The Arsonist of Animal Liberation Revolution
Walter Bond was sentenced to ten years in prison for burning down wool and fur factories to protest the mistreatment of animals. From a prison in Marion,Illinois, he insists that he does not regret what he did. We interviewed the Animal Liberation Front activist.
Mr. Whirly, Walter Bond’s kindergarten teacher, once told his Mum: “Your son is a very bright child, but has problems with authority and that will cause you problems someday.” And so it was. Today, Bond is serving a ten-year sentence on charges of second-degree arson.
On April 30, 2010, this 36-year old activist set fire to a sheepskin factory in Denver, Colorado. Losses totaled about $500,000. Days later, in Utah, he did the same to a leather factory and the Tiburon restaurant whose specialty is foie gras. Bond was arrested on July 22 of that year.
After spending several months in prisons in Colorado and Oklahoma, last February, Bond was incarcerated in the Communications Management Unit (CMU) of Marion federal prison in Illinois. The CMU is a new prison within a prison created in the Bush administration to house “terrorists.” Several colleagues of Walter Bond have appeared in magazines and major U.S. newspapers as “threats to national security.”
However, Walter is quiet. In this prison there are gangs, violence and drugs, and making friends depends upon a code adhered to among convicts. When writing to Walter in CMU, you are prohibited from talking about someone in the third person or from receiving information from third parties. His mail is carefully monitored.
Walter follows a strict vegan diet of vegetables, instant soups, peanut butter and sweets such as Chick-o-Stick (with syrup and sugar). “The other convicts help me with extra servings of vegetables or potatoes. There is a community among the prisoners, so I do not go hungry,’ he says. For fifteen years, Bond has identified with “straight edge”, a lifestyle that emerged within the hardcore punk movement. Straight edgers abstain from drinking alcohol, smoking, taking drugs and using animal products.
Although Walter is now an inspiration for Liberationists and Animal Activists (there is even a song about him entitled “To Ashes” by the band Earth Crisis), in the mid-nineties he worked in a slaughterhouse in Iowa where pigs were murdered. “The smell and noise was unbearable. At six to eight weeks I felt my soul was dead. Sometimes working fifteen hours a day with blood up to their ankles. Then came the day that changed me: at one point, one of the electrocuted pigs ran off and my co-workers beat him to death. “
That moment was decisive for him, his disgust with the human race intensified, he stopped eating meat. He quit his job after one co-worker, after learning that he was vegan, called him disparagingly “You abrazaárboles”.
Walter’s arsons caused thousands of dollars in damages and hurt many abusers financially. Do you not regret this?
No, I do not regret my arsons because they were justified. Billions of animals are murdered every year because of ambition, greed and bloodlust; all I did was destroy property. In fact, my fires were passive actions, taking into account all the innocent animals that have died cruelly at the hands of human oppressors. It’s a shame that people are so focused in my response (arson) to these atrocities, but not in the horrific conditions in which the animals live. This is because human society addresses this problem from the perspective of a business owner who gets out of slavery and death of an animal, and not from animal suffering because of human injustice. I believe the fire was an excellent way to deal with such problems.
Could it be that one day the human race will cease to use and depend on animals?
I think there will be a time when humanity will stop using the dead bodies of animals for food, research and entertainment, or we will continue to ultimately destroy the environment, which is caused largely by animal agriculture and industrialized civilization. The real question is: will our species will become aware and become part of the ecosystem rather than harm it? We are not even close to treating ourselves with respect, let alone animals.
It looks increasingly difficult to stop the torture of animals … Relying on animals has been an integral part of human societies for a long time, to the point that modern society, especially the richer nations, were constructed with the blood and bones of animals and based on various forms of slavery. So many people reject the concept of animal rights and are against militancy or radical release because many intuitively understand that we are not only attacking their eating habits, but the basis of hierarchical slavery and human supremacy. There are even many vegans and activists who can not comprehend a world without slavery between species.
How effective was the Animal Liberation Front to raise awareness for animals?
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) has been highly effective in making people aware that animals suffer. Thanks to many actions in the eighties, people could see the reality and futility of animal experimentation. Since its inception, the ALF has taken the most direct path to save the animals and stop their exploiters, while their voice is then passed to the media to highlight these problems and create public awareness.
Do you not think that with fires and other destructive actions, the ALF is creating a negative stereotype for animal rights activists?
Honestly, I do not mind stereotypes or public image, and in fact I think it is very important that animal abusers know that there are a small percentage of us who will not tolerate what they are doing. Part of the effectiveness of protests is to ensure that abusers have some fear of drawing the attention of the ALF. Without that fear, activism, animal rights becomes a paper tiger, since all laws are on the side of the industries that benefit from the destruction of the earth. Throughout my career as an activist, I have heard the “public image” argument. It is really very naive to think that the media, which functions to promote the status quo, will bathe us with good publicity so we can convince people to boycott institutional abuse industries. In addition, “negative stereotypes” are matters of personal opinion. My idea of negative image in the animal rights is a fragile hippie, stoner sensitive and pleading with the powers that be.
What is the Animal Liberation Front?
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a clandestine anarchist organization that seeks total liberation of animals through what they call “direct action.” Created in 1976, it operates in 40 countries, where members often torch laboratories, liberate enslaved animals, or work undercover using hidden cameras to denounce the conditions in which different species live. The ALF became famous in the eighties for their laboratory break-ins documented in the movie “An Unnecessary Fuss.” It shows a group of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania who laughed as they inflicted brain damage on a monkey with a hydraulic device. The group was consolidated with actions such as the fire at the Ranger Station Oakridge Forest Service in 1996, which caused more than five million dollars in losses.
The drugs tested on animals have been very successful in curing many diseases. What do you think of these advances in science?
I disagree. A lot of information proves that animal experiments have been useless and have been a detriment to the public health. Extrapolating results between species, we see that animal testing rarely works; however, all that is secondary. For me, the real problem is that it is wrong to experiment on animals, regardless of the results achieved. Animals have the same right to autonomy and freedom from suffering as you or me. Medical or scientific results are irrelevant. For example, we would never approve of the idea of testing on disabled people or people with mental problems.
What advice would you give to young people interested in fighting for the rights of animals?
That they become vegan and straight edge. I advise everyone not into drugs and alcohol, because to help animals in a world in which many humans will turn against one, you have to stay focused, fierce, positive and resilient. Always try to find the most direct path to animal liberation, such as working with animals or rescue; these days many activists are confused by the human movement rather than focusing on the liberation of animals. Furthermore, above all, you must believe in yourself and your abilities. You and your friends can help animals and protest against their exploiters, without the support of large organizations. The ideal is to educate yourself and others about animal issues, and invite abusers to change their methods. And if that fails, we will have to force them to stop harming animals by any means necessary.
What are your plans after leaving prison?
Well, when I get out of prison I’ll be on three years of probation. I would like to travel the world and spread my wings after a decade in this cage. In relation to employment and Animal Liberation, I plan to write books and work with animals and other sanctuaries while I can; perhaps deliver some lectures. After several years of being in close quarters with so many people, I will devote my time to the animals in open spaces, to leave the routine of the city. I also see it as a bit eccentric. I have always lived simply and am not a techie, and I plan to continue.
A hero of animal activism: One of Walter Bond’s heroes is British activist Barry Horne, who was arrested at home and sentenced to over ten years in prison, from where he continued the fight against animal testing. After a series of hunger strikes in prison, Horne died from complications of liver. “He never give up, he never evaded the fight, and he never stopped inspiring others to take direct action,” says Bond