Animal Protection > AR Interviews

Freedom From the Cages
The Satya Interview with Rod Coronado Part 2

Rod Coronado is currently in the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona serving a four and a half year sentence. He was convicted of aiding and abetting arson at a Michigan State University research facility, in which 32 years of data intended to benefit the fur industry was destroyed. He is the first Native American Animal Liberation Front (ALF) member in U.S. history to be sent to federal prison. In a two-part interview, Satya asked him for his views on extremism and the future of direct action. Part One of the interview appeared in Satya 2:10

Q: What do you say to those who say that releasing ranch-raised or laboratory animals into the wild is consigning them to death in a world they are not used to?

A: Had I been born in this prison I'm now in with my only future being a certain painful death, I think I would accept the slightest chance of survival, knowing that the worst that could happen would be the same fate I was destined in the first place. And if I knew what my captors knew, as is the case with mink farmers, that indeed many prisoners who have escaped have survived and lived natural lives, then definitely any chance of survival is better than a certain death. When we are talking about a species such as mink, fox, lynx, bobcat or any other animal which contains within its DNA the memory of natural survival, there can be no other form of liberation that is acceptable beyond rescue, rehabilitation and release back to their natural environment. Many species have the ability to survive without human help.

More and more species are ending up in labs and farms where man is attempting to domesticate them for economic exploitation. These efforts should be sabotaged before we have created yet another species whose sole existence is to serve our needs. Mink, fox, bobcats and lynx belong in the forest. Primates belong in the jungle. If we fought not only for the protection of animals but also the environment in which they naturally belong, then we wouldn't have to be asking ourselves this question. When it comes to species already domesticated, we have an obligation as the species which created their dependency to provide them with a life much better than that of their abusers. Otherwise, we are not living up to our own beliefs.

Q: Do you feel that there is pressure within animal advocacy and environmentalism to get arrested? And if so, do you think this is helpful to the movements?

A: I'm assuming you mean civil disobedience (CD). Rather than pressure activists to simply get arrested, we should first ask ourselves if the impact of the action we plan has an impact on our target. I've seen a lot of activists get arrested doing CD mostly out of peer pressure, or guilt-tripping people into believing that if they don't get arrested they're not doing enough "for the animals" or "for the earth." I also see many activists participating in CD with the sole objective of gaining media attention for their cause when deep down inside they feel their impact is insignificant. I believe we should only participate in actions that we honestly believe will accomplish our goals. Any action should speak for itself without the necessity of media coverage to make it a success. When the ALF raids a lab and burns it down, it doesn't matter whether it's reported or not. The animals are rescued and that lab won't be torturing an animal for a long time.

I also have never seen getting intentionally arrested result in any major victories in protecting earth or animals. Targets for CD usually are only hit once a year, and for only a few hours is business interrupted, while the other 364 days of the year, it's business as usual. Road blockades to preserve forest are undoubtedly noble actions, but when the police arrive and the bulldozers come, within hours we are defeated. I also do not believe that we can ever achieve victory by clogging the court system with non-violent protesters. Maybe if tens of thousands of people were willing to get arrested or even rally for earth and animals as was the case during the Vietnam War with peace protesters, it would be different. But even the well organized March for the Animals on Washington last summer only brought together about 5,000 people, who spent thousands of dollars traveling to D.C. I believe a lot more could have been accomplished by those same activists had each one done one act of anonymous direct action on a local animal abuse target like a fur shop, or given the money spent to travel to D.C. to grassroots groups participating in effective campaigns. Instead, our energies were expended with the hopes of proving to politicians that we are a force to be reckoned with, and we're not when it comes to politics. More letters are written to D.C. politicians concerning animal issues than all other topics. If politicians acted on behalf of the citizenry of this country, then those letters would be backed up with political action. But our voice will never be heard as long as politicians are allowed to accept money from special interests like the food, medical, sport, mining, timber, oil and military industries, whom they ultimately serve.

The Bill of Rights guarantees us the right to overthrow the government should it no longer serve the interests of the people. It isn't. I do not believe we can change that system from within. Rarely in history has it ever been citizen outrage alone that has changed immoral or unjust laws, rather a handful of direct action activists' willingness to give their all in their fight for liberty. Such was the case with slavery. It wasn't the polite abolitionists who brought about change; it was Washington's fears that the John Browns, Nat Turners and Harriet Tubmans would continue direct action attacks against the institutions of slavery. Likewise, the only way we will ever convince big business to stop destroying the earth and her animal people is when we make it economically unfeasible to do so. As long as there is a buck to be made, no one's going to be concerned with the long-term impact of their actions. They don't even care about their own children's future. All they care about is material satisfaction in the here and now.

Q: How have you coped in incarceration? What resources do you draw upon?

A: Right now I consider my imprisonment the only vacation I'm ever going to get away from my social, ecological and spiritual responsibilities. It is a time to rethink my strategies and prepare for a lifetime of service to save what little is left. It is a time to study the structure of our enemies to better understand and discover their Achilles' heel. I also consider prison a rite of passage for anyone who is serious about achieving animal and earth liberation, because it is one of society's fears that if you step out of line, you will be punished by prison. And if we're serious, then we have to overcome our fears of imprisonment. After all, it is little compared to the price paid by freedom fighters in other countries who are tortured or given ridiculously long sentences for the least degree of resistance. And it is nothing compared to the animals in zoos and aquariums who are sentenced to solitary confinement without hope of parole, or the animals sitting in labs, factories and fur farms whose only escape is death.

Spending a few years in prison where I am able to read and write is such a small price to pay for what I believe, for what my own ancestors were butchered, raped and sold into slavery for doing. I now believe that freedom is something that we can only achieve by following the laws of nature, not of man. Freedom is doing what we know in our hearts is right, and to hell with the physical consequences of not obeying tyranny. As Emiliano Zapata so aptly put it, "I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees.... " I am free, and no amount of imprisonment is going to change that. I've tasted true freedom, and I know it is incredibly much better than anything this government has to offer me. So if prison for a few years is the price of that, then I gladly accept it. The powers of the earth, and the spirits of my ancestors are smiling upon me, and from them I draw tremendous strength and the power to survive anything.

When I hear coyotes singing from the other side of the razor-wire fences, my heart soars, because I know my animal relations know why I'm here, and are blessing me with their friendship and brother- and sisterhood. Hopefully I've proven to them that I'm more like them than I am like the two-leggeds who wage war upon them.

Q: What are your hopes and expectation for the future?

A: I have more hope now than I ever had before. I'm not saying that we'll ever see complete victory and the return to global ecological harmony, but that doesn't matter. Having utopian visions is important, but what really gives me hope and inspiration is to have discovered a power that only the earth and animals can give us. Victory for me is never betraying the powers I have been blessed to represent. Hope comes from seeing more and more activists turn away from the material comforts of the dominant society and look for something ancient and true that I believe they can find in wilderness and in the eyes of a wild lynx. The spirit of the earth is alive, and through her animal people we have much to learn. I have hope that as more of us restore our faith in our power, rather than giving strength to our opposition by believing and fearing them, then we will remember the wildness buried in our own DNA. I believe the wild spirit is the only hope for preserving planet earth and all life. But hope doesn't necessarily mean we will ever win, it just means we will never surrender. We can't. Too much depends on our unwillingness to compromise. It's time to make a stand, and choose where our allegiance lies; with earth and animals, or those destroying them. My hope is that many will join me, and follow their wildest desires and live the life that we believe only exists in myths and fairy tales. Reality is what we make it, and my expectation is for more and more warriors to swear allegiance to the liberation of the Animal Nations and the defense of Mother Earth. As long as we may live we may never get another chance to make as much difference in the fate of the planet as we now have. My greatest hope is that when I leave these prison walls behind there will be many more warriors to greet me than there were when I entered here.

You can write to Rod Coronado at 03895-000, FCI Unit SW, 8901 S. Wilmot Rd., Tucson, AZ 85706.