from Going Underground for Animal Liberation. Even decades later, this excerpt remains almost fully relevant to underground environmental activism.
Most people who decide to take up direct action have been involved in legal campaigning, and local groups etc. Unfortunately, they nearly always have carried on with these campaigns whilst undertaking direct action. This must be one of the biggest mistakes that could be made, and is one of the main reasons that people have been arrested and imprisoned. The police keep a very vigilant eye on, what is, in terms of their resources, a small movement. If people carry on ANY form of legal campaigning whilst carrying out direct action, it is merely attracting attention to themselves, because the police know from experience of infiltrating the movement in the past, it has been the most active people campaigning who have nearly always been the most active illegally. We simply MUST stop this mistake NOW! Once someone has decided that direct action is the best way to right for Animal Liberation, then the seriousness of the action must be realised. Because direct action works, and because it attacks the very core that abusive modern society is based on, the authorities in the system will do all they can to stop it. Thus, any activist really should do all they can to remain anonymous and quiet as a shadow, because the stakes are very high the longer an activist keeps fighting, the more animals are saved and the closer Total Liberation. Also it means freedom, as opposed to imprisonment for the activists themselves.
There’s no way that someone should insist on handing out leaflets to someone, especially if they actually have little faith in that activity and whilst they are carrying out acts of REAL Liberation that involve high risks.
Some very, basic ideas on how to go underground and remain active, learning from some obvious mistakes in the past, would include:
As soon as someone has realised that they are going to take up direct action then it is wise to stop any other kind of work within the movement, and stay like this until well after they have given up direct action.
It is worth leaving a gap between any work you were doing within the movement before taking up direct action, and using this time to prepare. Leaving gaps of weeks or months between periods of high activity, or serious actions is wise. Although difficult for most, it is also advantageous to move house or flat as often as possible.
Preparation would involve spending time getting money together to fund actions, and also to buy tools, vehicles, and general equipment. Scouting out different areas and checking out animal abusers within those areas is advisable, whilst also arranging for safe houses and places, and people interested in taking in animals.
Actions are best carried out in another part of the country from where you live, preferably at least a couple of counties away. To “shit in your own back yard” is very tempting, bur has led to many arrests by giving the police an easy ride by not having to look far for the culprits. When there are periods of high activity in an area, the police quickly respond by setting up intense surveillance to watch local/regional animal rights campaigners, or people living in that county/region who have previous convictions for Animal Liberation related activities. For this reason it is also advisable not to associate at all with local animal rights groups, or people in them.
Only ever work with the minimal amount of people; and make sure the trust between you is total. Try not to have a social life that revolves around the same people you carry out actions with the police can (and have done so in the past) try to allege a “conspiracy” if one of you is arrested, and they can prove you all know each other and share a common belief towards Animal Liberation. Generally speaking, this isn’t too much of a risk as long as you don’t all frequent the same place (someone’s house, for instance) regularly.
Never talk about actions with anybody even those people who you undertook that action with.
Never go back to the scene of a crime, especially never soon after, to see the success the police will be watching for the slightest clue. (Many criminals of all sorts have been caught in this needless way to checking out the result of their crime.)
NEVER EVER talk in a building, even if you think it is the safest place in the world because the police have put bugs against activists in the most unlikely places. Anything that can be to be connected to illegal activities or subversive ideas should be discussed somewhere very safe. This point could never be stressed too much; some extremely clever and efficient activists have been caught out by this. It’s so easy to get lazy and start talking in a friend’s place: just don’t do it. There probably isn’t anything much worse than seeing your own words written down in black and white that you spoke a few weeks earlier used in evidence against you! Obviously, nothing dodgy should be said on the phone either, and it is worth remembering that if the cops are tapping your phone they will probably be tapping the public boxes nearby as well. No phone or building is safe a simple security procedure that is worth the small effort.
Make sure that your address is clear of anything that could link you with an “animal rights/liberation” philosophy, especially not anything illegal.
Constantly assess your aims, methods and strategies, and keep a sense of realism and cool about your planning. Gradually gaining the courage to carry out direct action regularly, takes some time. However, once the realisation that it is quite easy has hit you, it is important to remember exactly what you are up against. It has too often been the case that success can lead to over-confidence, which in turn can lead to recklessness.
These are just very basic points to consider. Unfortunately, in the past, Animal Liberationists have been caught out by all of these problems, by falling into the easy trap of the “it can’t really happen to me” way of thinking. Well it can, and has done; and unless we really do decide to go completely underground and treat Animal Liberation as seriously as it deserves, it will continue to do so!