The burning of biotechnology offices in Michigan State University’s historic Agriculture Hall on New Year’s Eve; fire set to a home in a new development near Bloomington, Indiana on January 23; and “havoc” wreaked at a University of Minnesota genetic engineering project on February 9, are the latest acts in an unchecked terror spree for which the ecoterrorist group, Earth Liberation Front (ELF), has claimed credit.
In the latest incident, more than 800 oat plants were found overturned at a greenhouse on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus, and three locks were glued shut. Phrases such as “ELF” and “Free the Seed” were spray-painted on the greenhouse walls. David Somers, the project’s primary researcher, said the terrorists caused about $1,000 in damage and set research back more than three months.
For the past three years, researchers have studied the genetically engineered oats, trying to identify disease-resistant properties. The project is funded by Quaker Oats, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the university.
ELF has taken responsibility for 16 terrorist acts since 1996. The group’s spokesperson, Craig Rosenbraugh, has been the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation and has been called before a grand jury five times in three years. Nevertheless, the Clinton-Gore administration’s Justice Department has yet to make an arrest.
In a fax sent to The Associated Press and Michigan news media, ELF said the New Year’s Eve blaze was aimed at destroying the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project, which studies ways to make biotechnology public and available to developing nations. Catherine Ives, director of the project, told the Associated Press, “This was an attack on me. It was personal. I was named. It was a violation. I’m afraid. My family is afraid.”
The university estimates the fire caused over $400,000 in damage; it is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the arsonists. Anyone with information is asked to call the university police at 517/355-2221.
The home in Indiana was torched, according to Rosenbraugh, because it was in the Lake Monroe watershed, which provides water for Bloomington and the surrounding area. Rosenbraugh claimed the development threatened the water supply.
A history of unchecked terrorism
ELF was formed in 1992, in Brighton, England, by Earth First! members who wanted to continue performing criminal acts while Earth First! set out on a campaign to appear more mainstream. In 1993 they announced the formation of an alliance with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) to assist in terrorist activities. In 1996 they launched a long, and to this day unpunished, series of terrorist attacks.
October 28, 1996: ALF and ELF together took credit for the arson of a pickup truck at a U.S. Forest Service station in the Willamette National Forest.
October 30, 1996: they claimed responsibility for burning down a Forest Service ranger station near Eugene, Oregon. Damage was estimated at $5.3 million.
March 14, 1997: they claimed responsibility for spiking trees at the Robinson-Scott timber harvest site in the Willamette National Forest.
July 27, 1997: they admitted torching the Cavel West meat packing plant in Redmond, Oregon. Damage was estimated at over $1 million.
November 1997: they claimed to have burned the Bureau of Land Management’s horse corrals near Burns, Oregon, causing $450,000 in damage.
By mid-1998 the groups had moved east.
June 28, 1998: ELF claimed responsibility for spraying red paint on the Mexican Consulate in Boston to protest that country’s treatment of peasants. On the same day, both groups took credit for burning a U.S. Department of Agriculture building in Washington state.
July 3, 1998: the groups claimed responsibility for releasing 171 mink and ferrets from a United Vaccines laboratory in Middleton, Wisconsin.
October 1998: ELF took credit for its largest fire, which resulted in the destruction of a $12 million ski resort near Vail, Colorado. Both groups took credit for releasing 5,000 mink from a farm in Michigan’s upper peninsula.
The groups were silent for over a year. Then came the Christmas eve 1999 burning of U.S. Forest Industries headquarters and Boise Cascade’s regional headquarters, reported in last month’s Environment & Climate News.