Animal activist attacks on food retailers increased 377 percent in 2008 from the year before, according to the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
The attacks jumped in number from 9 in 2007 to 34 in 2008 and included mainly smashing and etching windows and paint bombing buildings, vans, and billboards.
According to a report issued by the alliance, McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Hardee’s locations were especially popular targets.
“They’re targeting restaurants to get to food producers,” says Philip Lobo, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance. “Their strategy is if there aren’t any restaurants, then no one is going to be growing animals for food.”
Bite Back magazine was the alliance’s main source for compiling data on the acts claimed by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and other animal rights groups. The report found that the groups claimed 640 acts of sabotage, vandalism, and arson in 2008 against businesses that use animals, which include medical research institutions, consumer product–safety companies, farmers, fur shops, and food retailers.
“We have yet to see a year where there is a significant decline,” Lobo says.
The U.S.’s change from being an agriculture-based society to an industrialized nation might be at the heart of the increasing animal protests. Today, less than 2 percent of Americans work with agriculture (in 1900 that number was more than 12 times that).
Lobo says that it’s the disconnect from agriculture that perpetuates “urban myths” about the mistreatment animals face when entering the food supply.
The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) disagrees. “More than 25 billion animals are slaughtered for food each year in the United States, millions of animals suffer and die in laboratories and on fur farms—and it’s all needless, there are alternatives to it all,” says PETA in a statement to QSR.
PETA was not reported as one of the groups linked to the attacks and says the ALF’s tactics are “more aggressive” than its “behind-the-scenes” strategies.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance also found that new cells of animal activists are sprouting up around the country.
Attacks against food retailers in the most-obvious states like California and New York were “noticeably lower, while attacks in other areas not widely associated with animal rights extremism increased marketedly,” the alliance reports.
There are emerging ALF cells in Kansas City, Georgia, the Carolinas, Utah, and Texas.
“They are for total animal liberation and short of limiting your restaurant to only vegan fare, you cannot appease them,” Lobo says.