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Single-Issue Terrorism: A Neglected Phenomenon?

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 23 Issue: 4 Dated: October/December 2000 Pages: 255-265
Rachel Monaghan
Date Published
11 pages
This article examines the campaigns of single-issue groups that have been willing to use violence in order to achieve their objectives.
Political violence resulting from the changing tactics of single-issue groups has received little attention in the literature on terrorism. The actions of single-issue groups willing to use terrorism are viewed as sub-revolutionary given that the action, although often directed at a particular government, is not designed to result in its overthrow. Two case studies provide clear examples of single-issue terrorism and are concerned with the question of who and what should have “rights.” Within the animal rights movement there exist a number of groups that are willing to engage in acts of terrorism, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Animal Rights Militia (ARM), and the Justice Department. These groups hold a deep conviction that animals have rights parallel and equal to those of human beings, and seek the cessation of all forms of animal exploitation whether for food, clothing, consumer safety, scientific advancement, or entertainment. The goals are to end all animal suffering by forcing animal abuse companies out of business using animal liberation (the rescuing of animals) and property damage as their weapons. Violent animal rights groups have used bombs and threats of product contamination as attempts to modify the behavior of individuals or companies involved in the exploitation of animals. The British Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was committed to the idea that women should possess the same voting rights as men. The targets they selected were symbolic: public property was attacked but was later extended to include private property. The underlying strategy was to modify the behavior of the government to extend the voting franchise to women. These two case studies highlight the difficulty of considering such acts as merely constituting sub-revolutionary terrorism as the goals pursued by the groups concerned fall far short of sub-revolutionary. These single-issues transcend mere left wing or right wing political considerations. It is argued that single-issue terrorism should be considered a distinct and unique phenomenon that is largely neglected within terrorism studies and deserves greater attention. 45 notes