In Defense of Animals spring 1990 (Mill Valley, CA)
A few years ago when SHAC 7 defendant Jake Conroy was being released from prison he was trying to set up a job in the outside world, not always an easy thing for a felon to accomplish. Luckily, some old friends knew the folks at In Defense of Animals, once one of the largest animal rights groups in the country. They were initially interested in hiring Jake, but after one staff member, Hope Purplehorse, heard about his possible employment soon a campaign was started within the office focused around rhetoric of “violence” and “terrorism” that almost could have come from an animal abuse industry handbook. The job offer was rescinded and Jake, a dedicated and brilliant activist with more than 15 years of experience, had to find work elsewhere.
If you are new to the animal liberation movement this won’t surprise you. National organizations almost seem to trip over their own feet these days to prove to our opposition and an apathetic public how reasonable and “mainstream” they are. This wasn’t always the case though. In Defense of Animals, for example, was founded after it’s president, a veterinarian by the name of Elliot Katz, sat down to dinner with Jonathan Paul and Cres Velluci, both of whom have served time for animal liberation activity. They recommended that he start an organization along the lines of Last Chance for Animals in Los Angeles, and Katz agreed. In the early days of IDA the group participated heavily in civil disobedience actions and organized mass demonstrations where disruptions and building takeovers were often par for the course. Later into the 90s they gave money to groups that utilized aggressive pressure tactics, such as Animal Rights Direct Action Coalition and Coalition to Free the Langur Monkeys, and also sponsored media stunts like the banner hangs at UC Berkeley carried out by Josh Trenter and Mike Kennedy.
The early energy of the group strengthened the movement, increased excitement among In Defense of Animals membership, and produced excellent results for non-humans. IDA was far from unique- in their early years PETA, Fund for Animals, Trans-Species Unlimited, Last Chance for Animals, and many others shared a similar radicalism, some even going so far as to openly support lab break ins and property damage. Unfortunately, as some underground groups carried out actions that were altogether unsupportable, and industry groups got more savvy, a wedge was driven between direct action oriented individuals and national organizations.
Conflict Gypsy would like to explore the history and process of national organizations withdrawing their support from radicalism and it’s consequences for the movement and the animals. We are seeking early issues of PeTA’s Animal Times, In Defense of Animals newletters, and similar publications for an upcoming series of posts. If you have these publications please contact us at conflictgypsy(at)gmail(dot)com