student interview with rod coronado
The following is from an electronic interview with Rod Coronado. Students developed these questions after reading “Raid on Reykjavik,” which originally appeared in Coronado’s ‘zine, Strong Hearts, issue no. 2. It is also available in Flaming Arrows: Collected Writings of Animal Liberation Front (ALF) Warrior Rod Coronado. Warcry Communications, 2011.
This interview is posted here with permission of the course instructor and Rod Coronado.
Student Interview with Rod Coronado
Society and the Environment, Soc 335
Chapman University, Spring 2014
Instructor: Carol L. Glasser, Ph.D.
Q: I would love to sit down and talk to Coronado about how he feels about his actions. I think I would be interested in his take on the benefits vs. the costs, as well as the long-term effects. Also, since 30 years have passed, I would like to know how he feels his “raid on Reykjavik” has played a role in the evolution of international whaling laws.
RC: My current thinking is that we have to constantly do a cost/benefit analysis for everything that we do, especially as activists attempting social change. If our actions are having a detrimental effect, ie; creating a negative opinion of our issue, or costing us long prison sentences, then they better be worth it. In 1986, all eyes were on Iceland to see whether there would be any repercussions from their blatant violation of the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. Had nothing happened to those first pirate whaling ships, maybe other nations would have joined suit and resumed commercial whaling too. Instead, the world’s environmental community and a lot of the public condemned Iceand’s illegal actions, not our own. As for how its all panned out 30 years later, Iceland has recently resumed whaling, but the majority global opinion is against whaling and I believe radical actions by Sea Shepherd have played a huge part in exposing these continuing practices to the world and helping change opinions.
Q: If you had the chance to go back in time, would you do it again?
RC: Yes, and I’d kill Hitler too.
Q: If you were 10 years older when this event took place do you think you would have done the same thing?
RC: Probably, but possibly not. History is nothing more than brave people choosing to take courageous action when most others will not, in times when the majority recognize an injustice and our governments fail to do anything about it. So I’d like to believe that whether I was 20 or 30 is a moot point.
Q: Did the fear of getting caught ever make you doubt wanting to carry through with this?
RC: Absolutely, and absolutely not! Who doesn’t fear prison? It’s what the masters use to scare us into obedience, at least when we consider opposition to one’s oppressor. But once you overcome that fear, you are truly dangerous to the destroyers we were fighting against. History is full of people we admire because they overcame their fear of personal reprisal in the face of a greater injustice taking place in their time. I’m proud to join the list of people like Nelson Mandela who was once labeled a terrorist too.
Q: I respect that you are so against whaling but there are so many other animals that inhumanely die as well for humans. Why did you choose the whale industry as opposed to different one?
RC: For me whaling was a gateway issue towards learning about other animal abuse and environmental destruction. Whaling was on the public radar because whales had become a symbol of the environmental movement that started in the 1970’s. Once I became aware, that awareness led to learning of other issues and then working on exposing those too, like fur farming and animal research.
Q: Why did you decide to stop this type of activism?
RC: Because it is no longer feasible to do so. Actions to rescue animals or people from places of abuse should always be supported, but its legally impossible to do such things and not be labeled a terrorist, subject to longer prison sentences than you might get for rape or child abuse. The State has made resistance to a lot of its economic policies a crime punishable by decades in prison. I don’t want to spend my life in prison, I want to spend it fighting for what I believe in without giving the State reason to imprison me.
Q: What do you think are the most effective ways to sway peoples opinions and change their ways?
RC: I think by making your position’s case sound like the most reasonable attitude to have, whether for economic, moral or environmental reasons. Appeal to the concerns of your constituents, not your own. Show people you share their concerns, whether that be for a clean environment or better education. I also think our use of social media technology allows us to expose things within minutes, whereas back in the day, you had to have film screenings to get people to see your video. And what better case to argue than to want clean air, water and food and protect the planet for future generations?
Q: How long into your journey to Reykjavik did you realize you did not want to turn back?
RC: We never thought of quitting, we were prepared for the worst, meaning prison so as soon as we boarded the plane to go there, we knew we wouldn’t turn back.
Q: Or did you at some point want to give up?
RC: Never. I got concerned when I was picked up for working in Iceland without a work permit, but when that happened, we just knew we had to act fast. We did get tired though. We spent about 4 hours sabotaging heavy machinery and we got exhausted and we still had to drive an hour in an icy storm back to the harbor where the ships were. In moments like those you are operating a lot on pure adrenalin.
Q: There was a lot on the line for the two of you, you must have had second thoughts while you were there?
RC: None whatsoever! We were just upset that we couldn’t sink the other two ships in harbor.
Q: It is known that commercial whaling is still common in our society, particularly in Japan. What do you know about this, and have you tried to halt it there?
RC: Japan is the consumer of 99% of the whale meat commercially harvested. The meat from the whales in Iceland goes to Japan. The majority of Japanese citizens are opposed to whaling but it remains heavily subsidized by the government.
Q: What steps can we take, as a global nation, to eradicate this unjust behavior?”
RC: Join the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and be a part of the most kick-ass anti-whaling group on the planet, Animal Planet that is! (Whale Wars)
Q: Have you and David thought about going to countries who still practice this business and perform the same actions you did in Reykjavik?
RC: Yeah, when we are diagnosed with cancer.
Q: Would you choose to do the same type of behavior for other illegal acts of violence in terms of protecting animals and the environment to inform society of these issues?
RC: I did. But what I’d also like to say is history is full of moments when people we know call heroes, broke the law to do what was right, even when the activity they opposed was still legal. Be it hiding runaway slaves, or runaway jews, or for civil rights in the US, hell Nelson Mandela was once labeled a terrorist by our own government when he led the outlawed, African National Congress.
Q: What other legal ways could be done to stop another issue, such as this one?
RC: Promote a non-consumptive use of whales, such as whale watching, which makes a lot more money than killing them. Educating younger generations to recognize that as a society we can evolve away from more killing of threatened wildlife. But as long as whales and the natural world are not given the same legal standing as humans, they will continue to be killed as long as there is a market, even black market.
Q: After spending a good amount of time in the Iceland whaling area, do you feel that the whalers understood the damage they were doing to the whale population and did they just not care?
RC: Honestly, I wasn’t there to measure the community’s attitude towards whaling. We were on a military operation to disable or destroy illegal whaling operations. When I do grassroots organizing like I am now against wolf hunting in my own state, it’s a different strategy. One where I am very concerned with public sentiments and winning them over to our side of the wolf issue. What we did in Iceland wasn’t a protest, it was a covert operation.
Q: What is the point of letting the whale meat spoil once the whale is already dead? Shouldn’t we not let any part of the animal go to waste and focus on not letting anymore die?
RC: We wanted to meat to spoil because that would mean the whalers would not profit from their illegal activity, kind of how African governments burn illegal ivory so it doesn’t fuel the black market. Waste is not good, but this was not a subsistence hunt to feed indigenous peoples whose lives depend on whale meat. Iceland enjoys one of the highest median incomes of the whole of Europe and this meat is sold on the international market for hundreds of thousands of dollars. People who buy this meat will want more.