The Birth of the Animal Liberation Front
1974 to 1976 – Oxford Lab Action, the “Bicester Two” – UK
In August 1974, Band of Mercy members Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman were arrested for taking part in a raid on Oxford Laboratory Animal Colonies in Bicester, which earned them the name the “Bicester Two”. Daily demonstrations took place outside the court during their trial, with Lee’s local Labour MP, Ivor Clemitson among the demonstrators. They were sentenced to three years in prison, during which Lee went on the movement’s first hunger strike to obtain vegan food and clothing. They were paroled after 12 months and emerged from prison in the spring of 1976.
Being in jail had affected each of the Bicester Two in totally different ways. Cliff Goodman came out of prison and turned informer. According to activist Noel Molland, “He gave the police a great deal of information about the use of radios by the Band of Mercy. For this act of treachery, Cliff was given the title of the movements first ‘grass’ (police informer).”
Ronnie, on the other hand, became even more committed to the path he had forged with the Band of Mercy. He realized there was widespread public support for animal liberation illegal direct action. He organized 30 activists to set up a new, revolutionary liberation campaign. Seeking a campaign named that would “haunt” those who used animals, he chose “the Animal Liberation Front” – the A.L.F.
According to Lee, “I was worried that the fact we were put in prison would put other people off taking direct action. I didn’t really know what would happen. I was pleasantly surprised when I got out of jail to have animal rights people coming up to me saying, ‘I want to get involved in that’….. A lot of other new people then wanted to get involved and it was at that time we changed the name to Animal Liberation Front because Band of Mercy sounded like some sort of religious organization. It didn’t mention animals or say what we were about so we thought Animal Liberation Front was a good name because that’s what it was all about.”
Noel Molland’s account of early animal liberation direct action:
The full interview with Ronnie Lee: