Mercy for Animals

With a $19 million budget and a handful of employees, the preachy-vegan California-based Mercy for Animals is probably as big as the Humane Society of the United States would be if it was honest about its agenda to get rid of meat, dairy, and egg products.

Formed in 1999, Mercy for Animals regularly plays a “me, too” supporting role for animal rights initiatives led by bigger groups such as HSUS or Farm Sanctuary. Mercy for Animals teamed up with HSUS to promote a 2010 ballot initiative campaign in Ohio, which was abandoned when promoters struck a deal with Ohio farm interests and the governor. MFA also supports an HSUS bill in Congress to regulate housing for egg-laying hens.

Writing animal-rights letters to the newspaper since his high school days, MFA founder Nathan Runkle would seem to fit the joke “How do you know if someone’s vegetarian? They’ll tell you.” A 2001 Associated Press report identified Runkle as a PETA member and noted that he was arrested and charged with trespassing at a Wendy’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. The following year, Runkle was reportedly charged with criminal trespassing and disruption of a lawful meeting while with a small group of activists shouting “Meat is murder.” In 2003, Runkle was again arrested at a PETA protest, this time being charged with criminal mischief, criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.

Mercy for Animals also performs undercover filming at farms. According to the Toledo Blade, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has said that MFA activists posed a “biosecurity hazard” and used illegal means to push their vegan agenda. In 2001, the director of the department even encouraged farmers to prosecute farm “intruders” for trespassing, burglary, theft, and property damage.

In 2008, Mercy for Animals employed Freeman Wicklund as a Campaign Director. Wicklund was known for his role in founding and editing the radical animal “liberation” newspaper No Compromise in the 1990s. No Compromise was a cheerleader of the fringe, “direct action” arm of the animal rights movement. Meanwhile, Wicklund acted as spokesperson for the Animal Liberation League, appearing in at least one TV interview offering excuses for illegal acts. Wicklund later had a complete about-face, announcing that he was leaving No Compromise and rejecting “direct action” tactics, instead promoting pacifist and nonviolent means as a way to achieve animal “liberation.”

Matt Rice, director of investigations for MFA, is a former PETA employee who spent time on vegan propaganda directed toward schoolchildren. “Children are so naturally empathetic to animals that we focus on showing chickens as intelligent with distinctive personalities, just like pet cats and dogs,” he said to justify his employer’s tactics.

After PETA, Rice joined Farm Sanctuary. “We are a vegan organization, an abolitionist organization,” he said in an interview. “We don’t believe that other animals should be used by humans for any reason.” That’s a good summary of all three of his current and past employers.


“Animal-rights protesters arrested at original Wendy’s,” The Associated Press, July 17, 2001.

“Protester arrested at Pork Congress,” The Associated Press, Feb. 9, 2002.

“PETA launches child-friendly campaign in land of fried chicken,” The Associated Press, June 2, 2004.

“2 Arrested at Iams Protect in Vandalia,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 25, 2003.


The Open Philanthropy Project–a sugar daddy for animal activist campaigns–has been pumping money into Mercy for Animals. Since 2016, OPP has steered $25 million to Mercy for Animals, mostly to fund corporate campaigns. This is another sign that these campaigns are not grassroots, but astroturf.