Reflections of an Animal Activist

By: Adam Kiedrowski

Sentenced to forty-eight months in federal prison, Jake Conroy describes his history with activism within the animal rights movement and his subsequent branding as a terrorist and high-profile prisoner. The actions of protest and disruption are the vehicles in which animal rights activists target and at times end institutions that conducted testing on animals. From closing down animal testing labs to standing in the way of whale hunters, Conroy details his history with and the growth of the animal rights movement. 

Conroy helped construct the foundation known as Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA (SHAC USA) which is acclaimed as one of the most successful grassroots animal rights campaigns in history. Through website publications, he and others reported all activity, legal and illegal, against Huntingdon Life Sciences. By way of strategic protest and pressure campaigns, SHAC USA stopped Huntingdon’s suppliers from supporting them and prominently drove their stock price down. On the outside of the movement, it appeared to many that the assault on Huntingdon Life Sciences was a centralized effort with a hierarchy delivering orders. This assessment of the movement is what caught the attention of United States law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Seen as the leaders of this movement, Conroy, among others, were under surveillance by the FBI and were ultimately indicted in 2004 on federal animal enterprise terrorism charges for alleged inter-state conspiracy under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act. 

The narrative immersed the audience in the experience of federal prison. In a way, Conroy’s plight parallels that of the very animals he worked to liberate. Confined to an extremely small cell cut off from the outside world he, like the caged lab animals, is restricted from movement and outside contact. One begins not only to question the power of the federal government but reflects on the experience of having their freedom of movement stripped and being permanently monitored. He only spent forty-eight months in federal prison, but for some, that experience lasts for decades. The presentation instilled a new perspective and inspired the audience to examine the consequences of activism, post-911 laws, and incarceration. 

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