Animal Defenders of Westchester

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We advocate on all animal protection and exploitation issues, including experimentation, factory farming, rodeos, breeders and traveling animal acts.

Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704


Activism Unleashed
By Heather Moore

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 2002.

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 voiceless."

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