I have been sentenced to five years in federal prison, the minimum sentence allowable in my case. At the time of this writing, it’s the day after I received that sentence. My next stop is Salt Lake City to begin the legal process over again on my remaining arson and AETA charges. I haven’t seen the media yet, but apparently they now have me pegged as a “pet killer.” At this point, I have been vilified enough from all sides that it’s losing its effect. I have been accused of petty thievery, homophobia, eating beef, and burning a meth dealer’s pet (which is from the interview of my brother turned paid federal informant (and not a matter of any previous court record) in the house fire that I went to prison over in ’97! And I am unaware of any such “pet” fatality.
In any event, if I was going to bring up the past to assassinate my character, I would go with the fact that I used to build slaughterhouses and not my vigilante justice against a drug dealer. At least in my mind, that’s a much larger transgression since those machines I installed in 1995 are still killing animals even as I write this.
Through these last seven months of jail, I have faced many personal challenges as well: The death of my beloved grandmother, Gwen; my brother, Trapper Zuehlke, seeking to utterly ruin my life for 35,000 bucks of reward money and some irrational jealousy of my successes in life (which, since our youth, he has harbored against me. I honestly don’t know why); I’ve had reporters sweet talk me into interviews then show up and tell me that “there’s a special place in hell for arsonists” and assorted spiteful comments geared at getting me to froth at the mouth on camera — all this while dealing with the stress of detention and court.
Anyone that thinks I enjoy any of the status that I have achieved in the radical animal liberation movement can forget it. I wear an orange jumpsuit and have spent 19 hours locked in a two-man cell everyday since July 22, 2010. In my brief article, “Vegan Wolf Tribe,” I thanked my supporters. At this time, I would like to thank my detractors and I do not mean that in a condescending way.
Anyone who has followed my writings should by now know that I say what I feel and I don’t mince words. I thank my adversaries that have kicked me hardest when I’ve been at my lowest because you have taught me about myself. Many people in this world spend their entire life questioning what they are truly made of or even what the point of their existence is. I spent many times of my life feeling that way. I just accepted it as the fabric of everyday life or simply part of the human condition.
But if there is one thing I am sure of, it’s that the struggle for animal liberation is fixed within my breast. No one can take that away from me! Not the media, not false friends or family, not the federal government and not the prison system. Last year I authored a communiqué that began:
“The arson at the sheepskin factory was done in defense and retaliation for all the innocent animals that have died cruelly at the hands of human oppressors.”
That is why I went A.L.F. That is why I am vegan. That is why I write and speak out and it’s the only reason. And this I now know because the system has continually spit it’s invectives at me and not only attempts to demonize, but scare me, with their control over my physical body and their institutionalized authority. I must admit that without their oppression of me, I would have never known what I can withstand. But all this is over and easy to see and cope with.
What’s been the most difficult for me is the pretentiousness and accusatory nature of members of our so-called liberation movements — animal, human or total. I used to think that if you fought the good fight with every ounce of courage and fierceness you have, you would be accepted and even loved by the “movement.” But I have learned different.
The scrutiny, pretentiousness and exclusivity of many so-called vegans, anarchists and radical environmentalists ensures that the ranks and numbers of these “movements” will never swell. It’s hard enough to sacrifice your security, freedom and safety for others. But it’s made twice as difficult when the message that gets conveyed to would-be warriors is that if you do not fit the political mold, you will be demonized by your “comrades” as badly as you would be by FOX News (sometimes worse). It is masses that revolt and change any form of oppression, not dinky groups of intellectuals and political science majors.
The evidence of this became apparent to me at sentencing yesterday. While I know that people stand in solidarity with me from all over Mother Earth and lots of people show their moral support online, after three months of rallying people to my sentencing, barely a dozen people showed up.
Nevertheless, it was the most successful day of my life for more than one reason.
First, I’m an emotional guy and seeing those that did show up and knowing the hard work that Elizabeth put in to organize on my behalf almost brought me to tears in the courtroom. I did not feel alone and I definitely felt the love.
Next, despite the US Attorney painting me to be a lunatic with a gas can, which I guess is his job, the judge did not have any personal animosity against me and even called me intelligent and commented that she enjoyed my writing. She said that she hopes I discontinue my career as an arsonist and become a full-time writer for my cause.
Next, I said exactly how I feel about the court, the sheepskin factory, my supporters and the direction of animal liberation. And, in so doing, I not only spoke out for the animals, I won the personal battle of my life by not compromising my beliefs in the face of incredible adversity.
And, lastly, I want to say that I know there are a lot of people that look up to me and that is what these people need I suppose. But, in reality, I’m not Animal Rights Jesus and I’m not a lunatic with a gas can. I’ll be the first to admit that I am, at this point, a serial arsonist. Again, it is what it is.
What I really am is a 34-year old man that comes from a phenomenally-dysfunctional childhood and as such I am enraged by many forms of oppression because I’ve experienced many of them firsthand and under many extreme circumstances.
Despite the fact that I never made it past the eighth grade, I got my G.E.D. and put myself through trade school. I went vegan because I care. And the only motivations for my actions and words are my love of animals and my hatred of those that profit from their death. The only promise I can make is that this is my main concern. This is what I believe. I will be vegan ‘til my last dying breath because that’s who I am…
Who the hell are you?!
Animal Liberation, whatever it may take!
North American Animal Liberation Press Office