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September 2006
A Letter From SHAC Defendant Kevin Jonas

 

The following letter from Kevin Jonas was read aloud on August 13 at the Animal Rights 2006 conference hosted by FARM in Virginia. Kevin is one of six animal activists prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign to shut down one of the largest animal testing companies in the world. They will be sentenced in mid September. Read by fellow animal activist Susan Weingartner, there was not a dry eye in the banquet hall.

Hello Everyone,

While you sit comfortably tonight in this fabulous hotel, listening, learning and being enlightened, I am humbly envious of your positions because I am most likely watching Nick-at-night reruns of Full House right now from my mother’s home in Minneapolis, whilst on house arrest.

This isn’t necessarily the speech I would like to deliver to you tonight, but I have come to learn the hard way, through my own trial by fire, that speech in this country is no longer given away for free, but rather comes at a grave expense. You see, the United States government wants to believe that I and my co-defendants have some sort of hold over all of you, and you are all waiting patiently to do our bidding. While this is clearly not true, and the evidence is that the world would be a far different place if it were, I must temper my words, and really more truthfully, my tantrum. I am not your “leader.” You are all your own people, and this is but one of the many admirable qualities that you all possess that attracted me to this most noble of compassionate movements.

With my prosecution though, this United States government is doing best what it thinks it needs to do to protect its constituents, and all of you are doing best what you think you need to do to protect yours, those suffering and ignored animals.

And we’ll leave it at that.

I’m sure more fiery rhetoric you’ve heard already this weekend and you don’t need me to impale myself on such words.

Without doubt I have to admit how angry, frustrated and profoundly depressed I still am at what has come to pass with our trial. Being on house arrest will do this to you. It will also widen your waist-line with many empty calories, empty wine bottles, and no access to exercise. One of the few perverse luxuries of an impending prison sentence is knowing there is sadly no better place for a vegan to lose weight, and for my poor liver to detoxify, but I digress.

In all honesty, having these few short months of limited freedom has been both a blessing and a tease. Spending such quality time with my puppy, my partner, and my ever-so-patient mother in the blinding summer heat of global warming has been deceiving (and not because I am ignoring various inconvenient truths). On the immediate horizon are the impending storm clouds of possibly lengthy prison sentences and all that they physically and emotionally entail

This has been hard.

It’s been hard because it means saying very certain goodbyes. It could tragically mean missing the last few precious years of your best friend’s life and being there when his eyes gently close for that last time. It could also mean losing the romantic love of your life, because, despite promises—ten years can be a very long time to wait. It means as well not just the loneliness I will feel on holidays, but the crushing guilt knowing my mother will feel this just the same, because she depends on me for both company and cheer.

What’s to come means different and troubling things for all of us that have stared down the barrel of the United States government, and I mean this both literally and metaphorically (their guns become very real when they’ve been pointed in your face). I think I can speak for all of us quote-unquote SHAC7 when I say that much of what has buffered this trauma has been the immense support so many of you have showered upon us.

From the incredibly generous financial contributions to our defense funds, to the lifelines your letters provided while we were briefly imprisoned, so many of you have come through for us. For this, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of you for what you have done and I know will continue to do.

Until any of us can stand before you again and proudly speak, I ask all of you to remember my co-defendants and me as we await our appeal.

Darius Fullmer is an Emergency Medical Technician, a job consistent with his values of preventing suffering and saving lives. He is also an avid climber, super-fan of Morrissey, and is strangely enough loyal to his home state of New Jersey.

Andy Stepanian is a talented music industry maverick. He is one of those guys who can make you feel really out of touch with what’s hip because he’s always on the cutting edge of upcoming popular media. While awaiting sentencing he graduated from college with a degree in environmental sciences and would love nothing more than to put that to use to preserve his surfing waters off the coast of Long Island.

Lauren Gazzola is a New Yorker through and through. Stubborn, loud and curt she would have made an excellent lawyer. She was awaiting admission into law school pending the outcome of this case. She is also a dancer, fan of the arts and loves an authentic Italian meal with her friends and family.

Jake Conroy is nothing if not a goof-ball. His fascination with cheesy music, zombie movies and “things that smell bad” have endeared him to many. He is also a talented artist and loves camping.

Josh Harper is prolific in his political writings and rantings. He is a proud native of the Pacific Northwest who, in between advocating a return to a more primitive style of civilization, can deep fry you the best batch of vegan donuts you’ve ever had and give you directions to all the vegetarian Seattle Thai restaurants. He is also the best guy to share a prison cell with if you ever find yourself in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution psych ward!

And me, I’m a dog nut. More accurately a beagle nut. Even more accurately a nut for my dog, a beagle named Willy.

Please also remember the family and animal companions we are being forcibly separated from and, more importantly, the animals we were fighting for. This is not a movement based on abstracts and on figures, but on very real beings suffering very real traumas.

Please support us, by continuing to non-violently advocate for them.

Thank you for your attendance and attention tonight.

Yours through both the high and the low points and for the compassionate principles of animal rights,

Kevin

The SHAC defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on September 12 at the federal courthouse in Trenton, New Jersey. For details and to learn how to support them, see www.shac7.com.


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