My review starts on Page 97 on the scroll-through thing on the bottom when you click on the issue. Enjoy! ❤
Written by me, Jan Smitowicz, and simul-posted with Negotiation is Over!
It was the summer of 2007 and things were getting hot in the Los Angeles animal rights world. At the end of June, an incendiary device was left under the posh BMW of a UCLA primate vivisector, Arthur Rosenbaum. It failed to ignite; even so, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was offering a $110,000 reward to any information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. A reward of $60,000 (UCLA contributed $30,000 to each of the reward offers) was still being offered for a similar incident from the prior summer, when an incendiary device was left on the porch of a different UCLA primate torturer, Lynn Fairbanks. The FBI claimed the device—which also failed to ignite—was left on the wrong porch, that of an elderly neighbor. How bad that looks for the radical(s) who performed the action, right? I’m confident it’s a complete fabrication by the FBI–it wouldn’t be the first time (see COINTELPRO).
During World Week for Laboratory Animals in April of 2007, a federal agent was putzing around trying to hand out fliers to activists at UCLA about the incident and the reward money. Most of us didn’t even take the fliers. We don’t know shit, leave us alone! We were pretty fresh off a relatively short but intense—and successful!—campaign against the POM Wonderful juice company. Southern California activists performed frequent and noisy home demonstrations against the corporation’s CEOs and various executives. POM was funding animal research on rabbits and baby mice (which included depriving the latter of oxygen for 45 minutes to induce severe brain damage) to try and show how their juice could help with erectile dysfunction and Alzheimer’s.
I was president of Irvine Students Against Animal Cruelty (ISAAC) at UC Irvine, but I cut my home demo teeth on this campaign. Vice President and company spokesperson Fiona Possell resigned from the company, citing pressure from animal rights groups (that was us!) It was at her classy home in Santa Monica during a home demonstration that a neighbor punched a female protestor in the face—police were nearby, and it was caught on camera, but nothing was done. No surprise there, as the police exist largely to enforce the status quo and protect the rich and powerful members of the dominant culture. In addition to our protests, the Animal Rights Militia (ARM) claimed in December 2006 to have tampered with several hundred bottles of POM Wonderful’s pomegranate juice on the East Coast, and that anybody who drank one of the contaminated bottles would get diarrhea and vomiting. The communique stated, in part,
“If people who want to hold a sign and shout to get out the truth about what’s happening inside places that confine and inflict pain and cruelty on animals are being thrown in jail and harassed by the government, we will fight that much harder from the underground, where it’s safer than holding a sign and yelling the truth” [emphasis added].
Whole Foods pulled ALL POM Wonderful from their shelves; on January 16, they announced that they would cease selling the juice at all of their stores nationwide starting April 1. The very next day, the company announced that they would cease all animal testing. This campaign is a perfect, quintessential example of how aboveground, legal tactics and illegal sabotage can work beautifully in concert, even when there is an absolute firewall between the two—no connection, no crossover in knowledge or personnel. But that’s not what this essay is about.
This essay is about one particular day of demonstrations around Los Angeles. I merely discussed the aforementioned to set the scene, to show the level of intensity and police interest and intimidation against our aboveground, legal, (supposedly) constitutionally-protected free speech. Whenever underground actions happen, the authorities get so frustrated because they are almost pathologically incapable of catching saboteurs. So they come after those who are doing legal activism, so they can at least suppress something! Several houses of activists had recently been raided in the LA-area. Because of this and other repressive measures by the police, the organizers of this day of demonstrations decided that we would do it Black-Bloc style—wearing all black clothes and using bandanas or masks to cover our faces. This served a dual purpose: to hide our identities from the blueballed cops, and to display our solidarity with the faceless, nameless animals being tortured and killed for profit and nothing more.
We met in the late morning at a park-and-ride lot off Mulholland Drive in North Hollywood, right next to the 405 Freeway. As we were milling around waiting for everyone to arrive and figure out carpool logistics, one of the activists pointed across the massive ten-lane Highway to another parking lot: there was a guy in a pickup truck, staring at us through binoculars. An undercover cop or investigator. “Looks like the heat is already here,” somebody commented. We had no idea just how hot it would get.
The first demonstration was a short and relatively bullshit-free one at the Westwood home and neighborhood of a UCLA vivisector. Then we moved on to the apartment building of the head of Los Angeles Animal “Services,” the umbrella for all animal shelters in the county—which euthanized approximately 50,000 dogs and cats and other companion animals a year (and then sold their corpses to rendering plants, which boiled them up and sold the fatty gunk to factory farms for cows and chickens and others to eat—if you eat animal corpses, you literally could be eating someone who ate your dear euthanized companion animal—puppies on your plate). There were a few cop cars at the demo, but it was still relatively quiet. Then the LA Sheriff’s Department helicopter showed up and hovered way up overhead, watching us. A fucking police helicopter, for about fifteen (15) activists! We headed for Santa Monica, our last destination for the day, and that’s when it started to get really crazy. Each of the four carloads of demonstrators by now had an undercover tail, probably hired by UCLA. The police chopper was also following us across the sprawling city. One of the cars was pulled over leaving the demo and Coby, then about 82 years old, was given a ticket for not wearing her seatbelt (it was broken, she couldn’t wear it). They were detained, held up for nearly an hour, thereby eliminating their ability to attend the final protest.
Me and the rest of our carload were getting pretty goddamned annoyed at being followed, so we decided to try and shake the bastard. We blasted through red lights, screeched around corners, zipped down alleys, parked and hid in a driveway. Thought we lost him. We waited for five minutes and then emerged from the alley, only to find him right there waiting for us. Shit!
When we arrived at UCLA primate torturer Arthur Rosenbaum’s lovely blood-money house in Santa Monica, the scene literally took our breath away. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. His entire block was barricaded off on both ends. There was an entire line of cops in full riot gear—helmets, padding, batons—stretching across his entire front yard. Cop cars everywhere. Helicopter chopping the sky overhead. Two big city buses were parked at the end of the street; they were empty, and I don’t know if they brought the cops, or if they were there to hustle us all off to prison. Because believe me when I tell you they really, REALLY wanted to arrest us. To say the cops had hard-ons for us doesn’t even begin to describe it. Clusters of them on every corner and at each barricade. Lines of them surrounding his house. It looked like a fucking war zone, but no—just an animal abuser’s house in Santa Monica on a pleasant, warm Sunday afternoon! I counted over sixty police officers, and that was just the ones in uniform. Sixty-plus cops—for twelve activists. More than five cops for every one nonviolent, peaceful protestor. Good to know our tax dollars are being well spent to repress legitimate dissent, eh?!
They had the decibel-measuring machine ready and waiting already. We’d previously been harassed and repressed and arrested for “exceeding the allowable decibel level,” an old, obscure city law they either dug up or created just for us. They said if we exceeded 40 decibels we’d be arrested. Do you know what 40 decibels sounds like?? You’re reading this in your head, you’re almost exceeding 40 fucking decibels. 30 is a whisper, so 40 is a soft chat. We’re supposed to be allowed freedom of speech and assembly and protest, but we couldn’t even chant! So fuck it—when the heat is on, you adapt and overcome. We mutually agreed, all 12 of us, to do a silent protest, thereby eliminating their ability to arrest us (on THAT charge, anyway!). We had to be extremely careful, because they yearned tragically to arrest each and every one of us. As we began marching in step down the street with our signs, the cop with the sound measurer was literally holding the apparatus toward us, hoping the shuffling of our feet would exceed 40 decibels so they could throw us down and brutalize and arrest us. It was so utterly insane and surreal—indescribably so.
We walked up and down Rosenbaum’s block, single-file, keeping close together for at least the psychological illusion of safety and protection. An activist was ticketed by the cops for handing out fliers to neighbors because the fliers didn’t have the group’s address on it, or some ridiculous shit. Every so often we would stop and raise our fists in unison, not uttering a sound. We educated the killer’s neighbors. One of them came out of her house and walked alongside us, across the street, for a solid ten minutes, clapping and thanking us for being there, telling her neighbors that it was beautiful that we were there for the animals. Bless her heart!
When we’d get to the front of Rosenbaum’s house, where the line of riot cops stood holding their batons and trying to intimidate us like the terrorists they are, we adopted a new tactic: the entire length of his house, we stood in line facing the cops and slowly shuffle-stepped sideways, staring into their eyes through the plastic of their protective shields—our eyes, the only parts of our faces visible above our bandanas. When our line was fully in front of the house, just feet from the cops, we’d stop and throw up our fists and whisper together, “ANIMAL LIBERATION!” I looked into their eyes and whispered things like, “Do you know who you’re protecting? Do you know what this man does to nonhuman primates?”
And so it was that we spent an hour there, educating the neighbors, inconveniencing Arthur Rosenbaum (who was home—we’d see him or his family or friends peer through the curtains); I like to think that 60-70 cops and a blocked-off street and a dozen riot-gear-clad filth was far more annoying and scary than we could’ve ever been with just a normal, noisy protest! We also probably cost the county several hundred thousand dollars that day. With only about a dozen of us! Legal economic sabotage, if you will. It seems like it would be hard for the cities and the county to justify ever again spending that kind of money on a small cadre of nonviolent, legal protestors. I find it unbelievable that not a single one of us was arrested, given how badly they wanted to, and how easy it would’ve been for them to just do it and fabricate a reason, and how much money and person-power they were spending on us. That alone is an amazing victory for us. I’m proud of my fellow activists that day for not backing down from the inferno of heat that surrounded us. When that kind of repression comes down, it is a clear message from those in power that we are being effective. That is the time not to back down, but to INCREASE the pressure on abusers.
As activists for compassion in the thrashing endgame of industrial civilization, to use a phrase of Derrick Jensen’s, it will become ever more important for us to constantly reevaluate our tactics and our targets and our focus, to constantly be open to adaptation in the face of repression. Obviously we wanted to have a loud rowdy demonstration, but we couldn’t—so we overcame the heat and found a way to be effective nonetheless. The repression is only going to increase (see, for example, everything that people like Camille Marino, Tim DeChristopher, Rod Coronado, Chris Lagergren and so many others have gone through or are going through.)
Let this one day and the climate surrounding it be a lesson to all who see the Holocaust of animals and the Earth and aren’t content to be “Good Germans” and let it happen without resisting. Adapt. Overcome. For the animals, for the Earth, FOR THE LIBERATION OF ALL!
Posted on the WP blog of Dr. Steve Best; written by my ally in support for strategic sabotage, Usnea–someone with whom I did relief work at Common Ground in New Orleans’s 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina in December of 2005.
By Usnea, Earth First! Journal, 2011
I state without fear—but with the hope of rallying our collective courage—that I support radical actions. I support tools like industrial sabotage, monkey wrenching machinery and strategic arson. The Earth’s situation is dire. If other methods are not enough, we must not allow concerns about property rights to stop us from protecting the land, sea, and air. Today, more than ever, the Earth needs our effective action using all the methods of resistance at our disposal. Radical actions and radical movements grow out of supportive cultures. Let us once again build a strong supportive base for them.
Don’t get me wrong. During the Green Scare, in which dozens of activists were incarcerated, our movement got seriously screwed with, and we have had some extremely hard times because of the outstanding repression we have faced for the last six years. I want to remember…
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This post brings together two seemingly disparate topics which in reality connect well together. I’m putting them in one post because I happened to do the two separate things on the same day (UC Davis animal research protest with the Open the Cages Tour and a nature and arboretum walk).
First we got our protest on at the despicable California National Primate Research Center; there were young activists in their 20s like myself, and people who have been protesting vivisection since before many of us were born (perhaps it’s long past time we as a ‘movement’ reevaluate the tactics we support and advocate?). A great mixture of old-school and new-school coming together.
One of the tourers got some good messages out there as he was interviewed by two separate local channels (I don’t know how much they actually showed–my guess is not-much, but such is the way of the world). He was eloquent and concise, although I do wish he’d talked not just about primates, since rats and mice constitute 95% of the animals used in vivisection, and they suffer unfathomably as well; of course, it was a protest focusing on the Primate Research Center, but there’s nothing wrong with mentioning the millions of beautiful, sweet little creatures (I’ve had rescued pet rats for the last 5 years, and they’re wonderful and amazing companions!) who aren’t even covered under the already-pitiful and rarely-enforced Animal Welfare Act. That’s right, the AWA excludes all rodents, so they’re basically like naked soldiers walking into a nuclear test range.
I also got to get a little megaphone time; I already have what they call “megaphone mouth,” meaning the ability to make my voice very, very loud, so I’m hoping the monkeys in their tiny cages could hear me calling for their freedom from their Nazi imprisoners deep behind the walls of the torture chambers.
Tonight the Open the Cages Tour will be having an Animal Rights workshop in Seattle, and tomorrow there will be a protest at the University of Washington. Then it’s farther on up the Best Coast to Vancouver! Here is their tour schedule.
After that, I met up with a friend from college, Kirsti, whom I haven’t seen in nearly three years. She’s a major plant enthusiast and has a degree in Biological Science with an emphasis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, so she taught me a LOT about plants; usually I’m the one telling others about the natural features of an area, so it was very nice and humbling to be schooled; hopefully I can impart some of her impressive knowledge to you, Dear Reader. First we went to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, just outside Davis, where we saw some lovely flowers, snowy egrets and a great blue heron, red-winged blackbirds, and swarms of beautiful dragonflies above our heads.
Kirsti says: “Most people think that the sunflower is a single flower, but actually it is a composite of numerous florets (small flowers). Each single outer petal is actually a sterile floret, and the real flowers are arranged in the center in a beautiful Fibannochi pattern to maximize packing of seeds after they are fertilized.” So cool! I never knew that–had no idea.
“This showy orange flower is a south African plant called Wild Dagga. The plant’s modest water requirements and ability to attract hummingbirds makes it a popular ornamental in the Central Valley and Southern California.”
“[This] succulent is a hybrid of Echeveria elegans and it is being showcased in a garden filled with hand-picked “All Stars” chosen by the Arboretum Master Gardener staff for their ability to flourish in Davis and the Central Valley with minimal upkeep.” I referred to the Echeveria as the “dancers” because the flowers look like they’re swing-dancing!
I was a little conflicted about posting a single non-native plant picture on this blog (the Wild Dagga), but Kirsti can provide a scholarly interpretation of the arboretum’s general ecological soundness; obviously it has value in teaching people about plants, but you always have to ask, At what cost? Like how zoos can teach us about animals, but at a horrific cost to the animals and our own psyches (on this topic, I cannot more highly recommend Derrick Jensen’s beautiful, heartbreaking book, Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening From the Nightmare of Zoos). But this arboretum is a good one. As we come nearer and nearer to a post-oil world, learning about and propagating plants is becoming immeasurably important. I’ll let Kirsti take it away!
“As climate change threatens the [Central] Valley with increasing water shortages, the Arboretum emphasizes the practice of xeriscaping, aka green landscaping– or designing gardens that use plants that reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation. [emphasis added]
“Using native plants is one obvious tactic, as they are already adapted to the particular water needs of the region, and their presence supports the myriad insects, birds and other organisms that exist in the native community. Although most exotic plants tend to require more maintenance or water than natives, the Arboretum has done a great job of identifying specific drought-resistant exotic plants from other countries that synergize with the Central Valley’s climate.
“Invasive species are a real problem because they compete with native species for space and resources and might possess novel qualities that allow them to proliferate out of control and wipe out scores of native species and communities in their wake. Although some exotic plants may be beneficial in green landscaping, it is important to remember that these seemingly isolated plants start as source population for spreading beyond your garden, and this may have tragic consequences to the local ecosystem. In the interest of protecting native communities, the real focus should be on landscaping with native plants that are relatively beneficial to the native community in the event they escape beyond your garden.” [emphasis added]
Beautifully rendered explanations, Kirsti, thank you so much for your input!
Yet another aboveground, legal activist being harassed and arrested and repressed by the government and animal-killing industries.
“Camille Marino is a passionate and uncompromising animal activist, On Saturday, Feb. 4th, while attending a peaceful anti-vivisection [A euphemism for animal torture] demonstration and commemoration of two monkeys who were tortured to death at the University of Florida, Camille was arrested on charges related to her campaign against notorious vivisectionist, Donal O’Leary, an animal experimenter at Wayne State University in Michigan.”
-From Camille’s Support website
O’Leary’s vicious, torturous experiments on dogs have been shown to be in frequent violation of the already-paltry Animal Welfare Act; the dogs suffer “unrelieved agony,” according to the Physicians Committtee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).
Check out Camille’s and others’ great, uncompromising anti-vivisection site, Negotiation Is Over.
How many times do we have to see government and University collusion to maintain and expand the enormously profitable (it is a billions-of-dollars industry) vivisection-industrial complex? See, for example, the case of the AETA 4 (and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act itself! According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, “The law was pushed through Congress by wealthy biomedical & agri-business industry groups…”) It’s time to see that only a militant, relentless, holistic, above-AND-underground campaign to end animal experimentation will make strides in that direction. If you don’t support direct action to end the senseless, wasteful torture of animals in laboratories, you don’t support the suffering animals. It really is that simple.
Here are some pictures obtained from a University of Florida laboratory, taken by the vivisectors themselves and released through a records request. Yes, they are graphic and disturbing. That’s because vivisection is ubiquitously graphic and disturbing. Please, please don’t turn away from this suffering. If you get angry, DO SOMETHING!!
More of these horrid, truthful pictures can be found at Camille’s Facebook page.
Support Camille. And support the about-to-begin Open the Cages tour, coming to a west coast campus/city near you soon! It is being sponsored by the amazing Michael Budkie’s amazing group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now! (SAEN)
“Power never takes a step back–only in the face of more power.” -Malcolm X
We must have the power and the courage to do whatever it takes–WHATEVER IT TAKES–to end vivisection once and for all.
Terrific article by Russ McSpadden from the Earth First! Newswire. Tomorrow (July 3) is Rod Coronado’s birthday, so I’ll probably be posting my own thoughts (and an anecdote of a highlight of my life–meeting and shaking the hand of Rod just outside the courtroom at his 2007 San Diego trial.
by Russ McSpadden / Earth First! News
[The text of this work is free to share and distribute under the following Creative Commons License CC-BY-ND 3.0]
Most of the heroes of the Wild West, the rootin’ tootin’ movie cowboys, sheriffs, miners, ranchers, saloon owners and cavalry generals, had a real knack for replacing all the wild land they got a hold of with profiteering schemes. These are the folks that actually killed the Wild West, bought it up, fenced it in, murdered and incarcerated many of its indigenous people, destroyed its communities with alcoholism, stripped its land, averted and drained its waters, blasted its mountains, decimated its wildlife, made extinct its wolves and jaguars and generally can be thanked for the Bone-Dry SuburbanTame West of today. I’m saying, as far as wild goes, these boys paved the way for the wild-ass time you are having…
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Great news–the newly restarted Green Theory and Praxis Journal now has its website up.
And I am on the editorial board as their official book reviewer!! We are all very excited about bringing this to you. And since I am disabled and spent two years in prison, I feel like I’ll have a lot to contribute to the board.
“A multi-movement publication, GTPJ is a critical theory journal seeking scholarship in the areas of environmental justice, eco-ability, eco-feminism, eco-transgender studies, global justice, revolutionary environmentalism, critical race theory, critical environmental education, ecopedagogy, Earth liberation, etc. Further, the journal promotes deconstruction of oppressive binaries (culture/nature, wild/civilized, human/animal), real world application of critical theory, and a jargon-free rhetorical foundation supporting the abolition of all systems of domination. GTPJ is not a reformist publication. Rather, our mission argues for mass global transformation through the critique of systems, not individuals, that promote oppression.”
ALF? you ask. Isn’t that the alien puppet from that horrible ’80s show? Well, yes, but here is an introduction to who the Animal Liberation Front is and why they do what they do.
Check out Bite Back Magazine for an extensive list of worldwide actions.
Beyond that, I highly recommend reading Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, edited by Steven Best and Anthony Nocella, II, if you haven’t already.
AND HERE IS THE (THRILLING?) FINALE!!
It’s a small yellow pickup with an open-topped trailer attachment. I recognize it from a video on the sanctuary’s website, which showed a sheep in horrendous pain; the trailer was so packed that a cow had one of her feet on top of the sheep’s face. Her eyes bulged from the pressure. She bleated in agony. This time the trailer is filled solely with sheep, about a dozen of them crowded and huddled together. The truck exits the grounds and turns left. After waiting until the truck is about a hundred yards away, we follow.
I tell Frank about what I saw. When I talk about the little black lamb, and how heartbreaking it was, he says something that makes it even worse. “Next time just take off with her. We’ll take her to the sanctuary.”
“Are you serious?” My heart, sinking. My spirit, another little death among millions.
“But that’ll compromise my ability to return there, won’t it?”
“Maybe, maybe not. Who gives a fuck? Too good to pass up.”
I sink into the seat. “Fuck.”
“No, it’s alright. In the long run, it’s probably for the best.”
I shake my head, biting a fingernail. I’m sick of the fucking long run. At what point does the long run become now? Even more importantly, at what point does the long run move into the past?
The yellow truck is about five cars ahead of us, waiting for the light to go green so we can turn left and merge onto the freeway. “I wanna see where this guy’s going,” Frank says. “If it’s as fucked up as I think it is, and we can get footage, we could maybe shut down his whole damn operation.” The light turns green. Cars and trucks in front of the yellow truck–our mark–inch forward, some of the U-turning like tortoises with sticky feet. The mark makes it through.
“Come on, motherfuckers!” I cry. With three cars in front of us, the light turns yellow. We have to make this light. It’s a busy intersection, and if we have to wait through another cycle the truck will have a good two-minute head start. If he gets off the freeway or switches to another one within a few miles we’ll lose him. The light turns red just as the car in front of us hits the turn. We’re ten feet back. Frank guns the engine and rockets through the intersection and onto the freeway ramp with a throaty roar of the diesel engine. I laugh, vamped up, almost delirious with excitement. Oh Christ please I hope a cop didn’t see us. We’d be toast for sure, the tailing job finished before it really even started.
But no. We speed onto the 60 and find the truck, hold back several cars in the next lane over. But this becomes difficult, because the fucker is going so slow. Eventually we have no choice but to fall in right behind them (we can now see there are two men in the truck cabin) in the far right lane. The fastest they ever go is about 60 miles per hour. Which is good for the animals, I suppose–better than 70, anyway–but bad for tailing someone. The only thing working in our favor is that it’s dark. Our headlights are the only thing clearly visible. After 30 or 40 minutes we’ve changed freeways twice (a common occurrence anywhere in southern California) and we’re on the 210 North, the Pasadena Freeway. It seems we’ve passed the point of no return. After following them this long, it makes no sense to turn back around. We’ve come this damn far. It would make all the time spent so far a total waste. We’re in for the long haul.
Frank talks about his views on kids, a subject on which we immediately click. He doesn’t have any. Doesn’t want any. He’s quite a misanthrope (hence a kindred spirit) and loathes that there are so damn many humans on the planet. He is vasectomized–a heroic act in my opinion. At this point I’m only 21, and already I’ve been thinking about getting one. The only thing that stops me at this point is my doctor parents, who think it’s a wretched idea. They don’t understand that if I ever want kids–highly unlikely–I’ll just ADOPT. Imagine that! Helping some poor unwanted kid who’s already alive, rather than creating yet another hungry mouth and shitting anus. My mom says any doctor who would perform a vasectomy on a 21-year-old would be a hack, and might hack off parts I want to keep! I have heard it’s difficult for just about anyone in their 20s, let alone early 20s, to get a vasectomy. This, along with my omnipresent malaise, and monetary concerns, delay me. But I do eventually get one, just a few days after turning 25. One month, in fact, before beginning a four-year prison sentence in Illinois for marijuana trafficking.
Frank expresses a brilliant idea; why the fuck do people get their foolish and selfish breeding subsidized by the government in the form of tax breaks?? It’s further encouraging overpopulation and the straining (and draining) of public and social resources–e.g. schools, roads, and welfare programs. Instead they should reward people for not having kids, for being responsible in this hyper-crowded, hyper-polluted, hyper-destructive country. It is another dream of mine to someday open a free spay-neuter clinic–for humans. How awesome would that be? It would certainly attract a lot of publicity, that much we can agree on!
Frank begins to worry that we’re being too obvious, that the driver of the yellow truck has caught on and will lead us astray. So Frank pulls a daring and clever evasive (or rather pseudo-evasive) maneuver. As we approach an exit he makes like he’s getting off the freeway. He actually merges onto the ramp, on the other side of the widening shoulder from the slow lane. He drops his speed to 40. The yellow truck is now several hundred yards in front of us. At the last possible second, Frank wrenches the wheel to the left. Onto the shoulder. He slams on the brakes and we crunch to a stop on the gravel and dirt and detritus. Then he kills the engine and we sit in darkness for some 30 seconds. Letting them get a little ahead. There are no freeway interchanges for a long time, so that’s not a concern. The only problem is if they take an exit. But it’s a risk worth taking, because we can’t have them certain they’re being followed.
Within a few minutes we catch up to them again. Frank tries to hang back but it’s even harder now because they’ve dropped to a consistent speed of 55, sometimes even 50 mph. Seems they know we’ve returned. “If they pull over,” Frank says with deadpan resolve, perhaps in a fugue of angry determination, perhaps thinking more clearly than ever, “I’m gonna stop behind them. I might punch out the driver and take the truck with all the animals. Then you’ll follow me to the sanctuary in this.”
I stare at him. “Are you serious?”
I swallow. The idea is scary, but at the same time exhilarating. It would be so incredible to be part of saving so many animals in one fell swoop–future legal ramifications be damned! “Okay then.”
But they never do pull over. We end up following them for over 75 minutes, including five freeway changes. Off the Interstate, northeast of L.A. among the high-walled scrub brush bluffs, they turn left into a residential area, and we follow. Now they know we’re tailing them. The street is narrow, barely wide enough for two Kias.
“If he stops,” Frank says, “I want you to quick jump out with the camcorder and climb on the back of the trailer. Film how crowded and miserable the sheep are.”
I’m anxious but pumped. I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans. “Alright.”
But the yellow truck goes up to a house at the top. Another, bigger pickup pulls out into the street once the trailer is past. This new big black pickup blocks our path. It just sits there. “Well there ya go,” Frank says. “Must’ve called ahead to his homies once he noticed we were following.” I can’t believe the nonchalance in his voice.
“What are we gonna do?”
He wiggles his lips, as if trying to gum a piece of food without opening his mouth, thinking hard. He pulls onto a side street, turns around. We drive back down the hill. Park behind a little Mexican restaurant. Ironically we’re fewer than ten miles from the animal sanctuary; we started the drive some 70 miles away. We wait 15 minutes and then cruise back up toward the house. We park and get out. There’s a little gully on the right, filled with brush and vegetation, that infamous desert-ish chapparel that makes southern California a veritable tinder box.
Staring up at the house, we crouch there and wonder what to do. The gully slopes upward at the far end to the front of their property. We’ve come all this way. I’m bristling with nervous energy, but adrenaline courses through my bloodstream like big fat salmon shoving their way upriver. I want to do something. Concerns for my own safety have disappeared. I’m in the action zone. In terms of fear and worry, once you get past a certain threshold, you begin to feel invincible; the hard part is conquering that first stretch.
Frank finally speaks. “I hate to say it, but the best thing to do would probably be ta call it a night.”
I frown, scanning the area. “Why don’t we sneak through there.” I gesture to the gully, thick with vegetation. “Hide in the bushes at the top and see what we can see.”
“It’s really dark. A flashlight would give us away.”
“Our eyes will adjust. Plus there’s a decent amount of moonlight.” I do not want to turn tail, so to speak, and leave. 70 miles of following, all that diesel burned–we should do everything we possibly can.
“It’s just not a good idea.” I can tell he’s reluctant to leave as well–this is, after all, the guy who earlier wanted to knock out the driver and steal his truck!–but he’s trying to do what’s smart, rather than that which satisfies our angry guts. “We know he’s got his homies up there. They could have guns. Even if they don’t, there’s only two of us. But at least now we know where their farm is.”
I nod, disappointed. But he probably is right. We begin the long drive back to Chino, to where my car is parked. I can’t shake the disturbing and horrific images of the day from my head. At least now, though, I don’t have to trust others when they say how badly “food” animals are abused. How they live in squalor. Because now I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
We stop at Denny’s on the way back for coffee and chow; it’s close to 11 P.M. and we really haven’t eaten since lunch. We’re both vegan, of course. But tonight, after this day, I take extra care to make absolutely certain that our veggie burgers are 100 percent free of animal products. It’s the least I can do. The least.
But is that really enough–or even close to enough, given the amount of suffering? I don’t think so. I just don’t….
That night I dream of flaming arrows, of shooting them over fences. Of fire. Cleansing, beautiful fire of the just. The just plain fucking fed up.