The Caged Lion 

Environmentalist Rod Coronado returns to prison a decade after his radical heyday

Tuesday, Aug 8 2006

Page 3 of 5

Before bombing the mink labs, Coronado had traveled around for 11 months as an investigator for Friends of Animals, pretending to be a businessman interested in getting into the mink industry. He was an undercover agent, only for the animal-rights movement instead of the government. Coronado was, by his own account, “very good at what I did.” But he quickly grew disenchanted with the mainstream group’s bureaucracy. “I gave them the information,” he says. “They pretty much used it for fund raising. I felt like I owed those animals I watched die a lot more than that.”

Borrowing from his Sea Shepherd experience, Coronado decided to target laboratories researching the domestication of mink, which he had learned about during his Friends of Animals undercover stint. Coronado and his ALF colleagues rescued 60 mink — legally — buying them from a small farm in Montana. The animals had been bred in captivity, but once the ALFers fed them live animals, they refused to go back to dry food.

“Once they tasted blood, their instincts came back,” he says. “We would always release them near water. They’d be swimming like mad, using their bodies like they never had before. It was a part of us too, that experience of living that way. We saw that it was a part of us.”

Related Stories

  • Soccer Sucks 36

    Sure, you bought a USA jersey and all your hipster friends are talking about tactics, ball control and midfield strikers. ESPN's networks are enjoying stellar World Cup ratings. And the BBC says "the U.S. has emerged as the pre-eminent English-speaking football nation at this World Cup." Not to side with Ann Coulter, but she's right...
  • Meth Flood 2

    As if the crystal form of methamphetamine wasn't bad enough, we now have liquid meth, which kills. It's not made for public consumption, but it's a problem. The liquid form of meth is largely smuggled by cartels and drug gangs from Mexico so that it can be turned into "ice" closer...
  • Old-School Mexican Restaurants 36

    Old-school Mexican is a state of mind. Far, far away from farm-to-table, diet fads or the latest trends, this style of cuisine celebrates comfort, plenty and lots of lard. These retro-minded dishes wouldn't be caught dead featuring chia seeds or kale - although it's amusing to remember that the avocado...
  • Vegan brunch!

    As if you needed another reason to eat at Gracias Madre  as of June 1, the West Hollywood vegan restaurant now serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The menu includes Mexican plates such as chilaquiles, tofu ranchero scramble, breakfast torta and chimichangas and traditional brunch fare such as French toast, homemade biscuits,...
  • Stop the Anti-Immigration Hysteria: Murrieta's Obama Haters Need a Fact Check 61

    We're pleading here for straight talk on both sides of the illegal immigration debate, so we'll start this party with some brutal honesty: Illegal immigration isn't necessarily good for Latino Americans, and many of us don't always welcome it. Why would we ask for the clock on our U.S. assimilation...

The ideal of absolute freedom at any cost was a young man’s fantasy, and a profoundly American one, familiar to readers of Edward Abbey and the Western writers who preceded him. But the members of Coronado’s ALF cell were pragmatic enough to realize they could never afford to buy all the mink being raised on farms, or all the lynx and bobcats. Coronado was eventually convicted of torching a researcher’s office at Michigan State University and destroying years of research data at an off-campus mink laboratory. He was sent to prison in 1995, where he served 48 months of a 57-month sentence, with time off for good behavior and time served. But he had started a movement. Before Coronado, nobody had raided a mink facility. “There were 70 raids on fur farms from the time I went to prison to when I got out,” Coronado says.

This may help to explain why, when animal-rights activist David Agronoff was questioned by a grand jury last year, ostensibly about the arson of a condominium complex in San Diego, all the investigators wanted to talk about was Coronado.

IN MARCH 2004, ROD CORONADO, accompanied by a writer from Esquire magazine, was arrested by authorities in Sabino Canyon. The canyon, a scenic thoroughfare of rock and water in the highest of the five mountain ranges surrounding Tucson, had been closed so state Game and Fish Department officials could trap and kill five mountain lions. Uncontrolled sprawl had brought condos and trophy houses up to the lions’ doorstep, as it were, and the lions had been sniffing around. When state officials were about to shoot the mountain lions, Coronado found himself in a position familiar to anyone who’s volunteered: He was the only one willing to show up every single day and keep interfering with the hunt by springing the traps set for the lions, and, if necessary, placing himself between gun and animal. Then he was busted, and his life threatened to fall apart.

“We saw all those other guys get rounded up,” he says, referring to the Vail saboteurs. “They were targeted for serious criminal offenses. There were informers giving solid evidence.” He leans forward, putting down his coffee cup. “Hunt sabotage is usually a ticket, maybe a $500 fine.”

Coronado and the reporter were arrested and charged, but only with misdemeanors. A few months later, the feds added a felony conspiracy “to interfere with or injure a government official” to Coronado’s charges. The state of Arizona added two misdemeanor charges of its own. But the worst was yet to come.

On February 15, 2006, a grand jury indicted Coronado under a little-used law prohibiting the distribution of information related to the assembly of explosives and weapons of mass destruction. His crime? He’d spoken at a gathering called “Revolution Summer” in San Diego in 2003. After his standard inspirational speech, someone asked how he’d blown up the mink labs. He grabbed a plastic juice bottle from a table and explained that he’d filled a similar bottle with gasoline, set a timer, and that was pretty much that. Or it was until a photo of Coronado brandishing the juice bottle made an appearance before Congress.

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • 21st Annual Classic Cars "Cruise Night" in Glendale
    On Saturday, spectators of all ages were out in multitudes on a beautiful summer night in Glendale to celebrate the 21st annual Cruise Night. Brand Boulevard, one of the main streets through downtown Glendale, was closed to traffic and lined with over 250 classic, pre-1979 cars. There was plenty of food to be had and many of the businesses on Brand stayed open late for the festivities The evening ended with fireworks and a 50th anniversary concert from The Kingsmen, who performed their ultimate party hit, "Louie, Louie." All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.