According to its advocates, which include the Earth Liberation Front and similar terrist groups, ecotage is the most effective way to combat destruction of natural ecosystems. It requires neither violence nor any direct confrontation with police, politicians, or other authority, as the actions are carried out in secret and at times of day where the risk to life is nil.
According to its detractors, who note that arson is a common ecotage method, and tree spiking was also a common technique at one time, the reverence for life expressed by those who perform ecotage is not reflected in their reckless disregard for property rights or willingness to risk the death of humans to save animals or plants.
One counter-argument is that all species compete most intensely with others of their own kind, and that to place any and all risks to any life of those of one's own species uniformly above that of all other life, simply guarantees that extinction and ecocide not only continue but accelerate. Thus at some point, a tradeoff must be made between human life and the integrity of all living ecosystems on which they depend. See Deep Ecology for this view in detail.
Some forms of ecotage can be excellent ways to draw media attention to ecological destruction in progress, but the publicity might backfire upon the saboteurs. Non-destructive civil disobedience tactics, such as tree sitting, are often more effective if the goal is to sway public opinion rather than directly interfere.
Ecotage was popularized in the 1980s by Edward Abbey's book The Monkey Wrench Gang. It has also been treated in novels by T. Coraghessan Boyle (A Friend of the Earth) and Carl Hiaasen (Tourist Season, Sick Puppy).