Interview with Walter Bond
Walter Bond is currently serving a federal prison sentence of 12 years and 3 months for A.L.F. arson attacks on the Sheepskin Factory in Denver, Colorado, Tandy Leather Factory in Salt Lake City, Utah and Tiburon Restaurant in Sandy, Utah, resulting in almost two million dollars in damages. This interview was conducted about 3 months prior to Bond’s final sentencing date.
1) According to your support page, you have been dedicated to the work of animal liberation and anti-capitalism for over 15 years. Can you please describe how and when you became involved in activism, in particular activism geared toward animal liberation?
In the winter of 1996, when I was 19 years old, I got a job with a company named Dakota Mechanical. Their home office was in Jefferson, South Dakota; however, most of their work crews were scattered around the Midwest and Iowa in particular. I was hired as a forklift operator and apprentice plumber. I worked building two separate slaughterhouses. One in Logansport, Indiana – which was a brand new facility – and one in Perry, Iowa, where we built an extension to an already running “kill floor.” Both slaughterhouses were IBP (Iowa Beef Producers), which have over twenty death camps in the state of Iowa for pigs alone. During the six months that I was employed at the Perry, Iowa facility, I saw every single area of production and confinement. I witnessed daily the profound cruelty that is simply industry standards in “pork production,” culminating in viewing a 500-pound pig being beat to death with blunt force by IBP workers. This particular individual animal had escaped his leg hold shackle and went running off the kill floor bleeding from the throat. As he was beaten to death I also witnessed my work crew cheering and high-fiving each other, as if it were a sporting event. This event had a very profound effect on me, a very internal effect.
Before that day I had always viewed the carnage as a necessary evil, but after that day I began to question all of it. Within 24 hours of that nameless hog’s death I went vegetarian, within two weeks I quit my job, and within 10 months I was vegan and studying any book or information I could find about animal rights. Ironically, at this exact time in my life I came across a CD at a local record store. The band was called Earth Crisis and the CD was titled Destroy the Machines. On the back was a dedication to the vegan straight edge. After listening to the music and reading the lyrics I decided that the movement for total liberation would be my life’s work. From then through the last 15 years I have been an activist.
My main focus for most of those years was vegan outreach and education of the public and also working directly with animals at sanctuaries and rescues. As time went on I began to feel disempowered always picking up the pieces of human cruelty. It seems I was constantly viewing or helping animals that had suffered so terribly at the hands of speciesist human oppressors. I finally got sick of it. Talking with people was simply not direct enough, in the context of how animals suffer and die. I believed then, as I do now, that the enormity of this oppression and murder deserved a severe response. To that end, I became an illegal direct activist, employing arson as a tactic to not only shut down businesses that make money from animals’ dead bodies, but also to bring these issues to light in the media.
I became an operative under the banner of, and according to, the guidelines of the Animal Liberation Front. I authored two communiqués under the name ALF Lone Wolf and passed them anonymously to the media, giving a brief explanation of why the arsons were committed. Today, as a prisoner for those actions, my activism consists of writing. I mainly try to explain the philosophy, tactics, and ideology of abolition animal liberation activism. I do this through provocative articles written primarily in the manifesto “this is how it is” style.
2) For what reasons were you targeted by law enforcement?
I was targeted by law enforcement because my brother called the FBI Crime Tips Hotline after he learned there was a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved in the arson at the Sheepskin Factory in Denver. After reviewing the discovery documents in my case, it’s clear that no government agency had any clue that it was me until my brother called them out of the blue. It’s also clear that his motivation was reward money, which incidentally, he never got paid. In order to collect he would have to testify at my trial and since I plead guilty and waived my right to trial, he got nothing. In any event, after the arson at the Tiburon Restaurant, the stress of being homeless, and my ALF campaigns had caught up with me. I was worn out both mentally and physically. I had recently contacted my brother and he was curious as to why I was seemingly homeless, unemployed and wandering around the United States. In a moment of weakness and against my better judgment I told him to Google the Sheepskin Factory in Denver and that’s what I’d been up to. The first website that came up on the search engine was an animal rights website. After he saw that he then began reading about the Sheepskin Factory arson in the mainstream media online where he found out about the reward. Within 48 hours of our phone conversation he was working with the ATF and FBI.
For the next four weeks our phone conversations and my wanderings around Salt Lake City were monitored. He lured me back to Colorado with promises of money and a place to stay and rest – even going so far as to send me pictures of my nieces and nephews I have never met. I went to Denver to meet with my brother who had traveled to Colorado from Iowa under the false pretense of helping our half-brother move. He got a hotel room, which I found out later was being audio and video monitored by the Feds. Tired from my travels and happy to see my brother after many years we began to talk. He began telling me about crimes he had committed and soon we were talking away. It was then that I gave him a rather detailed account about my arsons, after which he drove me up to the northern suburbs to talk to an old employer about some construction work. I was under the illusion that I would see my brother later that evening. Instead I was arrested by the FBI in the front yard of the house my brother had dropped me off at. Once under arrest I was interrogated and told by the cops that if I did not speak with them they would charge my brother with my crimes. They told me that anything I would say could only help me. I refused to say anything, not one word. My interrogation lasted maybe 10 minutes, after which time no recognizable federal agent has ever asked me about anything again.
Of course now, in my prison cell, as I reflect back on that meeting with my brother, it is the biggest regret of my life. However, by working alone in my illegal animal liberation campaign, I was able to keep that mistake limited to only me having to deal with the repercussions. And already I’ve begun making peace with my regret. While it is true that I will always hate my brother absolutely and vociferously, I also know that it was an honest mistake on my part. I had taken on more stresses in my life than ever before and was in a vulnerable and compromised position and the FBI and my brother had perfect timing in exploiting that.
3) Can you please describe the legal charges against you? Do any of them include charges under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA)?
In Colorado I was charged with one count of federal arson. It’s considered federal because the business itself is involved in interstate commerce; meaning they ship and receive items across state lines just as nearly every business does. And one count of “threats acts and violence against an animal enterprise” under the AETA. I received a five-year sentence for the arson and also five years concurrent for the AETA charge; meaning I did not get any additional time for my AETA charge. But I do now have the label of domestic terrorist, which may affect my security rating within the prison system and definitely does whenever I am moved from one facility to another.
Currently, at the time of this interview, I am in Utah and have just plead guilty to my two remaining arson charges which are also federal cases. In exchange for my pleading guilty the government agreed to drop my two AETA enhancements. Since I already have one on my record from Colorado and the enhancements do not affect my time regardless it is literally no help to me. Which is of course why they allowed it.
The ridiculous thing about AETA in my cases is that it’s an enhancement that alleges my arsons are made worse because of them being animal rights related. What is the logic here? Had I been burning things down at random because of compulsion or pyromania, that would be better? Surely I would not have faced domestic terrorism enhancements event if those fires would have resulted in death! But since I had an animal liberation message it’s worse… only to the government. I might add at this point also that it’s not an accident that no one was harmed. I took many security precautions to ensure that all I was engaging in was property damage.
It’s a strange type of terrorism that harms no life. I try not to let buzz words bother me, but equating me or the Animal Liberation Front with organizations that behead people on live video streams is ludicrous! The true terrorists are those industries that perpetuate the animal and earth holocaust that is raging around the world. Wherever mechanized society exists there you will find billions of victims of true terrorism. Mainly our Mother Earth, her animal nations and many people deemed “expendable humanity” by the power elite.
4) The media reported on some of the actions for which you were charged before they were tied to you. How did the media initially portray these actions? Is it any different from how they portray you or these actions now?
It’s true that the “Lone Wolf” arsons caught the eye of local media in Denver and Salt Lake City. But I feel that outside of the animal lib community the mainstream media did not want to pay too much attention. The tone of much of the television coverage was very matter-of-fact but they did read the communiqués in their entirety and gave a fair amount of attention to what the Animal Liberation Front is and some brief history of past actions.
During the time I was first arrested I was an easy target for criticism being as I am somewhat of a spectacle with half my face tattooed and “vegan” tattooed across my throat. The media at once set out to vilify me and make me look like a hypocrite or lunatic. That did not at all shock me. What did, however, was the initial response from the animal rights community. The first letter I ever received in jail was from some anonymous person accusing me of eating burgers at a BBQ and being nothing but a joke to most “real animal rights advocates.” The first interview I ever granted was with some animal welfarist creep that scolded me about someone burning down his mother’s house and then generally poking fun at me and my tattoos. It was only after I debated him into a corner three of four questions in a row that his tone began to change and he admitted I actually may have some brains after all. It was shortly thereafter that I decided to start writing statements and articles. I figured the only way to combat the negative media about me and the militant struggle for animal liberation was to show everyone that I have thought deeply about the issues and spent years verifiably fighting for this cause. Later on I kept writing because I love to and it’s very important for me to stay as active as I can. In this way I am able to reach more people now than I ever was able to with arson. Still, I will never forget how so many reactive, so-called animal rights activists and anarchists were incredibly quick to try and assassinate my character without ever knowing me.
My first major hurdle was not the mainstream media, their response was predictable. My first hardships were immediate and internal. I also will never forget a finite few people that I had never before met in my life that gave me, and have given me, support that put my mind at ease. The good Doctor Jerry Vlasak, Nicoal Sheen and Greg Kelly come to mind here.
After those first few months it became obvious that the tide had turned and that many of those who thought I was a crackpot now think everything I have to say is very valid. The mainstream media seems to take me and my message of animal liberation, whatever it may take, more seriously as well. Of course their vilification of me never stops. But I’m fine with that so long as there is talk about the animals’ plight. At any rate, I made a conscious decision from the outset of my arrest not to be reactive. When I speak out I say what I mean, and what I feel, regardless of what the media thinks or my supporters or even courts of law. I’m constantly re-evaluating my writings and statements to make sure I am not being provocative simply for shock values sake or holding back to appeal to more people. I think the countless billions of animals we cannot save at least deserve to have a few people keep it real and speak clear truths and also an underground army to secure their lives and freedom.
5) The experience of activism and of incarceration can be extremely traumatic. What were the hardest emotional, mental, and physical experiences you have had?
Within activism the hardest part for me is never feeling like I’m doing enough. The burden of compassion is such that the more you care, the more you act, the more of yourself you give away. You give until there is nothing left and then your realize you cannot singlehandedly change institutionalized cruelty. That’s the point when many activists burn out and stop trying. They fail to recognize that perpetual struggle against these atrocities and oppressions is the victory! And that the relentless feeling of not doing enough is par for the course. But still, it is difficult and at times depressing.
As far as incarceration is concerned, I’m still wrapping my mind around the fact that I will most likely spend several years of my life in a cage. My parents are old and I wonder if I will see them again as a free man. I worry about what kind of hell hole the prison system will find for me since they seem to hate my defiance and outspokenness so much. All of these things I am still digesting. There is no way for me to accurately portray the life I now lead. If it were just jail, that’s not such a big deal, several million people have gone to prison for long periods of time. Being able to cope with that is not at all insurmountable. But add to that dealing with your own brother snitching you off, the media, my own activism which never stops, courts, plea agreements, struggling with an inadequate vegan diet and continually trying to motivate a movement of lazy, whiny Americans to liberate animals and get passionately active, mentally and emotionally. It’s too much for my brain. It’s like if you were to try to eat everything all at once, too much to digest! So I just focus on whatever is on my plate for the day.
And ultimately, nothing that I’m going through will ever compare to what animals suffer at the hands of speciesist human oppressors. For entertainment, food, vivisection, clothing and hundreds of other novel and unnecessary reasons animals live and die in conditions of filth and squalor, sadism and pain that we cannot even truly comprehend. Actually empathizing with their plight never ceases to lessen my own.
6) I know that activism has its rewards, and incarceration my even have some positive aspects. What have your most rewarding experiences been?
In activism my rewarding experiences have been profound. I have had my face licked by baby llamas; which, by the way, are some of the cutest little critters I have ever seen! I have learned how to gobble at just the right octave to get turkeys to gobble back in unison. I have felt a liberated rooster purr in my lap and then three weeks later try to peck my ankles off! I’ve gotten a neck massage by a python. I made friends with a goat named Jeffrey who was just as cantankerous as myself. One time a goose protected me from a pig that was bullying me and that same pig, Lucas, used to demand that I give him a good ear scratch. I have educated people about animal liberation and veganism and am proud to say that more than a few people in Colorado and the Midwest went vegan because of me. I’ve argued with animal abusers that were quite confused about how to intimidate a 6’2” 200-pound vegan straightedger covered in tattoos! In the underground I experienced the true freedom and effectiveness that can only be known with a bandana and cover of darkness. I’ve gone to sleep still smelling like gasoline and with a big smile on my face. These are just a few of my amazing experiences as an animal liberationist and direct activist.
It seems that the more I have given of myself the more I have gained in return. Interconnectedness is like that. Despite the hardships I am absolutely honored to speak, act and defend all innocent life and I will never forget that it is a privilege and my duty to do so. And prison, just like all things, has its good and bad. On the positive side, it’s a far simpler life. I prefer real experiences and interactions. There is a certain honesty to prison and a lot less pretense. Modern civilization has become a fear-based culture of subjectivity and fakery. In prison you know who is friend or foe. You know who the oppressor is. They come here every day and we call them correctional officers. They even know they’re here to oppress us. At least everyone is not busy trying to look like a good person but not actually being a good person.
I’m able to read and write as much as I want, undisturbed. I am able to have the time to focus on exercise and sport. And I plan on learning Spanish fluently, writing a couple books and earning a degree while incarcerated. Time in prison is only a detriment if you don’t use it.
7) What advice do you have for other activists regarding political repression and challenging the AETA?
As far as challenging the AETA, I don’t have much practical advice since that falls very much into a realm of activism that I have no experience in – mainly, the political. I definitely will say that in a court of law, in my experience, AETA is more about attaching a label to you. If I were facing the AETA charge alone I would fight it until the end. Legally, the only way to challenge any statute and put it on trial is to not plead guilty and make the government define it. That’s one of the main problems with AETA – it’s too fluid and elusive. But as I said, in my case it was just a splinter in the two-by-four.
Regarding the political repression of the earth and animal liberation movements my advice is never give into it. One must understand that when a government seeks to dismantle a social justice cause they do so through intimidation and often violence. They also seek to scare many, by punishing one. We must think in terms bigger than just ourselves. Ours is and must always remain a selfless movement. This is the price of admission for any revolutionary cause. And this is a revolutionary cause because we seek a change in human society diametrically opposed to the status quo.
Everything has been built thus far from the standpoint that our Mother Earth and her animal nations are ours to use in any way we wish. Historically, these types of drastic changes have and do occur, but not without a multifaceted fight on all fronts. These changes don’t occur without sacrifices, passion, single-pointed focus, correct tactics in action and defiance in the face of adversity!
Our movement has come nowhere close to paying its dues; we are nowhere near earning our right to change the institutionalized brutality. Will we? No one can honestly answer that, not right now. But the true beginning of that process starts with you and with me. It begins with a resolve to never lose hope, to never lose heart! The path of action that that resolve leads each individual to is tailor-made for each person’s individual nature, talents and abilities. The answer to repression is revolutionary progression! In other words, the way is through it. Inevitably, we answer to those voiceless animals that have no viable representation in the human world; and what they would want us to do is the same thing you would want another to do if you were in their predicament. You would want freedom from fear, torture, murder, rape and objectification by any means necessary and whatever it may take!