Whatever your operation's security plan, what happened at Harris Farms a week ago indicates your plan probably needs tightening.
An animal terrorist group - the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) - claimed credit for setting fire bombs under a group of semi-tractors and trailers, destroying some 14 vehicles. Harris Farms is a logical target for groups like this. But these groups are loosely knit and unsupervised, so it is impossible to gauge whether other cells, individuals or copycats might spring up somewhere else, with less discriminating target selection.
In evaluating your operation's plans and habits, consider where you keep and how you secure equipment. ALF's statements indicate they intend to destroy equipment, rather than animals or humans. Of course, when someone sets a bomb off via a timer, there is no way of knowing when a human or animal could wander by and be killed in the explosion. Terrorists would, we assume, consider that collateral damage, less important than fiscally punishing companies that handle animals. That's their goal - to cost people who feed and hold animals as much money as possible.
But if rolling equipment is considered a prime target, how and where do you store it? These tractors and trailers were parked close enough together that the fuel bombs placed underneath them could be linked tractor to tractor by kerosene-soaked rope wicks, with digital timers. That poses the question, do you spread equipment out making it harder to get it all in one linked explosion or does that make it harder to monitor and secure?
We're assuming having equipment locked up in a machine shed makes it harder to access but this also concentrates it. Also, parking equipment in a feed or hay storage shed could risk both the equipment and the stored feed. And storing equipment in many places in a feedyard could put animals at risk, depending on the size of the explosion, the wind direction, the distance that flying debris travels, how close pens are, etc.
Historically, feeders have been more concerned about the security of the animals themselves, both so they wouldn't get hurt and because they have value that rustlers can exploit. In fact, ALF's website lists as a guideline, "To liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e., laboratories, factory farms ..." That certainly appears to leave the gate open, no pun intended, to let animals out rather than hurt them directly. Of course, the harm to a bunch of 1,200-lb. critters some hot summer night left to race over the countryside is a potential death sentence any feeder could imagine, but animal activists mightn't comprehend.
Now, it is obvious the equipment is a key target of animal terrorists. One wonders if feedyards are going to have to consult returning Iraq war security experts with knowledge of setting up secure green zones in a war zone just to protect their operations. The FBI has noted that besides arson and firebombing, ELF's (Earth Liberation Front) and ALF's crimes have included vandalism, intimidation, assaults and stalking. Again, their goal -- to cause economic loss or destroy the company's operation.
It certainly doesn't seem like peacetime in America when a perfectly legitimate business, with the charge of caring for and feeding thousands of animals, has to consider violence against the operation as a cost and management task for doing business. But as professional athletes are prone to say when sent out against the odds to play and win, it is what it is.
ALF and ELF are believed to be loosely connected and use similar tactics, often utilizing arson. Blowing up labs where animal research is being done is common (ALF). The burning of the $12-million Two Elks lodge and other buildings in Vail was retaliation for ski areas encroaching on alleged lynx habitat (ELF).
Obviously, these minds work differently than ours, making it harder to evaluate provocation. One site featured a video shot out the side window of a car going by Harris' feedlot. The fact that it took better than a minute to go by the yards apparently was the point of the video, as if having more than a few dozen cattle was in and of itself a crime. We tend to see success in such a fact. To twisted minds, it's an abomination.
Some lawmakers told a House resources subcommittee on eco-terrorism in the months after 9/11 that terrorism is terrorism, whether aimed at people or the environment.
"They hate American freedoms, including the freedom to choose ... and freedom to prosper," U.S. Rep. James V. Hansen (R-UT), said. "They will commit arson, vandalism and set bombs to express their hatred for our freedoms."