PROVO — An internationally known animal activist group says it conducted an early morning raid at a Spanish Fork egg farm Nov. 1 and liberated 102 hens from a "living hell."

The Animal Liberation Front — a group that the Homeland Security Administration classifies as a terrorist organization — has posted a report on a Web site describing its break-in at Shepherd's Egg Farm.

"We moved quickly to remove as many birds as we could," states the posting on a Web site that acts as a liaison between the organization and the press. The posting first appeared five days following the claimed break-in.

Farm operators are puzzled by ALF's claim. Workers have never noticed or reported any damage to farm sheds or missing hens. The farm first learned of the alleged theft from news reporters, spokesman Mitch Head said.

Photographs posted on ALF's Web site described as being taken during the heist are vague and could be from anywhere, Head said.

"It's hard to tell one chicken from another," he said.

In a statement Tuesday, the group said the animals were held in cruel conditions and have since been treated by a veterinarian and given away.

"They will all live out their full life span here instead of being killed when no longer profitable," the statement said.

Still, the company plans to file a report with local police and the FBI.

The posting has generated a sense of fear in at least one family member who was adamant about not being named during a Thursday interview. "This terrorist group — that's all they are ... but I'm afraid this stupid group is going to torch our place."

Her fear may be legitimate:

"These groups will never stop," said Camille Hankins, who is not a member of the ALF but speaks as a press officer on their behalf. "They'll probably be back to cause as much financial and economic harm to this farm as possible."

Hankins spoke to the Deseret Morning News Thursday from New York.

The group posted photos of their hen escapade on the Internet site along with video footage.

The Shepherd family doesn't believe the group took 102 hens.

The ALF credo claims they do no harm to animals or people. But buildings, machinery and property are targets.

"They (groups like ALF) have burned down many buildings, caused millions of dollars worth of damage but have never killed a single person," said Hankins. "They haven't even hurt anybody to my knowledge."

In 2002 congressional testimony, the FBI estimated different sects of the group had committed 600 criminal acts in six years.

It is precisely this reputation — along with surreptitious photos the group members, garbed in ominous black face masks, posted on the Web site — that has family members fearful. The family is working on ways to improve farm security and keep it running.

"I'm not saying what kind (of methods)," said the woman interviewed Thursday, "in case they get your newspaper and read about it. But we've talked about doing something in the way of (a security system); we want to catch these terrorists."

The group calls its activities "monkey-wrenching" because it disrupts business operations that allow a company to turn a profit.

The group will stop its illicit activities only when society ends its use and consumption of animals or their products — including milk, honey and eggs, according to Hankins.

When asked what the business could do to keep the organization from returning, Hankins said, "I don't know if there is anything they can do short of closing down and shutting up shop.

"It's definitely an extreme position," she admitted. "But animals are treated like a commodity, and until it stops, I imagine these acts will continue."

Jerry Vlasak, another spokesman for the group, said he and Hankins don't know the people who claim to have broken in, and "I don't want to know." But he agrees with what they have done, calling the perpetrators courageous for risking their liberty for the cause of animals.

Vlasak considers himself a liaison between the media and a noble underground activity. He receives e-mails and other information from "unknown" sources to pass on.

Vlasak and Hankins believe the group members are likely from out of town and are older than people might imagine.


Contributing: Associated Press


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