Animal rights activist Rod Coronado sank whaling ships in Iceland nearly 30 years ago, and later went to prison after torching a Michigan State University lab in 1991 for conducting research for the fur industry.
Today, Coronado, a 47-year-old Yaqui Indian, advocates educating and mobilizing the public to demand that wildlife agencies be more accountable to the general public, rather than primarily serving the interests of hunters and sportsmen. But he no longer believes the radical measures he once took are necessary to bring issues to the forefront.
“The environmental issues of today weren’t as prominent and as accepted 20 or 30 years ago as they are today,” said in a phone interview. “We might have been burning down buildings and rescuing animals, but now it’s about changing policy, and right now working within the system.”
Coronado, who lives in western Michigan, is scheduled to speak about his efforts to save wolves in Michigan and his years as an activist at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Burning Books, 420 Connecticut St.
Coronado became involved in educating people in his state after its first wolf hunt was held last year. The hunt went forward despite overwhelming pubic opposition based on comments received by the state’s wildlife agency.
In 2007, Coronado was prosecuted by the federal government for what it called an act of terrorism – explaining how he once made incendiary devices in answer to a question at a speaking event. He spent a year in prison as the result of a plea deal reached following a hung jury. His probation period was extended by a judge after he friended a fellow animal-rights activist on Facebook.
“The whole purpose was to enforce upon me by the government that they didn’t want me involved with any environmental or animal issues,” he said.
His renewed, less radical involvement coincided with the end of five years of probation in August 2013.
Coronado didn’t want to discuss the 1991 arson attack on the university research facility for which he was sentenced to five years in prison, but believes different times call for different methods.
“I am not ashamed of having done the things I’ve done to protect wildlife. But they just built larger and more effective labs, or replaced the animals we rescued with 50 more. I believe there are more effective strategies to be used,” Coronado said.
“What’s most important is what’s going to bring about a change of attitude towards wildlife and nature. Right now it’s only the hunters and sportsmen – and their interest in killing wildlife – that are heard.”