Animal Outlook (formerly Compassion Over Killing)
Founded in 1995 by disgraced former Humane Society of the United States executive Paul Shapiro while he attended Georgetown Day School, Compassion Over Killing pushes veganism through what it describes as outreach, investigations, and legal advocacy. COK changed its name to Animal Outlook in 2020.
At its inception, COK largely focused on animal liberation activism in the Washington, DC area, largely protesting fur stores and circuses. COK published a ragtag magazine called The Abolitionist, which is available on the Wayback Machine.
COK openly supported criminals. The Winter 1997 edition of The Abolitionist featured an article recruiting members for a local cell of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). The article included suggestions to “smash a window… throw a paint bomb… burn Miller’s Furs down.” Some of the listed “benefits” of joining included the “nervous breakdown” of the fur salon’s owner. Another edition of the magazine promoted ALF vandalism with a two-page photo spread glorifying criminal “direct action,” and COK sold a video produced by the ALF via the magazine. The ALF has been declared a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI, responsible for over 1,000 criminal acts.
The former article contained a “disclaimer” that COK didn’t support illegal activities, but its actions seem to show otherwise. COK engaged in what is euphemistically called open rescue–or stealing livestock from barns. COK’s president told the New York Times in 2002 that stealing livestock was actually “the next antioppression movement” after COK took 10 hens from a Maryland egg farm. This tactic is still used by animal activists today, most infamously by Direct Action Everywhere.
These days, outreach consumes most of AO’s budget, supporting activities such as running 30-second ads on television and websites. Animal Outlook lobbies large corporations to change their supply chains and add vegan options. This lobbying takes the form of swarms of letters as well as picketing. AO’s investigative research consists of sneaking into farms and taking pictures and videos of animals without the farm’s consent or awareness.
Legal advocacy for AO consists of an unsuccessful 2012 lawsuit against allowing the sale of foie gras, a 2013 action suing members of the milk industry, an unsuccessful lawsuit trying to force the full disclosure of egg origin labeling, and a settled lawsuit with Kroger over labeling chicken.
In 2013, an undercover COK activist was criminally charged in Colorado with animal cruelty. The sheriff’s office charged the activist because they believe she had engaged in criminal negligence for failing to report animal abuse in a timely manner. The sheriff noted that she had filmed at a cattle ranch for two months, and that COK had only turned over the video footage of animal abuse two months after the activist’s unemployment had ended.
Charges were dropped after outcry in the animal activist community, but this situation exposes a huge moral hypocrisy in the undercover work of animal activists. Undercover activists covertly gain employment on farms, supposedly to root out abuse. But then they generally sit on the footage for weeks or months while they prepare media and fundraising campaigns. Stopping the abuse suddenly becomes second priority.
A number of COK early leaders went on to work for the Humane Society of the United States. COK founder Paul Shapiro joined HSUS in 2004, not long after animal liberation fanatic Wayne Pacelle took the helm. Shapiro was vice president for farm animal issues until early 2018, when he resigned under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations. (Pacelle would follow him the next month.)
Early COK leader Josh Balk followed Shapiro to HSUS, and then replaced him as vice president for farm issues. Another COK activist, Miyun Park, also was a vice president at HSUS before joining the Whole Foods-backed Global Animal Partnership. (Reflecting on her time in animal advocacy, Park said in 2016, “I screamed like you wouldn’t believe. I got arrested so many times. And I miss it so much.”)
COK has been run since 2005 by Erica Meier.
AO’s most recent (2018) tax return shows a modest revenue of about $2 million–well below that of groups such as The Humane League and Mercy for Animals. In both 2016 and 2017, AO reported losing over $250,000.
Tax records also show that AO is reliant on a handful of donations. A recent tax return showed 91% of its total contributions and grants came from 7 people or organizations.
COK has received $750,000 from the Open Philanthropy Project, a wealthy organization (funded by a Facebook co-founder) that has directed tens of millions to animal activist groups in the US and EU.