Chris deRose: Last Chance for Animals
Last year, I was flipping through the TV channels looking for something interesting to watch when I tuned into an HBO documentary called “Dealing Dogs.” Watching this documentary was such an emotional experience for me – I wondered why I was watching such a movie that would break my heart when I was just looking for something fun to watch and yet I couldn’t turn it off. And I was glad I didn’t. I cried so much during this documentary and the impact of what I saw stayed with me for a long time. I learned so much.
According to HBO, four years in the making, DEALING DOGS follows the undercover investigation of Martin Creek Kennel by the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals. A young man who goes by the name of "Pete" in the film wore a hidden camera while he worked a low- level job hosing kennels at the dog dealer. Over the course of six months, Pete secretly filmed activities at Martin Creek Kennel, including the beating and shooting of dogs, and recorded footage of animals that were left to languish in their kennels and suffered from malnourishment, life-threatening disease and injury, among other abuses. Dog corpses are shown piled up on the property and in trenches after being butchered for their organs.
Recently, I had the honor of speaking at length with Chris deRose, who founded Last Chance for Animals in 1984. Last Chance For Animals has its roots in fighting and exposing the inherent cruelty of vivisection. In the organization's early years, DeRose led teams of dedicated activists employing non-violent strategies modeled after social movements led by such leaders as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
He also wrote In Your Face: From Actor to Animal Activist and was the recipient of the 1997 Courage of Conscience International Peace Award.
Why did you start Last Chance for Animals?
I never had a dog or a cat, but I don’t see the difference between caring for a person and an animal. I was in an acting workshop years ago and a dog walked into the class. I was afraid he’d get hit by traffic, so I kept him, fed him and brought him to the pound the next day. I didn’t want the responsibility, so I signed the papers. The dog put his paws on the cage and I decided I was going to keep the dog. I always felt that animals have intelligence. The lady said I had already signed the papers, but another guy said he’d keep the dog for me. I felt relieved until he picked it up by the neck. I (went after him). The cops came and I was told to leave and they wouldn’t press charges. I started to realize that these dogs were orphans, like me, with four legs.
I was about three years into (protecting animals) and I was going into labs and photographing and documenting what I saw in these labs. This is when I started getting into the whole vivisection thing – (originally the surgical cutting of a living animal in scientific research; often used today as a synonym for any type of animal) and vivisection if the blackest of all evils.
Chris protested and has been arrested numerous times for his protests. And then, last year, the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act almost changed everything.
Last year I learned about the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act. It basically says that if we are protesting a facility that has anything to do with animals and they say with we are interfering with that economics or enterprise of that business, we are violating this act. When I heard about this I felt defeated – how could our fighting for our animal’s rights be construed as a terrorist act?
(Last year around the time that Chris and I spoke, the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act was introduced in Congress, but thankfully never became law.)
So, on January 19th, Chris continued his protests and held one against vivisection on the UCLA campus Friday, January 19th. In a release about the event Chris says, “In 1998 LCA was responsible for exposing the horrors of the UCLA animal research laboratories on national TV. The footage was broadcast all over the country via CNN and other news outlets. Almost 20 years later nothing has changed, the same horrors still exist. The student population of UCLA should be ashamed at what goes on in their research labs. UCLA has been abusing animals in the name of science for far too long. We ask that the student population and concerned citizens take a stand against vivisection. Do it for the animals!"
We protested Cedar Sinai and I’ve been arrested seven times, but UCLA is three times larger than when we started to protest and nothing more is being done about it. Americans are still complacent about this.
As seen in the HBO documentary, Chris doesn’t give up. “Last Chance for Animals stays on an issue until we put people in prison,” he says. In the 1980s and 1990s, LCA has worked on virtually every animal rights issue, including farming, fur and animals in entertainment. LCA's primary focuses are vivisection, pet theft, fur, and circuses.
You said Americans are complacent, but how do we get involved?
The truth of the matter is there is so much to do. There are a lot of mean people out there. I finally realized it that congressional leaders don’t care about the animals, it’s all about the big industry -- all you have to do is look and see. We have pretty serious problems here.
First, you can get on our national alert list. You can write to people and become involved. Find your own ways. Do demonstrations, set up tables. People underestimate themselves and think “it’s just me.” It’s been a grueling 29 years, but it’s no more grueling than what these animals went through in a lab. The fear of what they go through, the hopelessness. I don’t look at the physical pain, I see their fear. It’s scary when you look at the faces in the lab and see who are going to be slaughtered. Their eyes are bulging because they can hear and smell what’s going on. Pigs, cows, chickens know what’s going to go on too. Help by not eating or wearing them. Factory farm animals suffer tremendously.
Last year, Last Chance for Animals (LCA) lead the protest at the Japanese Embassy in Los Angeles to demand Japan stop the brutal and inhumane slaughter of dolphins. Each year from October through March, in small towns across Japan, thousands of dolphins are confined and brutally killed. These slaughters take place in fishing towns including Taiji, Iki, Ito, Futo, and Izu. During those months, Japanese fishermen herd whole families and pods of dolphins, porpoises, and small whales into shallow bays and mercilessly hack them to death. Most of these animals are sold as meat in restaurants and stores, while others are destined for captivity.
Horrific footage taken by animal rights activists was broadcast across the world, showing Japanese hunters trapping a terrified pod of dolphins in a cove before netting their victims and cutting their throats out with large knives. These gentle, intelligent mammals can be seen thrashing about in agony in a blood-red sea, some taking up to 10 minutes to die from their wounds. Upwards of 20,000 dolphins and porpoises will be butchered by fishermen off the coast of Japan in the next six months, if the Japanese Government does not ban the 400-year-old hunting tradition
"The Japan dolphin slaughter is one of the most horrific acts of violence I have seen," said Chris DeRose, LCA President. "For a culture with so much pride they should be ashamed that they are committing these atrocities year after year. The dolphin slaughter must stop!"
Want to help? Visit Chris’ website at
www.lcanimal.org and see how you can make a difference.
Thanks for all you do Chris and, please, don't stop.