CHRIS DEROSE: THE WARRIOR
Chris DeRose has been on hunger strikes in LA County Jail … with killers like Night Stalker Richard Ramirez and Erik Menendez for cell neighbors. His crimes? Trespassing. Breaking into UCLA animal research laboratories in paramilitary-style stealth operations armed with such lethal weapons as granola bars, a telephone and camera.
Tossing and turning in his cell bunk at night, gripped by claustrophobia and seething frustration, DeRose dreamed of storming into such labs, guns blazing, to liberate all the caged and suffering creatures. Fighting talk is this passionate anti-vivisectionist’s stock in trade. Yet DeRose, who founded the LA-based national animal protection/ animal rights organization, Last Chance For Animals, in l985, is totally committed to peaceful civil disobedience. As "a voice for the voiceless," he has been arrested eleven times and jailed four.
Before vivisection labs and research facililties became the inpenetrable secret fortresses they are today, what he saw inside—in particular a promise he made in l981 to a dying Alaskan malamute he found suffering horribly in a lab at the Wadsworth VA in Westwood—irrevocably changed his life.
"I saw the infected stitches in his belly oozing pus and blood," DeRose recalls. "The filthy tube drawing fluid out of his stomach, and as I held him, I saw the infected stitches start to come apart and his inner organs start to spill out. I was still holding him as he took his final agonized breaths. I moved from being upset about vivisection to dedicating my life to stopping it and all cruelty to animals that is executed in the name of medical progress, because what I saw in that lab was not medicine, it was madness."
To DeRose, vivisection labs are animal Auschwitzes and the contention that biomedical research on animals is either essential or humane are baldfaced lies. That most of the world would rather worship at the altar of science and turn a blind eye drives him crazy…and keeps him going.
"Look, if you heard someone screaming for help next door, wouldn’t you try to do something?" he says. "You’d come running even if you couldn’t actually hear the screams, especially if you knew that the person was being tortured to death and needed your help."
There are 60–100 million animals in U.S. research labs alone each year and DeRose’s life’s work is not pretty. He’s seen sights that would make tough men weep, from a live dog being barbecued in the Philippines to cats with electrodes implanted in their heads. Not surprisingly, just like the title of his autobiography, DeRose is ‘In Your Face.’
"Torture is just wrong," he says bluntly. "And the fact that it is done by a scientist doesn’t make it right. It says a lot about society’s worship of medicine that we give tax revenues to scientists to perform procedures so atrocious that they must be kept hidden away from public view."
Fighting pet theft is another longtime crusade for DeRose—recipient of the 1997 ‘Courage of Conscience’ International Peace Award. The Brooklyn-born karate black belt has worked as a New Jersey cop, a private eye, a TV reporter, and even taken a bullet in the back from an unbalanced ex-associate. DeRose never knew his father, grew up in abject poverty, and spent much of his childhood in and out of orphanages and foster homes—which likely fired his deep compassion for animals who don’t have a friend in the world.
When he moved to Hollywood in the mid-70s, he first fell into a successful acting career, then fighting for the animals won out hands down.
Roughly half of the two million family pets stolen each year in the U.S. end up sold to biomedical research labs. And with round-the-clock surveillance and tireless investigations, DeRose has played a pivotal role in bringing convicted animal abusers like Barbara Ruggiero, Frederick Spiro and Ralf Jacobsen to justice. The war continues.
Brntwd Magazine, USA