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Extremist Attacks on Food Chain, U.S. Food Retailers Rise Sharply

That statistic, however, dwarfs the 377 percent increase in attacks on U.S. food retailers alone by groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the release said.

Data compiled by the Alliance showed that ALF, Earth Liberation Front, DBF (a branch of ALF found in Sweden and the Netherlands) and related animal rights groups claimed a total of 640 acts of sabotage, vandalism and arson in 2008, up from 467 in 2007, an increase of over 35 percent. The overall level of animal rights extremist attacks in the United States on businesses that use animals or animal products surged nearly 40 percent. An even more troubling development, according to the Alliance, is the massive expansion of damages inflicted upon food retailers. Claimed attacks on food retailers in the United States, especially McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and Hardee's, increased 377 percent, from nine in 2007 to 34 in 2008.

Destruction or defacement of property - especially smashing windows, etching windows, and painting (or paint bombing) windows, buildings, vans and billboards - were the most frequently used techniques used by extremist groups in their attempts to intimidate food chain businesses. Other tactics include slashing tires, gluing locks, flooding facilities, cutting off utilities to restaurants, hacking Web sites and damaging equipment.

Extremists claimed responsibility for the "liberation" of thousands of animals during the year, and millions of dollars in damage. Mexico appears to be an emerging center for animal rights terrorism, according to the Alliance release. In 2008, extremist groups in Mexico claimed more than double the amount of attacks than were claimed in the U.S.A.

Along with the increase in attacks, the geographic distribution of attacks in this country is changing, as well. "We have seen a significant change in extremist activity directed against the food chain," said Kay Johnson Smith, executive vice president of the Animal Agriculture Alliance. "The numbers of attacks against food retailers in hotbeds of extremism like California and New York were noticeably lower, while attacks in other areas not widely associated with animal rights extremism increased markedly. For instance, the greater Kansas City, Kansas, area appears to be the new home of an ALF cell, with two attacks having been claimed in the second half of 2008. An ALF cell in Georgia claimed five actions. One targeted a butcher shop; another hit a meat company and three more were aimed at quick serve restaurants. Further, ALF cells in North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas all claimed actions."

"The message is loud and clear that the agenda of these groups is focused solely on advancing a vegan agenda through destruction and intimidation," said Johnson Smith. "The fact that extremists are willing to increase their attacks on the food chain during a serious economic downturn should cause major alarm for all companies and organizations responsible for feeding people. The exponential escalation of attacks is shocking and disturbing. All companies in the food chain need to be vigilant, enhance their security efforts and be sure to report all incidents to their local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)."

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