Mercy for Animals
While other kids his age were playing video games and
hanging out at the mall, 15-year-old Nathan Runkle was starting the
Ohio-based group Mercy for Animals (MFA). Nathan, now 20, has investigated
and exposed the horrific treatment of hens at three major egg farms near his
home in the Columbus area: Buckeye Egg Farm, Daylay Egg Farm, and Weaver
Bros. Egg Farm.
Before each investigation, Nathan sent a certified
letter to the farms to request a tour. The requests were ignored, but that
didn't stop him. He and other young members of MFA entered the farms at
night and documented the conditions with video cameras.
One video, taken at Weaver Bros. Egg Farm in December
2002 by MFA member Derek Coons, shows Nathan cradling a hen he found still
alive in a trash can full of dead birds. Nathan told The Toledo Blade, one
of the many newspapers that reported on the investigation, that he "would
have easily mistaken this hen, determined to survive, for a lifeless corpse
had she not lifted her tiny head, stared at [him] with curiosity, and
blinked her eyes from atop the pile." The hen, whom Nathan named Hope, was
one of more than 30 birds rescued by MFA between September 2001 and December
Although Nathan has never been arrested for his
actions, he has been threatened by various law enforcement officials. But
Nathan is "more worried about the suffering of animals going unseen" and is
willing to risk prosecution to educate others about the cruel and unsanitary
conditions on factory farms. He believes that video footage is one of the
most powerful ways to persuade people not to buy eggs and other animal
products and he has received calls, letters, and e-mails from people all
over the world who claim that MFA's investigations have opened their eyes
and convinced them to go vegan.
Nathan and other MFA volunteers have even received
permission from public libraries to create displays about veganism and other
animal rights issues and they regularly donate books, videos, and DVDs on
related topics to the libraries.
Nathan is optimistic that activists can make a
difference. "There are so many things everyone can do," Nathan recently said
in an interview for GRRR!, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA's)
magazine for young people, "Get active with a local animal rights group. If
there isn't one, start it! Table, leaflet, protest, write letters, show
videos, talk to people; anything you can do to be a voice for the
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