Was animal rights activist Rod Coronado a victim of over-reaching prosecution – or did he get exactly what he deserved?
Often working under the cover of darkness and beneath the banner of clandestine groups like Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF), Rod Coronado sought to liberate captive animals from fur farms and research facilities. He also ran with people who spiked trees to prevent forests from being logged, rammed whaling vessels to save leviathans, and burned ski lodges to protest development in lynx habitats.
Acting on his faith and convictions, Coronado served as architect for a form of sabotage now infamously known as “monkeywrenching.”
For all of it, the United States government threw the book at Coronado, labeling him an ecoterrorist and sending him to prison. Never mind that after Coronado served his time and got out, he started a family and repented for many of the things he had done in his shadowy past. Set aside, too, that his defenders are still convinced that federal agents made him a scapegoat in order to send a message.
Regardless of how one views Coronado’s deeds or crimes, his legend remains intact and it is this rich terrain – as fascinating as it is disturbing – that journalist Dean Kuipers traverses in his new book, Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado’s War To Save American Wilderness.
By drawing upon his years of experience as an environmental journalist covering protestors, by winning Coronado’s trust, and then pouring through court records and law enforcement files, Kuipers cracks the code of a paradox that has, until now, prevented the public from understanding the ways and motivations of radical animal-rights activists.
In many ways, this book is a breakthrough, for it offers a glimpse into the workings of the ALF and what Kuipers calls “its punk-anarchist sibling,” the ELF.