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 The job offer was rescinded and Jake, a dedicated and brilliant activist with more than 15 years of experience, had to find work elsewhere.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
Combat #1 (1990, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
After 6 years of operation in Toronto, a lull in activity caused the ALF Supporters Group Canada to shut down. Other volunteers picked up the slack and soon the SG was moved to Alberta. At this time the ALF was fairly active in the great white north, and soon their night time activities were being covered in a new magazine known as Combat. Considered by many to be the predecessor of Underground, Combat closely followed the template for supporters group publications set by The SG in England with one important difference: They had awesome cover art!
Combat is amongst the most rare militant animal rights publications produced in North America, and when we received this first issue for scanning we were delighted to find, a long, and thoughtful prison letter from Ronnie Lee, updates on the arrests of Jonathan Paul, Bill Keogh, and Cres Velluci, and a short listing of international action reports. There was also a hastily added pamphlet stuffed inside with an update on the jailing of Henry Hutto, an early movement hero who was amongst the first members of both PETA and Earth First! Very little information is available about Henry, who passed away in 2003, but he is a minor legend in some circles and the pictures of a rally held in his honor made holding this magazine that much sweeter.
Issue #2 of Combat is now available HERE.
Underground 4-6 (1996, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.)
As Underground magazine continued its run into 1996, the movement was once again in a state of internal dispute. The wave of FBI investigations and grand jury harassment earlier in the decade had put Rod Coronado behind bars. Sadly, an embarrassing moment in our history occurred when a small group of activists, including Rod’s long time friend and former housemate Jonathan Paul, called for support to be pulled from Rod. Their reasons were many, but largely centered around Rod’s desire to make the choices that effected his own defense. Jonathan and Rod later patched up their differences, but for many years those two great practitioners of direct action warred back and forth in the pages of this and other publications, which proved a waste of effort, time, and newsprint.
Luckily for nonhumans, 1996 was also a year that saw a tremendous upswing in resistance on their behalf. Notably, fur farm raids became common occurrences throughout the world. This was the year that saw the release of the infamous first edition of The Final Nail, a publication that gave addresses of fur farms and explained how to raid them. Excerpts appeared in Underground, and subscribers received free copies. Every issue throughout this period detailed the pressure being exerted on the fur farming industry, and proved that Rod’s imprisonment and the ensuing movement drama didn’t put the struggle for fur bearing animals in an early grave.
Underground also contained plenty of letters, news clippings, and short articles. Self criticism, analysis of movement building, targeting, press relations, and other strategic improvements are, sadly, largely absent. Still, the magazine provides one of the best glimpses into the way the ALF worked in North America in the 90s, which is why we will be posting every issue online, for free, by the middle of this month. Animal liberation history is for people, not profit!