Originally pressed in 1996 PROFANE EXISTENCE is bringing this quintessential anarcho punk masterpiece back in circulation.
In 1996 AUS-ROTTEN released their first LP “The System Works For Them” on an unsuspecting punk scene. It spread like wildfire in a pre internet era within a genre that mostly depended on tape trading. (at least is was pre internet for us penniless punks) “The System Works For Them” was the perfect mix of anger and intelligence that the scene needed at the time (and still does today). It was like a wake up call that opened the eyes and ears to many punks the world over. The messages where crystal clear and most us were hooked as soon as the beginning shouts of “Boycott” bellowed over the speakers. I don’t believe any of us ever expected their message to resonate so well within the scene, but even more surprising is how the songs are just as relevant today as on they the day they were written. Which is why PROFANE EXISTENCE has decided to repress this record. We feel that that messages that AUS-ROTTEN brought to the table are to powerful to ignore. We feel that this LP is important and therefore should be highly available and priced affordably.
PROFANE EXISTENCE has worked out every last detail of this release with the members of AUS-ROTTEN whom have been involved from step one. All tracks have been re-masted by Jay Matherson at the Jamroom studios. To be 100% honest we didn’t want to do a complete re-master of what we already considered a good recording. However when we opened the tracks on protools we noticed a few balance issues that required fixing. These fixes resulted in a tremendous upgrade to the overall quality of the tracks. We painstakingly scanned, puzzled, and photoshopped the original artwork to make sure that it was as close to authentic as it could possible be. We then went for broke by pressing in three different vinyl color combinations! Overall to say that we are pumped to release this would be an understatement, we are absolutely ecstatic to bring you this LP on PROFANE EXISTENCE!
To top this all off we worked with AUS-ROTTEN vocalist Dave Trenga on redrawing the classic “What Good Is Money, When There Is No One Left To Buy” design for a T-Shirt to concede with the albums release. This is a fresh take on an old image to create a new and original design.
Vinyl options are…
1. Standard black vinyl
2. “The Battlefield is Still Red” Bloodsplatter vinyl.
3. See through “Smoke”. – Available at SKULLFEST only
Silence are a highly active post-punk/peace-punk band from Pittsburgh, PA. “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” strives (and succeeds) to achieve the perfect balance between peace and post punk. By taking influences from The Mob, Bauhaus, Zounds, Killing Joke, Amebix, Crass, Conflict, Internal Autonomy and Joy Division SILENCE have created what can only be described a brilliant debut LP. At one moment this record is dark, heavy, and atmospheric and then the next moment it makes you want to dance and sing along. Lyrically SILENCE are much closer to the anarcho side of the previously listed influences. Lyrics focus on a variety of topics but often have a strong focus on the way punk and activist communities deal with political struggle in our current political climate.
“The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing” comes with a 16 page magazine size zine containing lyrics, personal writings and song explanations. Designed, printed and assembled by the band themselves in true D.I.Y. fashion.
Silence will be having a record release show in their hometown of Pittsburgh PA at the Rock Room Friday April 22nd with SHADOW AGE and SKELETON HANDS. Then later this month SILENCE will embark on a full United States tour to support “The Deafening Sound of Absolutely Nothing”. Here is a list of dates. Be show to check in with the bands “bandcamp” or “Facebook” page for show updates.
When all that remains is a world in flames. Is that when they’ll say the wars are finally won? That wars are finally done?
They’re beating on the drums again, they’re fueling up the planes. The congressmen fall into line and sing the old refrain. In the name of peace they’ll burn the land and drop a thousand bombs.
Meanwhile we’ll just stay at home and go back to our sitcoms. It’s the same old song, we’ve heard it before. They’re beating the drums and they’re calling for war. What it’s supposed to accomplish, no one is sure But the victims are always the hungry and the poor.
Once the drums of war begin it’s hard to make them stop. The noise silences the dissidents once the bombs begin to drop. All those who call for peace will be mocked and pushed aside. In 10 years they’ll admit we were right after many thousands more have died.
Finally after many delays from the pressing plant the WARWOUND Demo’s LP “A Huge Black Cloud” is out and copies are moving fast!
Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from 3 sessions. With a few different takes you get a total of 25 blistering tracks. For those unfamiliar with WARWOUND, they are a UK band formed in 82. WARWOUND recorded 3 demos in 83 before disbanding and members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form SACRILEGE. These demos never received an official release… until now! Highly influenced by DISCHARGE, WARWOUND is one of the first bands ever to take D-Beat Punk to a raw and intense level. Recently reformed in 2015, original guitarist Damian is now joined by Ian Glasper on bass and Rat Varuker on vocals. After a few gigs in the UK word is spreading fast of the relentless onslaught of a live show these veterans put on. WARWOUND have also recently hit the studio to record for the first time in over 30 years. Needless to say WARWOUND is back with a vengeance!
Yes! Finally, after what turned out to be a gigantic task of moving the PROFANE EXISTENCE distro from Minneapolis to Denver, transferring tons of data, and rebuilding the web store, we are finally set to open back up. To access the new store follow one of the many links from profaneexistence.com or access it directly at http://profaneexistence.storenvy.com
The first official PROFANE EXISTENCE title of 2015 is out and ready for order! We are proud to bring you the RIFLE DIET – “NO SOLACE”LP
Rifle Diet’s No Solace is a 12in 45 that combines the Classic Minneapolis crust sound with Swedish hardcore, D-beat and Epic crust (think somewhere between Servitude and Wolfbirgade, with hints of Tragedy and Fall of Efrafa). The beautiful cover art by Hannah Benoche sets a bleak mood for the dark music within, plus a cover of His Hero is a Gone – Chain of Command (ex-members of InDefence and Garmonbozia) This LP is a joint release between PROFANE EXISTENCE and BLOOD OF THE YOUNG RECORDS
To honor both the opening of the new store and our first release of 2015, we are giving a free copy of the RIFLE DIET – No Solace lp to everyone that spends more then $50 from Monday January 12th to Monday January 19th!!! This deal is for one week only. DO NOT MISS OUT!
*Note*Rifle Diet are playing a record release show 1/17/15 at the Dogplex in Minneapolis with Kontrasekt, Aziza, and Fucking. To coincide with that show all orders that contain the RIFLE DIET – No Solace lp will be shipped out on Monday January 12th.
The next release in the works is the new full length lp from APPALACHIAN TERROR UNIT – “We Don’t Need Them”.
We Don’t Need Them is the second full-length record from West Virginia punx Appalachian Terror Unit. ATU have become known throughout the years as being one of the most politically charged bands in the current punk scene. This new record is an all out attack on today’s society that takes ATU to a new level of intensity both lyrically and musically. The combination of the beautiful and thought provoking gatefold cover art designed by Stivart along with the brilliant recording and mastering job by Jay Matheson at the Jam Room take this record even further. Song subjects include the horrors of war, police brutality, destruction of the environment, rape culture, consumerism and much more. Expect a very heavy and much angrier approach from a band that has been around the block and matured their sound. Seven raging new tunes including the epic fourteen and a half minute track “We Don’t Need Them”, a song that will one day be ranked among similar greats as the SUBHUMANS “From the Cradle to the Grave” and AUS ROTTEN “And Now Back to Our Programming”.
APPALACHIAN TERROR UNIT – We Don’t Need Them will be pressed in the United States on PROFANE EXISTENCE & in Europe on SKULD /RUIN NATION
WARWOUND – “A Huge Black Cloud-The Demos 1983“
Another record we are very excited about is the upcoming WARWOUND – A Huge Black Cloud-The Demos 1983. Recorded in 1983, this record contains 15 songs from three sessions. With a few different takes you get a total of 25 blistering tracks. For those unfamiliar with WARWOUND they are a UK band formed in 82, and released 2 demos in 83. Members went on to join THE VARUKERS and form the almighty SACRILEGE. Warwound are one of the first bands to take the politics and d-beat influence from DISCHARGE and combine it with the blown out sound of CHAOS UK to achieve total destructive raw d-beat ear bleeding chaos!
WARWOUND – A Huge Black Cloud-The Demos 1983 will be a split release between PROFANE EXISTENCE and ORGANIZE AND ARISE.
It will be available in the spring of 2015.
Other records and projects we have in the works for 2015 …
VASTATION (pdx formally night nurse) vs WAR//PLAGUE Split EP
KRANG are a new band birthed from Chicago’s DIY punk underbelly. They play a brutally powerful brand of thrashy riff-laden crustcore and have an intense live presence. They have recently recorded for a few vinyl projects, including PE’s own 7″ singles series. Check ’em out!
Interviewed by Brian Poulin (NEGLIGENCE). All photos by Adam DeGross.
PE Who’s in the band and what does each of you do?
AUSTIN: guitars / backing vocals / song writing (synth & keyboard on 12″)
ADAM: bass / backing vocals / song writing
BRENDAN: lead vocals / lyrical content
DEVAN: drums & percussion / backing vocals
PE: What’s a brief history of the band and how did you guys form?
Austin: We started circa 2009. We had an additional guitarist: Louis C. He went on to start a blackened crust band called Welkin Dusk, based in Chicago that he plays drums & lead vocals for. We used to have an additional lead singer as well: Hannah B. Hannah was a part of our first two releases: the out of print “Onward Desolation” demo tape, and also the out of print “Bog of Eternal Stenchcore” 7″. Hannah is now the front-woman in a band called Despise, based out of Minneapolis. Our original drummer, Brett, is on the two recordings I mentioned before, as well as our “Sounds of Death” 12″. Brett now drums for a Chicago / northwest Indiana band called Asphixiate. Devan is now our permanent drummer and he will have his first appearance on the “Broken Waves” 7″, released by Profane Existence, which is coming out in June. Devan will also be on our next 12″: “Bad Moon”, which we are writing right now. I, as well as Krang, are totally stoked on Devan and really happy to have them. Devan is active outside of percussion as well with assisting in writing, assistance in lyrical content & structure, and the internet stuff. This line up has been solidified for over a year and is totally fucking Krang! It just works perfectly.
PE: You guys are based out of Chicago. What are your favorite parts of the scene there? What are your least favorite things about Chicago’s scene?
Devan: Chicago’s an interesting place. I feel like the pros and cons are often directly related to one-another. For example, the mere size of the city. There are so many people – new to here, young, old, whatever – that there is basically always something going on and a handful of solid DIY spaces at all times, regardless of whether people leave or places get busted or whatever. The downside is that the physical structure of the city makes it difficult and/or terribly time-consuming to navigate. Especially if you don’t have a car. And even if you do, parking sucks. Anyway, as a result of the city being as segregated as it is, people are often inclined to just stick to what’s going on in their neighborhood and it results in a lack of exposure or attention paid to some really cool things. It’s unfortunate. But then there are some events like the annual Black and Brown Punk Show (shout-out to Monika!) or other fest-type shows where the attendance is crazy and bullshit is minimal. It’s rad.
Austin: I used to live in CHI. I reside in northwest Indiana (NWI). It’s really close. You can compare it to how close Jersey is to NYC. The rest of the band does live in CHI. My favorite things about Chicago is the “don’t take shit” attitude that at least me and the scene we’re involved with has. We’ll kick you out if your a piece of shit human or kick your ass if we have to. I also like The Void Haus in NWI for gigs. My personal least favorite things are cliques, hype, division, etc… the things that you see in every rather large city, I suppose.
Adam: I love Chicago’s unspoken rule of everyone being down to get down when shit hits the fan and nobody lets bogus comments or derogatory gestures fly. My complaint for the longest time was how there is the same hierarchy that we all hate in daily life at a lot of the gigs. It seems like those “in crowd” wanks have come and gone though, or maybe I just don’t surround myself with such fools anymore. My main complaint, and I know I am sounding super negative, but for such a large city there is a lack of bands playing what I am into personally. There are a lot of great bands doing great things…but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am into them musically. Haha! I have a particular taste and its not being fulfilled. I usually go to shows to hang out and have a good time and just show support but its rare that I actually shit over a band that I see locally. I do really, really get down to Population though. White boy can’t dance but when I see this band I start doing shit I didn’t know I was capable of.
Brendan: Chicago is simultaneously the best & worst place to live; which I’d imagine is a critique most other big-city dwellers share. There is no shortage of great folks, bands, eats, cool nerd-haunts (comic & record collectors rejoice!), and beautiful neighborhoods/communities in which to live. The same is true for all of the awful yuppies, gold cost bourgeois, & assholes who get your friends hooked on hard drugs. A lot of the time I wish that I lived in a vast expanse of lush nature with no human presence save myself. When I’m not wishing for seclusion, I’m loving how hard of a time I have sorting out which of the 5 awesome punk shows I get to go see any given night. Chicago has everything I love & hate at once; most of the time its worth it.
PE: Musically what are you guys going for?
Devan: I’d say sincerity, first and foremost. In sound, words, and delivery. And the connections we can and have made with people based on that. My musician’s answer would be just to write the best songs we can and perform them at the highest level at all times.
Austin: I just want to stick out and be a little different sounding. I still want to have that essential formula for great punk. I personally believe we found the introduction to our sound with the “Sounds of Death” 12″. We have two formulas: triumphant, galloping crust metal and simplified, pissed off, to-the-point stuff.
Brendan: Initially we formed with the idea of writing over the top odes to crust circa late 80’s/early 90’s; stuff you could flail your overgrown dreadlocks around to. We all fell into a groove with each other over time, where we don’t really need to define what we’re gonna write before we do. We approach releases with general outlines (theme,length, format etc.), but when writing songs I’d say we aim for mean, earnest & impactful.
Adam: I think naturally all being into different types of musical backgrounds, our finished product ends up being a thing of its own, but we all have similar enough interests to where we end up with the result that we initially were trying to go for. I personally am really into trying to sound like the bands I am into. It doesn’t end up exactly that way which is good but I love when bands obsess over old school sounds/bands/records and try to make their contemporary music sound as authentic as possible whether it be tone or style or whatever. At the end of the day we are trying to sound pissed, like we worship the 80s and have our music sound anarchy as fuck!
PE: What bands inspire you the most?
Austin: I listen to EVERYTHING. I don’t know where to begin but musically, keeping personal interest aside, I think we’re inspired by 80’s UK crust and a lot of Japanese stuff as far as writing collectively. This is something me and you will have to nerd out on when we’re in Boston next. Haha!
Adam: For Krang, bands that influence the writing process for me are Masskontroll, Deathraid, Sacrilege, Hellshock, Deviated Instinct, Sodom, Axegrinder and Amebix as well as Instinct of Survival. Personally I am all over the water but my all time 2 favorite punk bands have always and will always be Discharge and the Dead Boys.
Devan: I could go on a long rant about every band I’ve ever loved and how they’ve all stuck with and influence me to this day and blah blah blah, but I’ll spare you the cost of ink and just say Sacrilege, Crude, Amebix and Discharge. That said, we are quite the eclectic bunch.
Brendan: Musically, anything running the gamut from Paintbox to Elliot Smith. I enjoy a lot of soaring Japanese hardcore with that Burning Spirits feel, 90’s screamo, early black metal & hip hop. Any band that has a way with words gets me going, but mostly I enjoy music that you can’t help but feel.
PE: What are most of your songs about? What inspires the lyrics?
Brendan: Lemme preface by saying that Discharge is rad & “The More I See…” could be the soundtrack to my daily tedium… but i think punk rock has much more potential than to rehash our dogmatic & oftentimes simplistic politics. Having been a few places where the punk scene eats itself inside out with depression, addiction, & apathy towards the struggles of those around us, I think its real important to allow ourselves to be more open in the way we express all of the things exploding in our minds. I am not blowing my own horn, or any horn for that matter, but I really enjoy taking the personal route when it comes to writing & am constantly attempting to better address the common threads that run through all of our lives. Our first wave of songs covered some of our political leanings in regards to vivisection, arms manufacturing, rape culture & the willful destruction of our Earth. The “Bog of Eternal Stenchcore” 7″ reflects on the weight of stagnation on the “politically motivated”. “Sounds of Death” is the result of an obsession with death and a years worth of hurt; friends making irreversible decisions in regards to their lives & some of us falling into those spirals ourselves. There is absolution in acceptance though & I think a glint of hope in such dark subject matter. Our upcoming 7″ deals with cycles of change in our lives, moments of mania & madness; a counterpoint to our last 7″. The songs we are writing & playing now are an extension of that, focusing on moments of change in our lives, wanderlust & really just form one big, loud, pissed love letter to the DIY community, punk rock & time spent on the road. Inspiration comes from any human I’ve met that has dared to be open, honest & shameless about it.
Devan: Passion in all its forms and extremities is what inspires us. Totally.
PE: You guys have done a few extensive tours. What’s your favorite city you guys haveplayed in? What’s your least favorite?
Austin: I love Boston. Detroit, New Orleans, and the Twin Cities (Minneapolis) are up there too. I don’t really have a least favorite. We have had some bad experiences, though. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and not mention them. Hopefully things will be better when we return.
Devan: New Orleans is my favorite city ever, and our most recent gig in Boston totally ruled. I’d have to say, though, that many of my favorite shows have been in non-major cities. Birmingham AL was awesome, Asheville NC, Cincinatti OH, Grand Rapids MI…basically anywhere with a really tight-knit but wide-ranging DIY scene in terms of age, music, spaces, projects, etc. It’s always super encouraging to see.
Brendan: I’ll echo the others in saying that NOLA, Asheville, Cincy, Birmingham, Boston & Baltimore all kick ass. I’m usually super appreciative of all the towns we’ve been lucky enough to play in, though of course we’ve played in towns that seemed to embrace the anti-PC attitude/sense of humor that I am so fucking sick of. Some cities are really 50/50 because you’ll either play an amazing show with bad-ass folks & have the time of your life, or you might end up wanting to eviscerate some fuckhead who only listens to GG Allin & doesn’t get why a confederate flag hanging at a show space might ruffle some feathers.
Austin: We as a band aren’t about making sure we are politically correct all the time, but we definitely are hellbent on showing one another respect and are willing to give respect back to those who are legit. No single city is bad. Like I said before, sometimes there are some bad experiences. Fuckheads are everywhere.
Adam: Yes, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Boston, but most of all NOLA and Minneapolis. New Orleans and Minneapolis…no other city can live up to the debauchery that is expected to happen when we arrive in these two places. We need a week of recovery after being in either place for just a day. Also I love playing Madison a lot. Fuck, I love touring. So many amazing friends are being missed right now as we speak.
PE: What are some of your favorite bands you guys have played with?
Lord Krang: Scum from Detroit, Appalachian Terror Unit, Antisect, In Defense, Nu-kle-ar Blast Suntan, Kontrasekt, Cognitive Dissonance, The Skuds, Coelacanth, WrathCobra, Wartorn, Negligence, In Ruins, and definitely D-Clone; but honestly, it’s great to play with anyone and everyone who aren’t assholes and give a shit about “punk rock”.
PE: What are some of your favorite local bands from Chicago?
Lord Krang: Asphyxiate, Decay After Death (Decay A.D.), Cemetery (RIP), Culo, Die Time, Slag, Escalofrio, Sex Bunker (RIP), Birth Deformities, Gas Rag, Welkin Dusk, Daylight Robbery, Dirty Surgeon Insurgency, The Breathing Light, La Armada, Black September, Kontaminat, Ooze, Tensions, The Busy Sugnals, Population, More that we’re forgetting to mention….
PE: What does the future hold for Krang?
Devan: As Austin mentioned earlier, we have our “Broken Waves” 7″ being released in June, at which point we’ll be doing a small tour with Coelacanth. Also, as previously stated, we are well along in the writing process for our next full-length LP. Look for us around the Mid-west this summer and keep up-to-date and get in touch via the following:
crustardpunx[AT]gmail.com – krangcrustards.bandcamp.com – krangcrustards.blogspot.com
Austin: More touring, more albums, more blood spit nights, more everything! We’ll do a more extensive tour when the new LP comes out.
Brendan: “Bad Moon” 12″ – Skull Fest – Split(s?) – Self-Destruction With A Gusto
Lord Krang: Record labels that are interested in helping us with our next 12″ (which is more than half way written) get in touch with us!!! It will be even more galloping, pist, and triumphant than our still available “Sounds of Death” 12″!
With the rise in popularity of the ideas of urban gardening, deep ecology, and permaculture amongst activists, anarchists, and subcultures such as punk often questions of ethics seem to have become simplified to the equation of SUSTAINABLE = GOOD. Yet often all kinds of cruelty can be hidden behind the veneer of that buzzword sustainable.
The unfortunate reality is that simple fixes rarely offer much beyond false hope and easy ways out. Perhaps they help people to ease their personal guilt by assuming they are not part of the problem (everyone else is), but is this any more than a self serving delusion?
I grew up on a small family run farm in Alberta, 10 miles north of a town you have likely never heard of, with a population under 700. My mother grew up on that same farm with her two brothers. Her dad and his family lived there for many years, they had immigrated up from Nebraska where the family had farmed for a few generations since their original migration from Scotland, where again they had been farmers. It would be fair to say that farming is in my blood, so to speak (or perhaps I have just been reading too many Vampire The Masquerade books as of late?) Either way, I feel at least semi-competent to write about some of the ‘sustainable’ realities of small scale farming, drawing on my personal experiences.
I have many memories from growing up on the farm, from playing in the garden and eating carrots straight out of the ground with the dirt still on them, to collecting eggs from the chicken house, or chasing the turkeys for fun, being chased by the turkeys (which wasn’t so fun), or moving cattle from one pasture to another by horse back. There were some great memories too; picking saskatoon berries, wild raspberries that grew in the coolie, or building forts and campfires in the bush by the ravine. However, there were also just as many memories that were not so wonderful to look back on. Branding cattle with a hot iron as they screamed, or castrating steers — many city folks don’t realize you do not eat cows, and you do not eat bulls, you eat a male who had it’s nuts cut off so the flesh will taste better. All of which could be argued as sustainable.
Now I recognize that not all this is relevant to the popular trends I see amongst self styled alternative people over here on the west coast, as most of the folk punks are more into having pet goats and living on boats rather than farming beef or dairy cattle for auction. So I will try to keep more focused on the aspects of small scale farming that would be more of interest to the DIY crowd with their fantasies of farming and sustainable farming.
One of the more popular trends amongst the urban radicals is having back yard chickens, to collect and eat their eggs. Where I live, in the Cascadian bioregion, it has become almost as cliché to have 6-10 birds pecking around your back yard of your community house as it has to wear Carhardts, have a large dog, and all black clothing, or to play banjo. Unfortunately, I also live in an area where one thing that is not popular is sticking around. The radical community here tends to be quite transient in nature, with lots of college kids, traveler punks, and others folks who often didn’t come from here and even more often don’t have much intention of putting down roots. This is a common frustration to those who are part of long term projects propelled by volunteers, but none the less, it has its pros and cons. However for the chickens pecking the dirt and laying those golden eggs, it is a much bigger problem. An average chicken may live up to 8 years, which is far longer than the school term, or even a bachelors degree. A quick peruse of Craigslist at the right times of year will give you a good indication of just how expendable these animals are to many of the people who are excited in September (at the beginning of the school term) to build a chicken coop for their back yard. But even for those who don’t intend to go traveling or tree planting soon as the summer hits, few want to care for a chicken until it dies naturally of old age. You see, chickens only lay a lot of eggs when they are still fairly young, as they get older they will produce less and less. For many of the urban agriculture enthusiasts, a chicken that doesn’t lay eggs is just work with no pay off.
But the plight of the urban chicken doesn’t end there — or more accurately; it doesn’t begin there. You see, chickens don’t just appear, and they are not brought by the stork to deserving families, they come from somewhere – or in other words, someone breeds them. Few of the breeds of chickens people farm have any resemblance to wild breeds, and wild chickens are pretty rare these days due to our destruction of wildlife habitat for cities and farm land; never mind that there was chickens, like Europeans, are an invasive species to this part of the world. So most of the domesticated birds come from a hatchery; either directly – or indirectly.
I remember how exciting it was for me as a kid to order chicks. We would get a catalog in the mail, with pictures of the full grown birds, and you would select them by recording the order number of which breeds you wanted to buy. A few weeks later, you would get a large cardboard box in the mail which would be chirping. Upon opening it, you would see it packed full of fluffy yellow chicks, divided and layered with cardboard dividers so they could fit more into each box. Every so often a couple would die while in the mail, so you would get a few dead ones in every box.Kinda like two scoops of raisins, right?
An important thing to note is, that they also were separated not just by breed, but also gender. See chicks are born about half females and half males, but most people don’t want to order males. Roosters don’t lay eggs for one, and for two, if you have more than one (or maybe two) roosters, they will kill each other. So the chicks are bred, the females are sold through mail order and the males are killed. Yup, right into the wood chipper. When people get back yard chickens, they often order from a breeder or hatchery. I know some get “second hand” or even call them “rescues”, but where do you think those birds came from before you got them? Buying chickens is putting money into the industry that breeds them for profit. This is the industry of commercial chicken breeders, and they are often the same places that supply big farms, as well as small farms and your average urban gardener with their new found interest in permaculture. And I didn’t even talk about the forced insemination.
The study of words can reveal a lot. If you look at the etymology of the word Garden, we discover it is related to the German word for guard, and to words for walled, or closed lot. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to begin to see the relationship between these terms. As anthropologist Layla AbdelRahim explained in Wild Children – Domesticated Dreams, domestication requires the domesticator to control access to food and land. When you begin to garden a space, you must control what other species have access to that land or you will likely not have much of a crop to harvest. Whether we are talking about other non-human animals that might desire and easy lunch, or even competing plant species, insects, or other humans – gardening requires us to control what species are able to access the space. On an even more basic level, gardening usually begins with removing undesired plant species to prepare the land so we can plant seeds of the species we desire.
It has always amazed me how uncritically many Green Anarchists, Vegans, and Primitivists seem to embrace and support permaculture. Yet permaculture is in its essence another system of domestication rooted in anthropocentric desires. In other words, permaculture might be presented by its proponents as being sustainable (and therefore ethical) and based in local ecology, but in fact it is once again about human wants and needs. As well revered permaculturist Erik Ohlson explained in his interview in the book Tangled Roots: Dialogues Exploring Ecological Justice, Healing, and Decolonization, “Permaculture, which could be permanent—agriculture or permanentcultureis about designing human culture that is beneficial to both the land and to human at the same time.” That might sound great on the surface, but look at it a bit more closely and it follows all the same old patterns; humans are in control, Erik posits us as the managers and designers, and in the end it is about human needs first and foremost. Animals are not even acknowledged in this relationship, even though you would be hard pressed to find a permaculturist who doesn’t argue that domesticated animals are needed in order to maintain a healthy closed circuit. The implicit goal of permaculture is to make this human domination of wildlife spaces, plants and animals – sustainable and thus permanent.
I am fully aware that not every radical out there agrees with the anarcho-primitivist critiques of domestication, which sees domestication as not only the control of the wild, but also as the root of many other systems of domination such as patriarchy. It took me a long time myself to come to a place where I was open to those conclusions and the difficult questions they lead to. However there are many lenses to view the question of ‘sustainable farming’ through. From an animal liberation lens, another set of problems presents itself in that permaculture like other forms of gardening for human consumption involves turning wildlife habitat into farm lands that are exclusionary to certain wildlife, and even further permaculture also uses domesticated animals.
This is where it really becomes a problem for me, as it perpetuates the use and domestication of non-human animals for human benefit. But due to the SUSTAINABLE=GOOD formula, we choose to not see its implications for animals: both wildlife and domesticated. Often when I have presented these arguments to proponents of permaculture design, the response I get is akin to the lesser of two evils. The same argument often used to justify voting for shitty, racist, business friendly politicians.
I am by no means arguing that permaculture is worse for the land than monocropping, factory farming, or industrial agriculture, rather I am arguing that it is not the be all end all simple fix that many seem to desire it to be. Permaculture still means wildlife habitat is destroyed and used for human benefit that does not allow wild species full access and use of the spaces. Permaculture still involves captive breeding and continued domestication of animals for human consumption, whether it be chickens to scratch and turn the soil, or goats, pigs, or other species. Many of those animals will be from commercial breeders, and the care of those animals will continue to support industries that profit off of animal agriculture. Many of those animals will also still be killed in the end either so humans can consume their flesh and bodies, or because they have quit producing at the rates desired by the domesticators. Most of those animals will also be of breeds that simply did not exist in the wild, did not exist until humans interfered with their reproductive strategies to cause them to develop traits deemed more desirable. Did you know that wild pigs were never pink skinned, that sheep didn’t produce a harvestable amount of wool for hundreds of years after domestication, or that cattle bred for meat are different breeds than the cattle bred for dairy production? Wild cattle don’t produce as much milk, the animals we farm today are the product of thousands of years of selective breeding.
It is indisputable that modern industrial agriculture is anything but sustainable as it depletes the infrastructure of the landbase for higher temporary crop yields. Such a system by definition is incapable to sustaining itself indefinitely and would eventually lead to a collapse as once fertile croplands become less and less able to produce, due to nutrients in the soil being depleted. Technological fixes such as fertilizers may increase yields in the short run, but only work to deplete the health of the land in the long term. Permaculture on the other hand aims to be sustainable, which may be its most insidious trait. It seeks to make permanent the ability of humans to dominate the wild, and thus maintain industrial civilization. Advocates often argue that permaculture can allow us to use less land in order to grow crops to feed our populace (which is a population of not just humans, but also of the animals we domesticate for our use). However, promises of abundance aside, we live in a society of exponential growth. Capitalism is an economic system that requires such growth, both in profits and in populace which will consume the products of the capitalists. Permaculture does nothing to challenge or disrupt this growth, and in fact may allow it to continue far beyond the limits of industrial agriculture in its current form.
Capitalism kills animals. Industrialism kills animals. Civilization as we know it is based on the domestication of animals and destruction of the wild. I have no doubt that permaculture may live up to its promise of sustainability, I would even go further and suggest that many older practices of agriculture (such as crop rotation and choosing crops based on soil conditions) can also allow long term sustainability, yet like permaculture these techniques do nothing to challenge the relationship of human dominance, capitalism, growth, or cruelty to animals. The system always seeks to recuperate easy reforms in order to maintain itself. If we do not actively work to disrupt these power relations and include questions of ethics, sustainability will just become another way of hiding our violence and rationalizing our domination of other species.
At the very root of agriculture is the domination of other living beings by humans. At the very core of ethics is the question of domination and hierarchy. For me, any system that perpetuates these historical patterns is a system based on violence. I am always reminding myself that agriculture is a relatively new invention in the timeline of human existence. The world I would like to work towards in one that encourages and fosters the growth of wild species and habitats, not the subjugation of them.
I don’t know what the solution to all of this is, but I do know that if we hope for total liberation it can not perpetuate the oppression of others.
For those of interested in finding alternatives to these oppressive systems we need to consider more than simple solutions. Directness of our relationship to our food, and sustainability of our practices is only one part of the question we need to be asking. Another key question is, what is the outcome for non-human animals and for other species? Do the ‘alternatives’ we are promoting make any difference to the chicken in the cage? How about to the Wolf? the Trout? The Orca? Or Mycelium? Are they better off because of our actions? Or does our liberation continue to come at their expense? How can we begin to foster relationships that benefit wildlife? And how can we imagine our relationships to other species in ways that have the potential to be liberating and symbiotic?
In recent weeks there have been a number of mass shootings throughout North America which is becoming increasingly normalized in modern society. John Zerzan has written and spoken extensively about the phenomenon of shootings, never shying away from the difficult subjects and questions that many others actively avoid.
PE: I remember you once saying on your radio show that when the media talks about mass shootings they use a set of buzz words and often present it as though these acts are incomprehensible. Can you explain what you meant and why this is problematic?
Zerzan: First, let me say that my focus has been on the unprecedented rise in what are commonly called “random” multiple shooting; those that, as you say, are presented as incomprehensible. Of course they are not incomprehensible and speak to the nature of modern mass society. They are deeply symptomatic of the growing isolation, a product of the disappearance of community. Society becomes rapidly more technological and – contrary to the propaganda claims of the tech agenda – people are ever more adrift and lonely. With less and less to hang on to unspeakable things happen.
PE: Often mass shootings get blamed on mental health, yet many of these killers had no history of known mental illness?
Zerzan: Yes, most of the shooters have no history of mental illness. More often one reads what has become a kind of cliche description: ‘he was the quietest guy, very nice, never missed work or made trouble, etc’
PE: A while back there was an article about kids being bored by mass shootings. Do you think they have become part of the spectacle? Or are they the cracks?
Zerzan: It’s possible that as these multiple homicide acts become almost daily occurrences events they are tuned out or even become boring. Think what else is routinely tuned among the common horrors of civilization…
PE: I saw a feminist blogger recently write that all these shootings have one thing in common, that the perpetrators are all men. What’s your take?
Zerzan: Not all the shooters are male. A horrible part of of the phenomenon in recent years has been family slaughters, including mothers murdering their children.
PE: I have heard you say that mass shootings are a phenomenon that appears to be unique to both the modern times and certain parts of the world? What is the connection between privilege and this type of violent act?
Zerzan: Roughly speaking, these rampage killings happen in the more technological societies and are spreading from the US to other technologically advanced countries. Thus one wonders how ‘advanced’ or ‘privileged’ these places really are. In terms of individuals it is less often poorer people committing theses acts, more likely white suburbanites, with some exceptions.
PE: Ever since Chris Dorner opened fire killing a couple cops, more people are beginning to target the police. As an anarchist, what do you make of this?
Zerzan: Police brutality and the militarization of the cops seems to be increasing. So, not a big surprise that more folks would strike back.
PE: Another interesting aspect of the more recent shootings, starting with Dorner – is that the killers used facebook or other social media to post statements before committing their killings. I am certain this will justify increased profiling and surveilence. What’s your thoughts on this?
Zerzan: Social media usage is of course extremely widespread so we see more use of it by shooters e.g. the Isla Vista killer recently.
PE: Layla AbdelRahim writes about how politeness and manners are a form of civilized violence that helps to hide the violence of our society. We live in a horribly violent culture that pretends the violence doesn’t exist; what do you make of these outbursts of very public violence in the spectacle of polite society?
Zerzan:Layla refers to how domestication represses the violence, if less effectively these days, eh? The violence is less hidden than ever but denial reigns and the ‘solutions’ put forth are very superficial. For example, gun control laws which miss the basic reality. That is, guns have always been very prevalent in this country, since colonial times in fact. But the shooting rampages as a common phenomenon is quite recent historically. A year before Adam Lanza killed twenty-some children at a school in Connecticut he called Anarchy Radio to tell of a chimpanzee who attacked its owner. The chimp had been dressed in human clothes, fed human food, provided with TV – and snapped because of the degrading domestication it was subject to. The bitter irony was that Lanza himself snapped and killed two dozen people about a year later.
PE: When Ted Kazcinski was arrested as the Unabomber, you wrote him letters and visited him in jail; how do his acts of violence differ from these others? Is it simple a difference in ideology?What can we learn from “Uncle Ted’s” actions?
Zerzan: Kaczynski’s acts were in no way random. They were part of an exclusively anti-technology campaign.
PE: Is there a connection between how we as a society treat animals and the land with this type of violence?
Zerzan: I think it’s quite reasonable to see the mass cruelty of industrialized agriculture – to use a big example of how animals are treated – as cheapening life in general and thus contributing to these explosions of violence among humans.
PE: I remember when the Columbine shooting happened which seemed to be one of the first; followed by another highschool shooting in Taber Alberta not far from where I grew up only a week or two later. As a kid in a highscool that was tormented and bullied nearly to the point of committing suicide myself; having a couple kids pick up guns and shoot back was something I paid close attention to. But things didn’t seem to get better in the aftermath, rather kids like me were treated like we were all potential psychopaths and nothing else really changed.
Zerzan: Bullying is one triggering factor in some of the mass killings. But bullying is nothing new whereas there is something unprecedented going on as mass society shows such pathologies. I went to a rough high school where, in addition to beatings by some of the priests, there was a fair degree of bullying. No-one brought a gun to school and started blowing folks away.
PE: Fredy Perlman described civilization as a monster that keeps growing and consuming, while telling the story of people who either resisted by running away until the monster caught up to them or by fighting back – often becoming more like the monster they resisted in order to stop it until it collapsed and they took it’s place as the new monster. How do we resist without becoming recuperated into the machine we seek to destroy?
Zerzan: Civilization must be attacked at a deep enough level to hit its target. Activism that lacks critique, lacks a qualitatively different vision or paradigm is doomed to be quite limited in my opinion. This means, among other things, that we must not shrink from embracing property destruction, which is hard to co-opt.
PE: You have argued that technology alienates us further. Are these shootings a symptom individualism? Capitalism? Lack of nature? Or something else?
Zerzan: It’s all these things even if technology is major – and generally overlooked. Domination is a totality and needs to be seen as such to avoid single-issue reformism.
As Adorno put it, in terms of causes: “It is idle to search for what might have been a cause within a monolithic society. Only that society itself remains the cause.”
PE: You have written about hope, where as the trend seems to be moving towards nihilism. Where do you find hope in times like these?
Zerzan: I am hopeful because I see the energy of resistance alive in many places. It has not gone away. And because I think that the system of domination is actually quite hollow and weak. It is plainly losing the allegiance of many on many levels, has no answers to the myriad problems it has created.
If you are interested in more of John Zerzan’s work check out his radio show Anarchy Radio, live every tuesday at 7pm PST. You can also read many of his writings at: http://www.johnzerzan.net/articles/
This interview was conducted over email by Comrade Black. Information on upcoming tour dates can be found at the end of the interview.
PE: For those unfamiliar with your past, could you introduce yourself?
YES SIR, INMATE #03895-000…oh wait, sorry, old habits…
Hi my name is rod and I’m from the desert southwest, but live in the great lakes bioregion now. I’ve spent my life fighting for the earth and animals and have just finished a 5 year period of federal supervision that prevented me from being involved in environmentalism or animal issues. I’ve spent a total of 6 years in prison for actions related to the protection of animals, and am now moving forward in my life with new strategies and tactics, that are both effective and legal. Though I walked a controversial and radical path, I no longer advocate illegal activity. That’s a personal decision that I made before with very intense personal consequences, so I’m not doing that anymore. I’m doing what a lot of people are doing now, and that’s struggling to find a way to help stop some horribly violent federal and state policies that currently are allowing for the killing of wolves and other wildlife.
PE: What have you been doing these last 7 years while on probation? Other than helping wolves, what else are you doing these days with your life?
Trying like hell to stay out of prison. When you’ve made a mark for yourself like I have in the law enforcement community, it gets real easy to get back into trouble. So I did what I had to do, I severed all contacts with the activist world, didn’t email, phone, write or do any social media with anyone with an activist past history and just worked my job at a brewery where I’m a server. I also was a big part of my children’s lives. I wasn’t in prison. I was a present father, raising children, teaching them to love life and nature. Loving life myself. I went kayaking when I could. We played in lakes and rivers, camped. I did what Geronimo and others like him had to do when they were forced to surrender and live on the rez. I will still be a father, but now ts time to stand up for the wild once again.
PE: It seemed for a while like every time you moved they were trying to put you in jail again. I had thought you retired to raise your child, What have you actually been doing during all the years where you seemed to disappear from the public eye?
No one will deny that federal law enforcement agencies had identified me as a target. Not only had I already spent 4 years in prison for Animal Liberation Front actions in the 1990’s, but in the ensuing years I had become a spokesperson for the group while continuing to organize with Earth First! And Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty. I even made it easier for them by hanging out with other suspects of federal investigations. So while I did have to go back to prison as part of a non-cooperative plea agreement, at least I didn’t get the 16 year sentence they threatened me with in trial. So yes, it was time to lay down my arms and think about my children and the future. I spent the last five years just keeping my head low and not traveling or seeing any close friends and only very restricted travel to see my family. I wasn’t allowed to visit my elderly parents in Portland, because my probation officer said all of the Northwest was off limits due to its history of radical environmentalism and animal rights activities.
Like so many other men recently released from prison, I focused on the financial survival of my family. I also got involved with my children’s school and met other parents raising children nonviolently who became friends. We tried to start a community garden near the school and introduced a zero-waste program that survives today. The last five years allowed me to be a part of my kid’s lives rather than only hear about it in letters.
Now that my federal supervision is over, I can think about acting as a responsible human being and organizing against the destruction of the wild. Here in Michigan that means stopping the recent sport hunt for wolves. That’s where the tour came in. Folks from the Hunt Saboteurs approached me offering to help build a broader grassroots campaign drawing from several movements. Not just against wolf hunts in the six states where they are now being hunted, but against contest predator hunts and control efforts by the USDA’s Wildlife Services program.
PE: A lot of people seem to see animal liberation and anti-colonial work as opposed. But to you they seem to be very deeply connected?
The connection for me comes with the concept of seeing an animal, person or mountain as part of something bigger, or whether they are just a resource to be exploited and dominated. That is the foundation for the invasion of planet earth and for me I’ll work with anyone fighting against that destruction. Here in the Great Lakes, the wolf is a sacred animal to the indigenous people. So you ave not only animal welfare and animal rights people opposed to the hunt, but the tribes as well. Combine that with environmentalist and even sportsmen against hunting and trapping wolves and you have the potential for a lot of solidarity which equals strength. The Idle-No-More movement s amazing and supporting indigenous peoples engaged in struggles against colonialism is vital or they are going to be marginalized and silenced. All us parties affected by the same Invader need to build stronger alliances and push back in the legal channels we have left.
PE: I asked David Barbarash, a former ALF spokesperson what he would want to ask you if he was interviewing you. He wondered if you regret any of the actions you participated in over the years?
Ahhh, the regret question. Who doesn’t have regrets? But if the interviewer is evading asking me more directly if I regret my illegal actions on behalf of wildlife, I’d have to say no I don’t. I could be cheeky and say I regret not sinking the third whaling ship with the watchman aboard, or finding more lion snares, but that’s kind of how I feel…I’d never want to hurt anyone, but with so many victories like wolf recovery being reversed, I wonder whether its less about “winning” and more about simply standing for what you believe even when its unpopular to do so. It wasn’t popular to take the actions I did, but I did them not with the intention of winning any popularity contests, but to save some lives…however temporarily that might have been. And I don’t regret that.
PE:David also wondered if you would share your thoughts on whether people’s activism may be motivated by past experiences of trauma or anger, and how that affects their actions?
I think this has to do with what I said about the connection between animal and Indigenous issues. A lot of people relate to animals and nature because they are ground up by the same machines. In that way, I think a lot of people are empathetic to animals and can relate to them because we all have a bond with animals some time in our lives and like children, we believe it is wrong to abuse them. But if your saying that such activism attracts unhealthy or unstable people, well I’ve seen that too.
PE: I have read that you became vegan and started working to defend animals after listening to punk music, in particular the song This Is The ALF by Conflict?
That’s kind of funny because its only partially true. Here’s the real story. I began working to protect animals when I was 12 and listening to Paul McCartney and John Denver. Punk music didn’t come until I went overseas on Sea Shepherd in 1985. I started fighting against whaling and the Canadian harp seal hunt after being exposed to both through dramatic direct action campaigns by Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace. In England, the Sea Shepherd crew included hunt saboteurs who were also vegetarian and vegan. They were the first ones to lead me to question my beliefs about all animals. I had tremendous respect for members of the American Indian Movement who were still fighting colonialism, then I witnessed nonviolent civil disobedience used in anti-nuclear protests, but these people exposed me to the principles behind the Animal Liberation Front, and that’s where “This is the ALF” comes in. After working on Sea Shepherd in port one day, some hunt saboteur volunteers had me over to listen to music. I couldn’t understand a word of what sounded like screaming, but they handed me the album cover which had the lyrics and I wanted to join. That’s when I went vegetarian and convinced I would start an ALF group.
PE:Did you grow up around animals? When did you learn your love for animals from?
I believe everyone has an inherent compassion for animals. It’s just the question of whether it gets repressed by institutionalized thinking that convinces us to see animals another way. I guarantee that if you switched babies between hardcore hunters and vegans, each child would be raised with the corresponding parent’s worldviews, at least while they were children. But if nature is allowed to prosper, compassion for animals will come to anyone. The only thing unique about me s that I chose a path of action that made my compassion more noticeable.
PE: Do you still see punk or other music cultures today as having radical potential to radicalize youth
I’m sure that’s true, but I don’t have my finger on that pulse. I’ve always had my movement musician favorites, Dana Lyons, Alice DiMicele, Jim Page, Joanne Rand, Casey Neil and many others whose music was a kind of soundtrack for my life in the 80’s and 90’s, but I don’t know who is leading that charge anymore. I believe that music is a sacred medium to reach people and I still love listening to any new song with a story sympathetic to animals or nature, because you know that we are not a minority and those kinds of songs are received well.
PE: What is hunt sabotage?
Hunt sabotage has evolved for me over the years. It began with my English friends who sabotaged British hound foxhunts with false scent trails and horn calls, then it evolved to similar tactics in America to interfere with desert bighorn sheep hunts. I’d say hunt sabotage is nonviolently interfering with the recreational killing of wildlife. I was arrested in 2004 for sabotaging a mountain lion hunt and went to prison for 8 months. Now hunt sabotage means something different for me. It means utilizing any channel you have available to stop not just individual hunts, but entire hunting seasons. Its very dangerous confronting armed men in the woods, but we can sabotage hunts by getting involved with the agencies that establish hunting seasons and begin to lobby to have the views of the non-hunting majority represented. These agencies are supposed to be following principles of conservation that recognize that wildlife is a public trust resource and as such the opinions of non-consumptive “users” matters. Presently the states where wolf hunting and
trapping was recently enacted, the state wildlife agencies have cosy relationships with sportsman’s groups. It’s not a unique situation. The hunters through payments for licenses and tags provide the budget for those agencies, so they tend to manage wildlife with the needs of hunters as a priority. So for me, hunt sabotage is any tactics or strategy that aims to stop the recreational killing of wildlife.
PE: What is the reason they are intending to kill the wolves? Can you talk a bit about the campaign?
In Michigan, the justification for the wolf hunt is that wolves are preying on livestock and hunting dogs as well as being seen in the neighborhoods of some rural towns. This is what was said leading up to the hunt and then when it began, we discovered that 90% of livestock depredations in Michigan were at one farm where the farmer practiced horrible farming practices. Cattle that died were left in pastures and when wolves were attracted they were blamed for the deaths and permits issued to kill them. This one farmer also received over $60,000 in compensation for his livestock losses and was recently criminally charged with animal abuse. One of the other justifications was the killing of “pets” which means dogs trained to chase down bears. Bear hunters place bait piles to attract bears, but they also attract wolves too sometimes or are placed in areas where wolves have their dens. These hounds are released to chase bears through wolf territory and occasionally get killed when they do this. But that’s not the wolf’s fault. Then we have the state’s wildlife agency lying to the media about the level of danger wolves were posing to humans in one town and those lies being repeated by a state representative to justify the hunt to the legislature. And on top of this, we have laws in Michigan which already allow hunters or farmers to kill a wolf they witness attacking their animals. In addition, the USDA’s Wildlife Services has been called in to kill over 20 wolves in recent years in Michigan. So that’s what we are fighting. We are opposed to the indiscriminate killing of wolves and we want to see wolves returned to endangered species listing.
PE:It seems a lot of people see wolves as a pest, or a threat to be afraid of. Do you find it is hard to convince people wolves need to be protected?
I don’t think its hard for people to get this issue. We’ve learned it before after we eradicated wolves the first time. Society as a whole has changed, but the agencies responsible for livestock and wildlife refuse to evolve and reflect those changes. And these agencies have little accountability. People understand that predators play a vital role in maintaining the health of prey animals like deer and elk. What I’ve been hearing is people asking, “why are people still killing wolves?” In addition to the role predators play in the ecosystem, I also believe they should be protected because we still don’t know a lot about them. The campaigns of persecution have continued literally since Europeans first arrived, and I think we should demonstrate a little human evolution by no longer waging such a war on wildlife. Wolves returning to the landscape is a success story in endangered species preservation that desperately needs to be defended right now.
PE:Anthropologist Layla Abdel Rahim writes about how the idea of a predator is a problematic construct, because the animals don’t see other animals as prey all of the time – but rather just as other animals most of the time and only as prey when they need to feed. I wonder what you think of this and if you think using scientific categorizations such as apex predator is at all problematic?
Well, let’s see where else do we use that word? To describe sexual predators! So undeniably, there is a negative connotation for some people. But yes, we allow science and taxonomy to frame our relationship to animals when the relationship can be so much more sacred. It’s a agreed upon concept to call some animal relations “predator” but we should also question our personal and spiritual relationship to animals. Not just because I am indigenous, but I also gravitated towards the way native people viewed animals. It was never demeaning, it was always on an equal standing. The animals were (and still are) people too, or people are animals too…Wonderful stories of mysticism and magic that sounded better than Bible stories to me.
I love to be educated and read wildlife agencies reports on wolf management, but at the end of the day I choose to see the wolf as my sacred relation. And as a resident of Maa’iigan’s homeland, I feel an obligation to speak up among the humans when the wolf’s future is at stake. Yes, because they are a apex predator who helps hold the ecosystem in balance, but also because they are the sacred brother/sister to the Anishinaabe who still call this place home, and wolves and coyotes and other predators are just mega-cool…
PE:How can we build bridges between Indigenous resistance and movements for animal liberation?
By first, not being so fucking judgmental of people who eat animals. Long before there was an animal rights movement, there were indigenous peoples defending the earth and her animals with their lives. And they still are! Just because they eat meat doesn’t make them the enemy. Until we learn tolerance we will continue to be disenfranchised. It doesn’t mean WE have to be like them, but there’s such beauty in diverse worldviews that all hold nature and animals on the same level as us. It is the oppositions worst nightmare for us all to be unified against their policies that destroy the same world we all love.
PE:How does being a parent change things now for you?
I heard this story where a young warrior wants to be at the front of the war party, in the thick of any fighting, but when you’re a little older, you let the younger warriors lead the battle, and then when you’re a little older, you’re fine being in the rear guard and when you’re a little older than that, maybe you’re crouching behind a tree or rock watching to see how things are going before jumping into the fray… I think it’s like that for me. I’ve been in enough battles, I’m not an adrenalin junkie doing this for the thrill. I’m a middle-aged man with kids dammit, and I have to take care of them to be a warrior, that’s why indigenous resistance exists, to protect our families and communities. It’s always been about protecting the vulnerable, the young and elderly, it’s the same way in our struggle.
We are trying to protect people and the environment for the good of all, so that we may simply maintain our right to exist. Being a parent has given me a deeper understanding of the need for a long-term sustainable strategy for fighting and living. I also know that those I might come into conflict with are also trying to do the same thing, eke out a living and protect their families. So that means not being so adversarial, and being less willing to fight, and more willing to try and work together first.
Having children has made me a better warrior, because I’ve realized when you’re willing to defend something with your very own life as many father’s are prone to feel, you understand the motivational power as it exists in nature where many creatures are driven by the same strength of love. Because that’s what it’s about for us, about defending what we love. And if we can’t experience that raw passion and love for something close to us, then we’re dead already. I’m not ready to give that up. It’s also why no struggle can be real unless its inclusive of people raising children. People with dominating, destructive worldviews have been breeding like crazy, we need some kids to be raised in the new old ways…
PE:You spent a lot of time in prison, and on probation over the years. Can you talk from your experiences about what is effective prisoner support, both when people are in prison and when they get out? Is there any advice you would give to people who might be looking at doing time?
First, advice to people looking at doing time. Don’t have children. Going to prison doesn’t just effect you, it effects those who love you, so be prepared to put them through incredible trauma and suffering too. Don’t think you can maintain relationships while you are in prison. The best you are doing is sharing your traumatic experience. There is nothing good about going to prison. It should be avoided at all costs.
Once you are in the system, your purpose is no longer the survival of your family and community, its about your own survival. That’s what I experienced and that’s why I’m grateful to be able to be organizing again and am very conscious to not step over that line into anything even remotely illegal. It’s simply not worth it. We have to constantly be doing a cost/benefit analysis of our modes of resistance and weigh whether its a sustainable strategy or not. If our tactics result in our bravest warriors being imprisoned for years, then its time to rethink. It doesn’t mean we condemn our past tactics or strategies, it just means we evolve to our changing environment. Like coyotes or wolves.
PE:There has been a dramatic rise in ALF actions over the last year, bands like Los Crudos and Earth Crisis are touring again, and now Rod Coronado is back on tour encouraging activists to get active; kinda feels like the 90s again. How do you figure the current state of radical movements compares to past decades?
I don’t think it’s a resurgence, it’s the survival of our struggles. Some of us might have gone to prison, but the need for organizing never went away, and thankfully brave people are following a very dark time for the radical environmental and animal rights movements and pushing forward. I don’t think we can compare this to past decades because twenty years ago 9/11 hadn’t happened and we weren’t labeled as terrorists. We have to evolve and recognize that there are strong forces out there that want to treat us like criminals rather than the harbingers of social change. So in that way, I can’t say what the state of radical movements is like because I don’t consider myself radical anymore, nor am I up on their progress. I hear about infighting, the debates on issues that distract us from being a broader more public movement that focuses on solidarity building issues with people we too often call the enemy. I’m just trying to share with the new generations of activists out there what I’ve learned and help them realize the cost-benefit analysis of doing actions that won’t lead you to prison. There’s a time and place for everything, but right now its time in the US to reclaim the public process in regards to wildlife issues and do something completely different. In a way, organizing in these old fashioned traditional ways can be very radical because its a strategy that has been left to very conservative people.
PE:Can you talk a little about your history with wildlife defense and hunt sab?
My first hunt sabotage actions were in England targeting foxhunts and badger baiting back in 1985. In 1987 we started a hunt saboteurs group in California to interfere with trophy desert bighorn hunts. A lot of my ALF actions were on behalf of predators, the most prominent being our actions against the fur farm industry and our Don Quixote-esque raid on the USDA’s Predator Research Facility in 1992. We destroyed the laboratory, but they just rebuilt it bigger, but at least a few coyotes got away that night.
I returned to opposing trophy hunting in 2002, going into the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona to interfere with desert bighorn sheep hunts. We spent winter weekends searching out a handful of trophy hunters across a huge desert mountain landscape. The bighorn sheep hunt sabs were the perfect balance of effectiveness and experiential bliss, because the desert is beautiful in winter time.16 mile hikes looking for hunters, seeing the sheep themselves, and other wildlife, you are literally seeing what your fighting for. We also began going to wildlife agency meetings, giving testimony on hunts we were opposed to and documenting illegal hunting in the field.
It culminated in 2004, with the very public hunt interference against attempts to remove mountain lions from the Sabino Canyon National Recreational in the Coronado National Forest outside of Tucson, Arizona where I lived. Public opposition to the hunt was overwhelming, and the whole city knew the only thing standing in the way of the state and federal lion hunters was us Earth First!ers. We spread false scent trails with mountain lion urine, and I was chased down with a helicopter after we sprung a lion snare. I was sentenced to 8 months in federal prison for that one.
The most effective campaign we did was against the hunting of sandhill cranes which winter in southern Arizona. We would lay in cornfields between hunters in blinds and incoming cranes who upon seeing us waving our arms or reflective mylar would veer away from the hunter’s. The best part about it is that never once did we get caught. When we did interact with hunters, it was as fellow hunters as I always have the appropriate tags and licenses. We also documented the hunt, including cranes attempting to aid their wounded relations. We also solicited public comment on the hunt at birding events and repeatedly testified against the hunt on ecological grounds that it wasn’t sustainable or necessary. Once again, it was amazing just to be in the fields watching thousands of cranes flying overhead.
I had wanted to continue the campaigns against trophy hunts in Arizona, but then I was overtaken with my legal defense on not just the lion hunt front, but for a lecture I gave defending arson the same day an ELF fire caused a $60 million fire in San Diego. So that’s why now I’m jumping on board to help wolves now, because I think the same strategy can work, to participate in the process of changing policy by attending public meetings and calling on these agencies to reform to reflect the interests of citizens who appreciate wildlife as a working component of the environment, not only as some kind of resource.
I hate cement
A concrete statement of the hatred of life
that your world is built on
Paved over earth
Yet you cannot kill the wild
even under the pavement habitual wildness
A plant reaches for the sun again
The grass IS always greener
When you’re standing in a desert
That use to be a forest
Like the Fertile Crescent
Or the great Scottish rain forests
You know, where now what we call the Moor is
Or parking lots and paved roads where the meadow use to live
But you see the trick isn’t to get over to the other side of the fence
But instead to tear it down altogether
A world free of false man made borders
Walls and fences
Cages are for captives
And we are meant to be free
As all life is meant to be
I hate walls and all the people who love them.[i]
I hate bars and prisons
And bars built to keep people drunk in
Captives to their own inebriation
Wasn’t that drink suppose to give you escape?
But there is no escape when the whole world is our prison
Just another bottle do drown in
Not until the people have risen
To tear the oppression down
Bring the bastards down
Royal or otherwise
[i] This line is a play off a line from anarcho-pop band Chumbawamba “I hate wars, and all the people who love them” from the song Here’s The Rest Of Your Life from their second album Never Mind the Ballots
A spark has ignited in 2013 as nearly every day lately I have been reading about another new action taken against businesses that profit from the exploitation and murder of animals. Yes, rising from the ashes of Operation Backfire and the Greenscare, the Animal Liberation Front appears to be back in full swing again!
David Barbarash spent time in jail in the mid 90s for his involvement in the ALF, freeing cats from an Alberta lab, along with other smaller actions. He later founded the North American Press Office of the ALF, and was the official spokes-person until he retired in 2002. I asked David what his thoughts are on this recent increase in actions. “Brings a smile to my face!” he told me. “Even after all the new laws and repression animal and environmental activists are now subjected to, the spirit to resist and fight back continues. It seems there will always be a new generation willing to make sacrifices for animals and our planet, which in itself continues to give me hope for our collective future.”
If you haven’t been keeping up on the ALF news, in the last few weeks there has been nearly an action per day; ranging from low level insurgency like gluing locks and graffiti, to full on liberations such as the release of 2400 mink from a Idaho fur farm on July 28, 2013, or the release of farm pheasants on July 22. “This period reminds me of the early 1980’s when animal and earth activism was at the beginning of an upward trend, which peaked in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.” David said.
Perhaps our new adage should be an action per day keeps the Vivisection doctor away! (on stress leave that is).
I first learned about the ALF through punk songs by bands like Conflict, and DROPDEAD – back around the time David was having his house raided by the cops – I have been a open supporter ever since. The ALF has been active for over 40 years now, freeing hundreds of thousands of animals world wide, with the activity waxing and waning at numerous points over the decades. It seems to me that we have not seen this level of ALF activity in the colonized nation states of North America since the 90s, and definitely not since the FBI attack on the activist movements in the mid 2000’s. Or as David put it “After 9/11 and the FBI crackdown, activism saw a downward trend. It will never disappear, it simply ebbs and flows as all life does. Perhaps now what we’re seeing is a new cycle beginning.”
This type of resurgence of course doesn’t happen in a vacuum; a lot of other rad shit is going down! In recent years there has been an increase in interest in eco-defence campaigns and campaigns of Indigenous resistance to colonization and destruction of their lands for resource depletion. Also in the last year has been the release of
For those who don’t know, the ALF is a clandestine, leaderless movement of human allies who risk imprisonment to save the lives of animals. The ALF originated in the UK in the mid 1970s, formed by former Hunt Saboteurs. You can not join the ALF, rather you take actions and in doing so you become the ALF. The ALF guidelines are:
1. TO liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e. laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, etc, and place them in good
homes where they may live out their natural lives, free from suffering. 2. TO inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals. 3. TO reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors, by performing non-violent direct actions and liberations. 4. TO take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and non-human.
Any group of people who are vegetarians or vegans and who carry out actions according to ALF guidelines have the right to regard themselves as part of the ALF.
David was part of an earlier generation of ALF activists, a generation where they took some very serious risks, “I hope this new generation has learned the hard lessons my generation had to face and are still dealing with, and are taking security and secrecy in the most serious way” he told me. “With each new generation of the cycle, hopefully lessons of the past are learned, and strategies evolve. It’s more dangerous now to an individual’s personal freedom to participate in a resistance movement, so i hope security culture has also evolved.”
We need your help! The Victoria Anarchist Bookfair & Festival of Anarchy collective is always looking for new people to help behind the scenes. We’re looking for help in all kinds of areas such as:
*welcoming & information tabling
*counseling and safer-space support
*cleanup and more…
The Bookfair is entirely volunteer-run and helping out is a great way to get involved and meet new people. If you’re interested, please read the volunteer descriptions, our collective principles and accessibility statements on our website and let us know how you’d like to help out!
The deadline to apply for a table, propose a workshop or submit an event listing for the Festival of Anarchy has been extended to July 31, 2013! See below for details:
1. Bookfair Dates & Contacts
2. How to Request a Table
3. Call for Workshops & Presentations Proposals
4. Festival of Anarchy
5. Street Newz Anarchy Issue
1. Victoria Anarchist Bookfair Dates & Contacts
September 14th and 15th, 2013
Fernwood NRG Community Hall
We are pleased to announce the eighth annual Victoria Anarchist Bookfair, located on unceded Coast Salish Territory in Victoria, British Columbia. The Bookfair is for anarchists and non-anarchists, with participants from all over North America and beyond. Events include book and information tables, workshops, readings, films, presentations, and much more!
The Bookfair always includes workshops on a wide range of topics. We seek to introduce anarchism to the public, foster dialogue between various political traditions, and create radical, inclusive, and anti-oppressive spaces. Participants with different visions, practices, and traditions are welcome.
Our theme this year is Eco-Defense. We aim to highlight various environmental threats and the resistance movements that have formed against them. From logging of old growth to oil development to mining, we will analyze resource-extraction from an anti-capitalist and anti-colonial perspective. We will explore how the Indigenous and settler populations can share responsibility for the challenges at hand. We aim to move beyond critique and chart creative paths toward healing the planet.
As part of Anarchy 101, we require presenters on anarchist history and associated radical theories. We also aim to provide a mix of workshops that show the breadth of issues and the diversity of opinion within anarchism. Thus, we are seeking presentations on topics of colonialism, decolonization, gender, sexuality, ‘race’, disability, food security, spirituality, feminism, class struggles, poverty and homelessness, animal liberation, primitivism, DIY, militancy, pacifism, anarchism in practice — as well as topics that connect any number of these. Whether it’s a practice-presentation, participatory demonstration, panel discussion, facilitated discussion, and everything in between — if you have an idea for a workshop, we want to hear about it!
GENERAL INQUIRIES: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. How to Request a Table for Sept 14 & 15
The heart of the Bookfair is the main room including booksellers, distributors, independent presses and activist groups from all over BC, North America, and abroad. If you’d like to table this year, please provide a short description of your group and the materials you intend to distribute at the Bookfair.
There is no fee for tabling at the Bookfair, but we will be requesting 10% of sales after expenses in order to help us cover the costs of the venue rental.
The deadline to request a table is July 31, 2013 (we cannot guarantee inclusion on the poster or in our program-zine for late submissions).
The Bookfair organizing collective is currently seeking workshop and presentation proposals. They may be aimed at people who are curious about, or new to anarchist ideas and radical practices, or they might address a topic in some depth intended for people who are already familiar with the anarchist tradition, radical activism, or anti-oppressive practices.
Standard Bookfair workshops last for 50 minutes with a 10-minute break in between. While we are open to a variety of workshop formats, and we recommend that facilitators leave at least 20 minutes for discussion at the end of their presentations. Each year we get a lot of submissions, but if we don’t have space at the Bookfair, we still want to help make your workshop happen!
Please provide a title, and short description of the workshop’s content in your submission. If your workshop is accepted, this information will be reprinted in the program zine.
NOTE: The deadline for all workshop and presentation proposals is July 31, 2013 (after that date we cannot guarantee a timeslot at the Bookfair or inclusion in our program-zine for late submissions).
4. Festival of Anarchy Events: Sept 5–14 (various locations TBA)
In addition to the Bookfair, a “Festival of Anarchy” will take place during the preceding week, with diverse anarchist-themed events occurring at different venues in Victoria. You can propose any type of event or activity: the only limit is your imagination.
Festival of Anarchy events are organized autonomously from the Bookfair and, as such, venues are the responsibility of Event Organizers—that’s you!
The Bookfair collective acts as a hub to promote and coordinate these events. We’re committed to helping promote autonomous festival events to the best of our ability through the program zine and the website.
If you’re interested in having us promote your event, please provide a title and short description of your program by July 31, 2013 so that we can include it in our zine and on our website.
We strongly recommend Festival Events are NOT scheduled during the Bookfair’s operating hours. In general, contacting the Bookfair Collective about scheduling dates before our proposal deadline is a useful way to ensure the least number of event conflicts.
5. Street Newz Anarchy Issue
Victoria Street Newz is looking for articles on anarchism for its September issue. This special issue celebrates the annual Victoria Anarchist Bookfair which takes place the 2nd weekend of September
Punk bands tour the world singing anthems that promote militant direct action & activism, putting out albums with flaming Molotovs emblazoned across their covers, with militant messages; but few of us ever truly put those words into action. Walter Bond on the other hand has spent decades working tirelessly, whether leafleting at shows and in the streets, tabling at Pride events, protesting, or volunteering at animal sanctuaries before finally turning to the more militant tactics of the Animal Liberation Front. Walter is a proud anarchist, Vegan, of Latino heritage, who identifies as bisexual. He also is currently a prisoner in one of the most controversial and restrictive prisons in the USA today.
I have been writing to Walter in prison since he was first arrested 2 years ago, after his brother snitched him out. At the time of his arrest, Walter was living on the streets while attacking businesses that profit from animal exploitation.
PE: – You identified as an anarchist for most of your life. Can you tell us what being an anarchist means to you, and how it connects with Animal Liberation, and Total Liberation?
WALTER: When I was in 7th grade in 1989 I used to make all kinds of clip art fliers with my friends under the name ‘Anti-Statist Counter Culture’. We would distribute them mostly to local corporate businesses and churches in the area, mostly to agitate. By the end of 8th grade I had completely dropped out of school and was living this nihilist lifestyle and was just very reactionary and angry at the whole world, parents, school, everything! Back then I was dealing with a world of shit that was to much for me to handle. I turned to drug abuse and vandalism as an outlet. Anarchism back then was a personal vendetta I had about how my life and the world around me was and how I felt it should be.
I wasn’t alone. I had three other very close friends that felt the same. Two of them connected with some gutter punks in Boulder, Colorado and ran away to Hollywood, California. 25 years later one of them is a vocalist for a grind core band, and another is a bicycle maker that lives in a squat in New York City and gets harassed whenever he tries to leave the country because he has bee
n on federal watch lists since the 90’s.
Today anarchism is firmly connected to my activism. The Animal Liberation Front has been an anarchistic dis-organization since its inception. There is no way for business-as-usual and Animal Liberation to co-exist in any fashion that is effective for the goals and interests of either side. Business, consumerism and corporations ultimately care about whatever is profitable. Their raw materials are the blood and bones of Animals and the life’s’ blood and guts of the Earth, which is the fountain head of all life. It’s difficult to make this connection as just a foodie Vegan but once you spend some time in the activist world, it’s an unavoidable clash.
Anarchism is in opposition to State control, corporate domination, class privilege, oppression of one group by another. These are the identical ideals fought for by Animal Liberation abolitionists, just applied to different objectives. I think that anarchism and Animal liberation from the abolitionist or radical perspective are an organic pairing. What good would it do to establish a human society of free communities only to destroy the planet with a McDonalized diet or a mass addiction to industrialization? The reality is that there are billions of people on the planet! With or without government or state authority, industry is going to continue destroying the Earth. It doesn’t matter who turns on the machines everyday, because things are not made out of no things. And history has proven time and time again that if we do not remove the oppressions of the least defensible of us then the circle of abuse begins again with a brand new name.
PE: – You are an Animal Liberation POW, and you also hold anti-civ views, and have a critique of technology. I see a lot of overlap between the anarcho-primitivist critique of domestication, and mass society, with the views of Total Liberation. Do you feel there is a contradiction there? Or how do you see them fitting together?
WALTER: I definitely am not a fan of technologically advanced civilization. From the industrial age forward what we are really looking at is a lattice work infrastructure, put in place by governments of men to subjugate women, the poor, Animals, Earth, labor and each other according to Ethnicity, nationalism, class, gender and economics. Since the age of the machine and science; pain, suffering, war and murder have been greatly, incredibly and insanely quickened!
Despite all the promises of making things better we are blowing mountains in half to get at their coal. We are chopping down every forest on Earth. We are dropping bombs on civilians from remote control airplanes; we are mechanically murdering billions of Animals at the expense of the natural world. We are wasting mass amounts of crop, soil, and water, all euphemisms for Earth, so that we can eat cheap burgers. Thanks to constant technological crutches most adults cannot listen to, follow or remember simple directions. Meanwhile paranoia and random acts of violence are at an all time high!
It is time to stop pretending that we don’t see the writing on the wall. Technology kills! And that is most often its primary use. WE HAVE ENOUGH NUCLEAR WARHEADS ON THIS PLANET TO KILL ALL LIFE SEVERAL TIMES OVER, BUT WE CANNOT EVEN SAVE OUR OWN SPECIES ONCE. I used to build slaughterhouses for a living and I can tell you from first hand experience that it’s not physically possible to butcher tens of thousands of Animals a day without an abundance of mechanical aid. Just like it is not possible to destroy a forest without first building roads and inlets to get yellow death machines into the area.
art off Walter Bond support page
No machine is morally neutral when it’s sole design and intent is to eviscerate, vivisect, slash cut and transport the splintered, destroyed and devastated remains of the biosphere! The technologies we use to heal the sick and, lessen pain and suffering and generally make the human world a more comfortable place are scant in comparison to the damage done. But just like any alcoholic or drug addict we exaggerate the pay off we get while greatly ignoring the damage it takes to pay for it. And just as with any other addiction the truly terrible thing is how many other innocent lives have become ruined in the addicts wake.
Politics would have us believe the modes of production are neither beneficial nor harmful but only in the right or wrong hands. Yet time and time again his-story has shown that whether the factory is run by greedy capitalists or free thinking anarcho-communists, the machines still get turned on and the raw materials of industry are still the blood and guts of the Earth and her Animal Nations! In truth, who controls the means and modes of production is of concern to those who labor and profit by and for the machines, with little to no concern for the connectivity of all life, or the world.
As far as how I view the connectivity, or lack thereof of ideas like Total liberation and anarcho-primitivism I guess I view it as parallel. In my estimation Total Liberation should be making steps to unite various struggles in the real world against the common leviathan of government and towards the reality of free communities. Unfortunately, I don’t see much grassroots organization around Total Lib. it remains, thus far, in the world of ideas, of salutations of solidarity. I think the occupy movement started out with a truly unifying Total Liberation tactic and showed the tremendous power of coming together. But there has to be an escalation of tactics at the helm or else all is eventually kaput. I’m not trying to be smug here but where is Total Liberation physically? Ideally Total Liberation should be a bridge building movement to unite activists of all liberation struggles be they human, Earth or Animal. That is a huge amount of work. And honestly it’s an abundance of work I seldom see getting done. No one wants to yield or compromise enough to make a true united liberation front possible. Or as radicals we use total lib as a pretext to ideological recruitment of other radicals.
Anarcho-primitivism on the other hand is really against the entire foundation of what our modern ‘civilized’ oppressions are built upon. As such it’s not very activist friendly. I mean, you don’t protest civilization with a sign. The idea of a truly clean slate is far to radical for that. The only way to effectively protest technology, mass society, domestication and their ilk is for you yourself to become a wild child and destroy the machines. But Total Liberation and anarcho-primitivism are for ever united by the same objective. That being the complete escape from tyranny and oppression for as many lives, and ways of life as can exist without any oppressing the other. One is just dedicated to aligning forces in the here and now, while the other is looking at how we will have to not only get rid of the road we are on, but also get rid of the road.
PE: – It almost seems like there was a Class Warfare element to the choices you made when selecting your targets. Was this intentional?
WALTER:– You are the first person to ever ask me this question, and the answer is yes. There were a couple different messages to my arsons beyond Animal Liberation, one was classism. Every place I hit was not what society would try to justify as ‘necessary’ Animal cruelty. Each place in its own right was of service to the upper middle, to the rich echelon of society. Whether for fashion, hobby or delicacy I wasn’t going after stores in the hood or ethnic communities. I was after retailers that sold dead Animals’ broken bodies or skins purely for consumer pleasure.
Another thing I have heard grumbles about is why I went after soft targets instead of more strategic targeting. There was a subtle reason behind this as well. As an activist I often saw people pass the buck when it comes to Animal industries. The wholesalers and retailers always blame it on the public. If no one bought their products they wouldn’t sell them. Or since there is a demand someone is going to fill it whether them or someone else. The consumers always hide in numbers. They don’t feel responsible because there not buying anything that’s not being bought a million times over by others. The drop in the bucket syndrome. If you pick on them you will instantly be accused of targeting specific groups of people. And after all it’s really the evil corporations fault for putting such cruelly produced products on the market.
I burned three businesses right in the middle of major cities. I did not want to hide my ALF actions the way Animal cruelty is hidden. I wanted every retailer and consumer to see that when you deal in product of death you shouldn’t be surprised when retribution finds its way to your doorstep. Honestly, if I would have had more resources or help I would have done live Liberations unfortunately this was not a viable option. But the only good thing about living in a non-Vegan world is that if you want to combat cruelty you never have to go far. You don’t need to have a bunch of money or go to some clandestine trading camp to make an impact.
Most of the time people like to imagine that their heroes have all this expertise that they never could. It’s a convenient belief because otherwise they wouldn’t have any excuse for putting their own self-interest, fear and apathy above doing in their hearts what they know must be done. The truth is when it comes to Animal exploitation or the destruction of the Earth, no one is innocent. Not Vegans, or cadaver munchers. Not anarchists, or capitalists. Not me, or you. We are all shades of red as Screaming Wolf once wrote in the seminal book ‘Declaration of War’. We lessen our shade of red with our lifestyles and our actions. And this is our obligation if we have compassion. Not from some outside authority but from inside ourselves, our consciousness.
PE: – Recently you completely changed your position on abortion, what prompted this seemingly sudden shift?
WALTER:– What prompted this change of heart is a growing disenchantment with so-called conservative views. And the pompous attitudes that produce them. I have never been involved in any anti-abortion activism, just so people know. In the hundreds of pages that I have written in the last 3 years I have written approximately one paragraph about the ‘pro-life’ views I once held. I just want to set it straight from the beginning that I am not some reformed anti-abortion extremist. That said, I once held an obscure view on abortion that was part of a conservative clique within the Straight Edge movement of the 1990’s.
My limited comprehension of abortion as an issue was from this two dimensional idea that ‘if I am going to care deeply about the rights of shrimp, then I should care about the rights of a fetus’. This was a complete absent reference to the fact that this whole issue takes place inside a woman’s body and that there is a more complex issue of rights to be observed. Not just vegan hardline consistency.
I have recently begun to educate myself on feminism and in particular anarcha-feminism. The more I learn the more I feel like an ass for having displayed such an idiotic and disconnected view of abortion in the first place. From an Animal Liberation perspective which is more my field, it must be said that humanity is the cause of extreme amounts of suffering to billions of Animals annually, for food vivisection, entertainment and beyond. Ultra-consumpive societies like north America, china and now India are currently decimating the Earth like a cancer! In this war on nature humans are a tyrannical and abusive enemy. I stand on the side of the Animal Nations and Mother Earth, I am a species traitor. And human birth control is a relief to the planet!
But as I was saying, what prompted me to finally take a long look at my beliefs, not only on abortion but many of my moralist attitudes in general are my surroundings. For those that do not know I am a prisoner of war, inside a political prison, within a prison. On this unit of 40 men, I never leave, and I am housed here for an indefinite remainder of my prison sentence. Most of the men here are orthodox Muslims; with a sprinkling of those god bless America type of militia, Ron Paul weirdoes. It’s a super conservative and religious environment. I have learned first hand what dogma and so-called conservativism leads people too. Mainly, bigotry, homophobia, and close-mindedness.
PE: – When you held anti-abortion views, it seemed like most of your criticism was directed towards the medical industries. This brings up the question of herbal abortion as a non-medical alternative. Was this something you had considered?
WALTER:– No it was not. But I am not more for one method than another. It’s not my business how women decide to abort, control birth or exercise autonomy over their own bodies. As a man, I am not only never going to be in their position but I am never going to put a woman in that predicament either. I have no children, and the first thing I am going to do upon release, which is years from now, will be to go to the hospital and get myself fixed. Furthermore, no woman anywhere should feel ostracized or shamed for her decision to exercise her reproductive rights be it herbally, or in a clinic.
PE: – Author Peter Gelderloos once wrote that anarchy and colonialism need to be made completely incompatible. Cultural approbation of indigenous art, spirituality, and cultural traditions is a major problem in many subcultures today. I want to ask about your face tattoo. I know it means a lot to you, but is your tattoo an appropriation of Maori Moko?
WALTER:– I have a few supporters from New Zealand and have been questioned about this by a couple different Maori. One told me that the design I have would better be suited as part of a leg piece, and the other argued that it was a handsome piece for Moko, but wanted to know why I don’t have the rest of my face done. But the truth is that while I definitely used the style of traditional Maori, my tattoo artist and I made absolutely sure that we were not replicating any traditional or current Maori designs.
I have also been locked up with a Maori guy and several tanga, Samoa and Polynesian islanders. Everyone has been cool with it mainly because I am of Island descent. My mother is Taino. For those that don’t know these are the indigenous people of Puerto Rico. This coupled with the fact that I am in prison for fighting for a cause seem to have earned me the respect of other islanders. The general vibe I get is relief that I take warrior hood seriously and am not just trying to look hardcore for my white friends in the suburbs.
I plan on getting the rest of my face tattooed when I get out of prison along with the rest of my body. That said I never promote it as something others should do. Getting a large face tattoo is serious business and can have serious repercussions. And It has intense personal meaning to me. It was a life changing event, it literally changed my personality. Some would say pushed me over the edge.
And yes, appropriation of indigenous cultures is an epidemic problem. In many larger ways than a very few people getting face tats. Here in the United States every white person wants to pretend they are part native. Out of some feelings of white guilt. Instead of helping the decimated Indian population. They shove real natives onto reservations to starve and die while pretending to be the real deal. Honestly, this makes me sick
PE: – Most of the businesses you targeted reopened and continue to make profits even though you did extensive damage. In light of this do you think your actions were effective? Could you have been more strategic? If so how?
WALTER:– The way I look at it I could have spent everyday of my life standing in front of those businesses holding a sign and I would have never cost them one penny. Even when I used to volunteer my time helping actual Animals it would occur to me that I was still having a negative impact against the industries of Animal exploitation. Even with Veganism, I am one of the few Animal Liberation abolitionist Vegans you will hear admit that my diet is not saving 90 Animals a year. So there I was living as ethical as I could, helping Animals and talking with and educating people. All the while all I am seeing is negative impact. I have friends that have been holding signs and tabling for decades, negative impact. Why is activism always geared to just lessen our roll in the cruelty but never to fight it? Negative impact.
I got fed up with it. All the -more-Vegan-than-thou- conversations that I had at every coffee shop in Denver. Always playing supplicant to people. Practically begging people to care. Then I woke up one day and it hit me. I was a utopianist, I was deluded. I, as most overly idealistic people really believed that deep down everyone was like me. I was once one of them, hell; I even used to build slaughterhouses! If I can change, anyone can, right? Wrong.
I came to the conclusion that most people don’t want to change, most people don’t want to learn what’s going on with Animals because they don’t want to feel bad or responsible for it, and most people are not going to sacrifice their time energy or money to make a change. BAM! The facts, welcome to reality! All that was left in my life was to fight back on the Animals behalf of shut up because I was sick of the sound of my own voice.
And you know what I didn’t change the world. But I did something that I never was able to before. I cost the Animal abuse industries about two and a half million bucks, positive effect! And with every defiant step forward that I took, I inspired. By my count there were eight international underground acts of solidarity with my case. And now when I speak I really do have a voice. I mean look, we are having an interview. I have been saying all this same stuff for years before I became the ‘Lone Wolf’ but you would never know it because, no one ever listened.
As far as strategy, of course I could have done better. Unfortunately HOW I could have, or WHAT I would have done different I cannot discuss. Due to my current situation as an imprisoned and monitored man.
PE: -Let’s talk about your life on the inside. How do you spend your days? Do you get paid to work? What are the costs you have to spend money on? You have and mp3 player, how does that work?
WALTER:– Here in the CMU it is a very small world. I live day after day, month after month and over a year now in a single prison unit completely segregated from the rest of the penitentiary of Marion. The day I get released from the CMU to the general population of the prison it will feel like I got a parole. I am allowed two 15 minute phone calls a week and no visits. Every person I have tried to have put on my visiting list has been rejected. I have not hugged, touched or physically seen anyone I care about since the day off my arrest in the summer of 2010.
A typical day goes something like this. I wake up about nine in the morning. I walk to the top of the range and sit down at a computer. I log in and see if I have any emails. All my incoming and outgoing email is screened by the counter terrorism unit in Virginia to make sure I am not sending or receiving coded messages. They also can reject or approve any incoming or out going emails before I have the chance to send or receive them. They can also block me from communicating with anyone they want and they have done this with three of my contacts. When that happens I cannot snail mail, email or make telephone calls to these people ever again. In short, all communication is cut off permanently, and without explanation.
After I am done on the computer I go ‘outside’ which is a rectangle walkway that surrounds an island of three ‘recreation’ cages. The sky is completely obscured by chain link fence and razor wire. I walk in rectangles until lunch. Lunch is usually beans, rice or the occasional veggie burger. The food is terrible and unhealthy. It is worse than any other institution I have ever been in. After I eat I go back to my cell and write responses to letters from supporters and friends. At noon, I go to mail call and get any mail, books or magazines that have come in that day. After mail I watch the soaps on Spanish TV. I like ‘Amorcita Corazon’. When my soaps are over I go out to the cages and do body weight exercises or shoot hoops. I come back up to my cell and lock down for four O’ clock stand up count, and then I nap until dinner. After dinner I walk for another hour. then I study Spanish for one to two hours, after which I slam a couple cups of black tea and go back to my cell to read, write and draw until about one in the morning, or until I fall asleep. Then I wake up and do it again.
As far as work goes, on the other side of the cell house opposite the rec. cages is a ramp and a patch of grass that leads to the chow hall. My job is to clean the walkway and cut the grass. I make twenty dollars a month but they take all of that for restitution and court costs I owe. So in reality I get paid nothing. But I get to go on the only patch of Earth that we have in the CMU and it’s ‘out of bounds’ for everyone else.
As far as cost of living, everything I have shoes, shorts, Vegan food, toothpaste, paper, stamps, envelopes, music, and email (yes, I get charged to send and receive email) Is only because of money supporters send me. Without support funds I would literally have nothing. Recently the entire federal prison system got mp3 players. They installed the hardware and software on the computers. Songs cost a dollar and a half each, no discount for purchasing whole releases. They have some good music. I have downloaded Earth Crisis, Chumbawamba, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, Augustin Lara, Napalm Death, Public Enemy and many, many more! With very little stimulation music is essential for mental health. I went overboard and spent all my money on music, which makes things tight for me but I don’t care I would rather listen to music than anything else in here.
The conversations and interactions I am subjected to in the CMU are repetitive and obsessive. There are the legal guys that just talk about law all day long, constantly and without end. There are the religious guys that just talk about god and scriptures and religious interpretation all day. And the institutionalized guys that just talk about every prison they have been at. Most of those guys have spent their entire lives in prison.
I quit talking to most people here because I don’t like to argue, it’s pointless and agitating. And outside of my circle of about 5 friends whose company I enjoy the rest of these guys can go flush themselves down the toilet, and go where ever the rest of the pieces of shit end up, for all I care!
I’ll tell you this, I still feel as hardcore about my beliefs as ever but I am completely over preaching to people that don’t want to hear them, protesting is different than proselytizing.
PE: – Recently you quit using the Muslim name you had been given. Have you completely given up on Islam? Religion altogether? Do you still maintain some type of spiritual beliefs?
WALTER: I am going to be honest about my feelings towards religion and much of what passes for spirituality. I don’t believe it. It’s a human shibboleth. Animals in a state of nature have no use for it and neither do I. I am part of something bigger than any religion, ‘god’ or hocus pocus, it’s called LIFE. When I die I will go back to the Earth. I will go back to where ALL life must, and I will not know where that is until the time comes and death is upon me.
I know god is not in books. I have read and studied most world religions and many obscure spiritualities. I have learned for certain that god is not in books. The only thing in books is words. The entire concept and production of a book is a human construct. It’s our way for the dead and absent to infect the thoughts and lives of the living, for good or ill.
I Got involved in Islam under adverse and incredible circumstances, which is the only way I would have gotten involved in any religion, let alone one so incredibly dogmatic. I won’t go into the entire sordid tale except to say that I once promised an old woman that meant the world to me that one day I would attempt, one day, to try and find god. And I gave it my all. Unfortunately, I do not make a very good submitter.
Did you know that the first time I was ever in trouble with the law was for breaking into a church and burning a huge pentacle star into the carpet directly in front of the preacher’s lectern? It was a Methodist church in a rich white neighborhood, across the street from the police station. I also have a 14 inch upside down crucifix for half of my tattoo sleeve. On that same sleeve I also have a tattoo of the pope, except this pope has goat horns and is standing in flames. All the things I love the most in life: face tattoos, sex, fire, Animals, music, Liberation and Veganism seem to all be completely against religion. Oh well, I guess that’s how ‘god’ made me!
When I got involved with religion it completely shifted my focus and the focus the movement around me. Everything started to become about my new name and beliefs etc. I didn’t like that. I remember one night I went to bed and it occurred to me that I hadn’t thought about Animal lib, Straight Edge or resistance all day, just religion. That was the beginning of the end for me. I didn’t like that feeling of assimilation, like the Borg on that sci fi show ‘Star Trek the Next Generation’. It was a calming feeling but also creepy. Next thing you know you have that glazed doughnut look in your eyes, the one that super religious people get. No thanks, I’m already off in the head enough without any help from the land of make believe!
I also got tired of reading all the terrible stuff about god hating gays and stoning people to death, or chopping off people’s hands for stealing. This crap is in all the so-called ‘holy books’ of various religions; right their in black and white print. And if you believe it then you have to do a bunch of mental gymnastics to somehow make it all not, horrible!
All this said, I did learn a lot about Islamophobia and I am completely against it! the media promotes Islam to be a terrorist religion and that is just not accurate. Every religion has violent fringe elements but we don’t paint all their followers as ‘terrorist’ or ‘extremist’. Look at those crazy evangelicals that drink poison or the ‘army of god’ psychopaths. Still the media doesn’t call them ‘Christian terrorists’. I learned along time ago that it’s not what people believe that makes them good or bad apples it’s the things they do and their capacitates for compassion, or cruelty. But as far as any more personal beliefs about ‘pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die’. I am a disbeliever, and will remain so.
PE: – About a year ago you put out a public statement saying you could no longer call yourself an anarchist, recently you have recanted, re-embracing anarchy. What was the reason for your change of heart? What brought you back to the dark side?
WALTER:– The reason with my disenchantment with anarchism was in reality a disenchantment with certain anarchists. I don’t like the concept of publicly battling with people and the spectacle it creates. It’s a mistake I have made in the past, and when I look back at those statements they just look egotistical and immature. That said, I will for the first time explain what was going on and what led up to not only that statement but also baseless rumors that have followed me since. I will be careful not to name drop or call anyone out, a courtesy that was not afforded to me by the anarcho-rumor mill.
At the time of my arrest in Colorado in the summer of 2010, the second letter I ever received was from a local anarchist group. They talked about supporting me and were even interested in being my official support team. Furthermore they had their own print shop. I was happy to have their support and planned to write extensively with them as the publishers. A visit was arranged and one of the collective came to visit me at the county jail in Golden. I was told by this person that there were rumors that I was an informant. I was taken back by this and said that ‘I was the only person on my case and no other arrests had been made so who exactly am I informing on?’ This person agreed, and from that moment support was forthcoming, for a whole four weeks anyways.
I gave my new support team my email address and password so that they could get another picture of me besides the mugshot the media had. I began writing articles about Animal Liberation from an anarchist perspective. I was calling the collective about twice a week. And then abruptly it all came to a screeching halt. Nothing I wrote ever got published or sent back to me. No one accepted my calls. No more visits. A couple weeks later I received a letter from the collective about some so called visit from my email account to a ‘homophobic YouTube video’. I was told I need to explain myself, defend myself and do it quick because ‘anarchists everywhere are calling to drop support for you’.
Words cannot describe how I felt. First I didn’t know what homophobic video they were talking about, and I still don’t. Second the only people that could be turning ‘anarchists everywhere’ against me were the self same people that were my support team, as I was newly arrested and they were the only anarchists I was in contact with. And third, I was not the only person with availability to that email. For all I know the FBI could have been in my email account trying to gather information or spread disinformation; which would make good sense from their end of things. In any event I have never to this day seen the homophobic YouTube video that was allegedly watched in connection with my email account. I haven’t seen it because it does not exist.
I was really pissed off about this for a couple of years because these rumors not only hurt elements of my support but also my feelings. Very, very few people know what it’s like to be in the position I was: In jail, on the news, facing federal prison as a ‘domestic terrorist’ and all the while using this as a platform to discuss Animal Liberation through my writings while facing rumors and tear down tactics from ‘anarchists’! I mean there I was in jail for being an ALF operative and I was being questioned as if I was a Nazi fascist in jail for queer bashing!
When people that do know me tried to post comments to this collectives website stating that I am in fact openly bi-sexual they would not post them. I know this because friends printed me those defenses and mailed them to me in jail along with printouts of their webpage and blogs showing what they were posting, the only comments they would let stand were the ones against me.
So after my court case was finished in Colorado I wrote that statement about not Identifying as an anarchist. I wrote that at a time when Animal Rights activists were being very supportive and at the same time I was getting a lot of accusative mail from anarchists primarily from the united states. It’s one thing when you don’t get along with a group of people in person you just hang out with others. But when you’re in imprisoned and people from several different states critique and sometimes ridicule you in letters there is a feeling of totality to it. So I thought, fine I will cut my losses with the anarchist community and stick with Animal Liberation and Straight Edge which is not hostile to me.
It must also be said that many anarchists such as yourself and the international anarchist community have unfailingly showed true support and solidarity since day one. Two things that have a profound effect on decision making is a lack of information and emotional distress. I have had my share of both since my arrest. But these days find me much more grounded and less erratic. Due in large part to being done with court and in the routine of my current surroundings. I am an anarchist, this has always been a foundation of who I am. Before I was the ALF lone wolf, before I was Straight Edge, before I was Vegan. I was an anarchist. I don’t have to drop one thing to become another. I am all this and more.
PE: – What would you say to people that have characterized you as ‘single issue’?
WALTER: Calling me or the ALF or the Animal Rights movement a ‘single issue’ cause is a little verbal slur that otherwise thinking and activist oriented people like to use on Vegans. Seriously, anyone that has read my book or the statements that I have been making from prison for years knows that I am concerned with more than one issue and I always have been.
But more importantly why the single issue snub when it comes to Animal Liberation?
I have personal met gay rights activists that act like the only thing wrong on the planet is that gay marriage isn’t recognized legally. I have never heard anyone tell them that their cause is less valid because it is a ‘single issue’. Factually it is incorrect to typecast Veganism or Animal Liberation in this way. A.R. issues have to do with several different species of life and often tie in with environmental concerns. Nearly every other Liberation struggle is only concerned with a fragment of one species, humans!
To those people that equate me or Veganism to being a one hit wonder, I would challenge back: Fine then tell me exactly what you are doing to liberate all life, everywhere! The fact is Total Liberation is the connecting of many different issues and tactics, and Animal and Earth Lib are a big part of that. One need not give up movement autonomy to be valid under the umbrella of Total Lib. I am an Animal person. I love Animals! I am a Vegan activist. These are clearly compassionate and selfless pursuits.
of course not every group or individual is going to click but slighting the A.R. community as if we are going a different direction than Total Lib is messed up! We can point that finger anywhere. I know plenty of anarchists that think that anarchism is strictly a political ideology, or theoretical idea. Or what about independence struggles like my own Puerto Rican peoples struggle for independence from los Estatos Unidos? They are definitely very concerned with their own movement autonomy and the single issue of independence. People will always say whatever they feel and that is great but remember this, it’s harder to build others up than to tear them down.
Thank you Comrade for this interview. I really wanted to have the opportunity engage in a question and answer session that not only brought these critiques out into the open but one that also allowed me to lay it all on the table with nothing held back. And now my friend……I rest my case…. Take care and I will do the same.
Total Liberation, Whatever It May Take!