Mercy For Animals
PurposeAnimal rights, animal welfare
Region served
United States, Canada, Brazil, Latin America, India, Asia
Leah Garcés

Mercy For Animals (MFA) is an international nonprofit animal protection organization founded in 1999 by Milo Runkle. MFA's mission is to "prevent cruelty to farmed animals and promote compassionate food choices and policies."[1]


1999–2007: Founding and early days

Milo Runkle wrote in Mercy For Animals: One Man's Quest to Inspire Compassion and Improve the Lives of Farm Animals,[2] published in 2017, that he founded MFA after a biology teacher at his rural Ohio high school brought dead piglets to class to be dissected. One piglet was still alive, so a student who worked on the teacher's farm grabbed the piglet and slammed her headfirst against the floor. The incident was controversial in the community, yet a judge ruled that the student's action was legal because it was "standard agricultural practice".[3]

Milo writes that the injustice weighed heavily on him and led him to create an organization with a mission to protect farmed animals.[3]

MFA conducted its first investigations in 2001. Investigators entered two Ohio egg factory farms at night five times over several weeks. They collected hours of video footage, gave water to dehydrated hens, and rescued other suffering birds.[3]

These open rescues made headlines around the state. Ohio's largest television news station at the time aired the footage, promoting the segment as "The Video the Egg Industry Doesn't Want You to See".[3]

The following year, MFA investigators recorded footage from inside another Ohio factory farm, Weaver Bros. Egg Farm. About five hours of video showed thousands of hens in cages, birds trapped between cage wire unable to access food or water, and dead animals rotting next to other birds still laying eggs for human consumption.[4] MFA used the footage to discredit a new Animal Care Certified label which advertised that hens were raised humanely.[5]

MFA asked prosecutors to investigate and file charges against these farms, but no charges were filed.[4]

2008–2010: Undercover investigations and state legislation

Current MFA investigators obtain employment at factory farms and slaughterhouses to document conditions.[6] Being in the facilities for extended periods of time allows the investigators to record repeated abuse and make a case for systemic and ongoing cruelty, which can spur animal cruelty convictions, corporate animal welfare policies, and new legislation.[3]

In 2008, animal rights advocates organized a grassroots campaign across California to pass Proposition 2, a state ballot initiative requiring that egg-laying hens, pregnant pigs, and calves raised for veal be given enough room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn around. MFA released investigative footage from inside two of California's largest egg farms, Gemperle Enterprises and Norco Ranch, just two weeks before the vote.[7] Prop 2 passed and is still considered one of the most significant pieces of farmed animal protection legislation ever enacted in the United States.

A year later, MFA investigators in Maine uncovered workers and managers at an egg factory farm killing birds by grabbing them by the neck and swinging them in the air. MFA turned the video footage over to state police, who in turn raided the facility. The facility owner pled guilty to 10 counts of animal cruelty and agreed to pay more than $130,000 in fines and restitution, the largest financial penalty ever levied against a U.S. factory farm.[8]

In 2010, several organizations, including MFA, launched a campaign to enact legislation in Ohio that would protect farmed animals. The Ohio Farm Bureau refused to meet with the coalition until an MFA investigation at an Ohio dairy farm showed workers stabbing cows with pitchforks, beating them with crowbars, and twisting their tails until the bones snapped. After the investigation's release, the Ohio Farm Bureau finally agreed to meet with the groups[9] and enacted farmed animal welfare reforms.

2011–2013: Exposés in Canada, corporate campaigns, and cruelty convictions

Propelled by progress in the United States, MFA expanded to Canada in 2012. MFA's first exposé of the Canadian pork industry prompted the country's eight largest grocers to phase gestation crates out of their supply chains.[10] A whistleblower documented workers firing metal bolts into pigs' heads—leaving many pigs unconscious for minutes—and cutting off piglets' testicles without painkillers. Some workers slammed piglets headfirst into the ground to kill them. Pregnant pigs were kept in crates so small the animals could not turn around. Canada's popular W5 news program aired the footage nationwide.[11]

Canada's pork industry also committed to a national phaseout of gestation crates, and pork producers agreed to stop mutilating piglets without pain relief.[12]

Footage taken by MFA at two Alberta suppliers to Burnbrae Farms, at the time an egg supplier to McDonald's Canada, prompted nearly 120,000 Canadians to call on McDonald's to ban cages for egg-laying hens in the company's supply chain.[13] Following the exposé and public outcry, McDonald's announced a policy to eliminate cages for hens from its North American supplier farms.[14] Nearly the entire Canadian food industry followed suit.[15]

In the U.S., MFA conducted investigations inside turkey factory farms supplying Butterball. Media outlets CNN,[16] the Associated Press,[17] NBC,[18] and USA Today reported on the investigations, which revealed workers violently stomping on turkeys, dragging them by their wings and necks, slamming them into transport crates, and leaving many to suffer from untreated injuries and infections. Prompted by hidden-camera footage, law enforcement in North Carolina conducted a two-day raid at one of the facilities. Five Butterball employees were arrested and charged with criminal cruelty to animals.[19] The prosecutions led to the first-ever felony conviction for cruelty to factory-farmed poultry in U.S. history.[20]

The following year, MFA investigated a dairy factory farm in Wisconsin that supplied Nestlé's DiGiorno Pizza brand. Undercover footage revealed cows beaten, stabbed, and dragged by tractors.[21] After the video received widespread media attention, Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, met with MFA and implemented a far-reaching animal welfare policy.[22]

2014–2016: Campaigns; new initiatives; and expansion to Brazil, Mexico, India, and Asia

Following progress with Nestlé, MFA targeted Leprino Foods,[23] Great Lakes Cheese,[24] and Saputo.[25] After MFA investigations uncovered abuse in each of their supply chains, the companies released their own animal welfare policies.[26]

After six MFA investigations into Walmart's pork supply chain,[27] three years of campaigning, and pressure from Bob Barker, James Cromwell, Ryan Gosling,[28] and a slew of other celebrities, in May 2015 Walmart banned gestation crates, battery cages, and veal crates from its U.S. supply chains.[29] The retail giant also pledged to end mutilations without painkillers, such as tail docking, castration, and dehorning.[29]

Top U.S. grocers Publix,[30] Kroger,[31] Albertsons,[32] and SUPERVALU,[33] along with the Retail Council of Canada,[34] also pledged to ban intensive confinement of hens from their egg supply chains after MFA exposés or campaigns.

In early 2016, MFA launched The Good Food Institute.[35] The organization's mission is to create "a healthy, humane, and sustainable food supply." The Good Food Institute provides strategic support to companies, promotes plant-based products, supports entrepreneurs, and educates grant-making institutions, corporations, and governmental bodies about plant-based and clean meat.[36]

Next, Perdue, one of the largest chicken producers in the world, announced a precedent-setting commitment to improving animal welfare after MFA investigated two contract farms in the U.S. supplying the company. The policy will reduce suffering for nearly 680 million birds annually.[37]

In the same year, MFA also set up operations in Brazil, Mexico, India, and Asia.

An MFA investigator recorded footage from inside nine government-run slaughterhouses in Mexico. Pigs were dragged by their limbs to the killing floor and stabbed repeatedly. A tied-up cow suffered blows from a sledgehammer. A cornered pig was stabbed in the side with a large knife.[38] The investigation drew attention from major Mexican media outlets Reforma,[39] El Universal,[40] and Proceso.[41]

Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez narrated an MFA video about the cruelty.[38] In an online petition, Eugenio wrote, "I watched the video in horror as animals were tied up, shocked for no reason, brutally and repeatedly bludgeoned with sledgehammers, and then stabbed in the back of the head."

Back in the U.S., MFA was also part of a coalition of organizations that worked to pass the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act in Massachusetts.[42] The measure, passed in 2016, outlaws some of the cruelest farming practices and bans the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from animals raised in intensive confinement.[43]


This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (January 2024)

After the 2016 investigations, MFA worked with members of Mexico's congress to introduce federal legislation that would end the worst slaughter methods shown in the undercover video.[44] The bill passed through two committees and the representative branch of Mexico's congress, with nearly unanimous support.[45] As of October 2018, the bill was waiting on a senate vote.[46]

MFA has conducted multiple exposés inside factory farms in Brazil.[47][48][49]

In 2018, MFA staff in Brazil helped secure a historic commitment from Carrefour, the largest supermarket in Brazil, to eliminating small cages for hens.[50] After MFA campaigns or discussions with MFA, dozens of other major brands in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Brazil,  including Burger King,[51] General Mills,[52] Jack in the Box,[53] Pollo Pepe, Les Croissants, Loz Car, Grupo Alimento, Grupo Habib's, and Grupo Halipar, pledged to change how they treat animals.[54]

In recent years, MFA has also pioneered investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses using drones. MFA drones have exposed 35 factory farms, and views of the investigative videos have surpassed 22 million.[55]

A 2018 undercover investigation into California's driftnet fishing industry by MFA and a coalition of organizations showed dolphins entangled and drowned in driftnets, endangered species killed, and sharks cut apart and stabbed while still alive and conscious.[56][57] Undercover footage influenced federal legislation aimed at banning driftnets.[58]

A 2020 investigation focusing on the live export industry in Brazil revealed animals being confined in large ships in cramped conditions for weeks on end, often lying in and covered in their own feces. After arriving at their destination in the Middle East, cranes are used to hoist sick and injured animals out by their limbs. At the slaughterhouses, they are often slashed with knives and left to bleed to death, limbs are hacked off and throats stabbed.[59]

See also


  1. ^ "One to Change the World Society". Mercy For Animals. 2018-05-17. Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  2. ^ Runkle, Nathan; Stone, Gene (2017). Mercy for Animals: One Man's Quest to Inspire Compassion and Improve the Lives of Farm Animals. Penguin. ISBN 9780399574054.
  3. ^ a b c d e Runkle, Milo (2017). Mercy For Animals. Penguin Random House.
  4. ^ a b "Hen house tapes point to cruelty". The Blade. 2003-03-02. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  5. ^ Davis, Karen (1996). Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs.
  6. ^ "Become an Undercover Investigator". Mercy For Animals. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  7. ^ "California Animal Cruelty Could Be Cured by Proposition 2". Archived from the original on 2011-01-26.
  8. ^ " - Grocers urged to stop buying eggs from Maine farm - Business And Money | Business News | Financial News". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  9. ^ "Thomas Suddes commentary: Animal-abuse video was impetus for critter compromise". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  10. ^ Shore, Randy. "Canadian grocers agree to phase out pork raised in restrictive conditions". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  11. ^ "Manitoba's top vet investigating alleged pig farm abuse". CTVNews. 2012-12-09. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  12. ^ "Canada Bans Gestation Crates In Which Pigs Can't Turn Around". HuffPost Canada. 2014-03-07. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  13. ^ "Investigation launched into treatment of chickens at 2 Alberta farms - CityNews Toronto". CityNews Toronto. 2013-10-21. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  14. ^ "'Watershed Moment': McDonald's Eggs to Go Cage-Free". ABC News. 2015-09-18. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  15. ^ "Humane societies hail new egg-industry code of phasing out cramped hen cages". Global News. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  16. ^ "CNN - Breaking News, Latest News and Videos". CNN. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  17. ^ "Butterball Worker Guilty of Cruelty". ABC News. 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  18. ^ "Butterball probes turkey abuse accusations". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  19. ^ "Butterball Workers Arrested on Animal Cruelty Charges". ABC News. 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  20. ^ "Mercy For Animals" (PDF).
  21. ^ Milwaukee, Associated Press in (2013-12-11). "DiGiorno pizza cuts ties with Wisconsin dairy farm after cow abuse video". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  22. ^ Hirst, Ellen Jean. "Nestle makes animal welfare pledge after dairy cow abuse". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  23. ^ "Activists laud Denver-based Leprino for new animal-welfare policy". The Denver Post. 2015-04-17. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  24. ^ "Great Lakes Cheese adopts animal welfare policy after undercover video of dairy cow mistreatment". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  25. ^ Marowits, Ross (2015-06-01). "Saputo refuses to buy milk from farmers that mistreat animals". British Columbia. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  26. ^ "Progress! Saputo Adopts Global Animal Welfare Policy After MFA Investigation". Mercy For Animals. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  27. ^ "VIDEO: Pigs Punched and Beaten for Walmart". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  28. ^ "Celebrities Team Up to End Walmart Animal Abuse". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  29. ^ a b Strom, Stephanie (23 May 2015). "Walmart Pushes for Improved Animal Welfare". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  30. ^ "Publix to sell only cage-free eggs by 2026". 10NEWS. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  31. ^ "Kroger Animal Welfare Policy" (PDF).
  32. ^ Murri, Jessica. "Albertsons Commits to Sell Cage-Free Chicken Eggs by 2025". Boise Weekly. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  33. ^ "SUPERVALU INC. - Grocery Retail and Supply Chain Services - Animal Welfare Policy". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  34. ^ "Canadian grocers' move to cage-free eggs an 'important commitment'". Global News. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  35. ^ "MFA Launches New Sister Organization". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  36. ^ "The Good Food Institute". The Good Food Institute. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  37. ^ "This could be the start to a whole new world of chicken". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  38. ^ a b "Screen Actor Eugenio Derbez Calls on Mexican Senate to Take Action After New Video Exposes Horrific Animal Abuse". Tortured to Death. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  39. ^ "Exhiben crueldad en rastros". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  40. ^ "Derbez pide al gobierno federal leyes estrictas contra la crueldad animal". El Universal (in Spanish). 2016-12-14. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  41. ^ "Difunden nuevo video que capta abuso contra animales en mataderos del gobierno - Proceso". Proceso (in Mexican Spanish). 2016-12-06. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  42. ^ "Mass. Voters Approve Question 3, Banning Certain Farm Animal Confinement Practices". Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  43. ^ "Massachusetts voters say no to tight quarters for hens, pigs and calves". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  44. ^ "BREAKING! Historic Law Proposed in Mexico Following Explosive MFA Investigations". Mercy For Animals. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  45. ^ "BREAKING! Mexico's Historic Farmed Animal Protection Legislation Moves Forward". Mercy For Animals. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  46. ^ "¡ÚLTIMA HORA! Reforma para proteger a los animales de granja pasa en la Cámara". Mercy For Animals (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  47. ^ "JBS suspende contrato com fornecedora nos EUA após vídeo mostrar maus-tratos a porcos". Folha de S.Paulo (in Brazilian Portuguese). 2018-07-18. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  48. ^ "Fornecedor da JBS nos EUA é denunciado por maus tratos de porcos | EXAME". (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  49. ^ "ONG filma granjas no Brasil e diz que tratamento "brutal" de frangos é regra na indústria". BuzzFeed (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  50. ^ "Carrefour anuncia fim dos ovos de galinhas confinadas até 2028". Folha de S.Paulo (in Brazilian Portuguese). 2018-08-20. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  51. ^ "Burger King promises to clean up its chicken act". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  52. ^ "General Mills to use only cage-free eggs in U.S. by 2025". U.S. 24 November 2015. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  53. ^ "Qdoba, Jack in the Box Boost Animal Welfare Standards".
  54. ^ "Corporate Engagement". Mercy For Animals. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  55. ^ "Mercy For Animals' Drone Investigations". Mercy For Animals. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  56. ^ "Grisly new undercover footage shows the toll of 'death nets,' activists say". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  57. ^ "Deadly catch: New video of animals killed in drift nets off Southern California". 2018-04-07. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  58. ^ "How graphic undercover footage could end the deadly driftnet industry". Newsweek. 2018-05-03. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  59. ^ "Export Misery". Mercy for Animals. Retrieved June 6, 2020.