Timeline of Mercy For Animals
This is a timeline of Mercy for Animals, a United States non-profit animal protection organization that exposes farmed animal cruelty, works to eliminate the cruelest factory farming practices and promotes compassionate food choices and policies. MFA engages in a variety of farmed animal advocacy programs, often involving filming or promoting footage from their undercover investigations of factory farms.
|Time period||Development summary|
|1999 – 2005||First years of Mercy For Animals, as an organization in Ohio. During the first years, along with other animal rights groups, MFA infiltrate several large-scale egg farms in Ohio, Maryland, and Minnesota.|
|2005 <||MFA expands outside of Ohio, and begins opening branches in several cities across the United States. The organization continues conducting uncover investigations, and producing videos like "From Farm To Fridge", which would reach millions of views. In 2014 MFA is recognized as a "top charity" by US nonprofit Animal Charity Evaluators.|
|Present time||MFA now reaches millions of people each year with information about factory farming and its message of compassionate meat-free eating.|
|Year||Month and date||Event type||Details|
|1999||October||Founding||Mercy For Animals in founded by 15 year old Nathan Runkle in rural Ohio, with the focus to be a local voice for animal protection issues.|
|2001||August – September||Rescue operation||MFA engages in an open rescue of 34 hens from Buckeye and DayLay Egg Farm.|
|2001||Investigation||MFA videotapes conditions at Buckeye Egg Farm and Daylay Egg Farm, calling the footage Silent Suffering. The group would since use the footage in their film, Fowl Play, which years later would be selected as "best short documentary" at the Fallbrook Film Festival in 2009.|
|2001||An Associated Press report identifies Nathan Runkle as a PETA member and notes that he was arrested and charged with trespassing at a Wendy’s restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. The following year, Runkle is reportedly charged with criminal trespassing and disruption of a lawful meeting while with a small group of activists shouting “Meat is murder.”|
|2003||Nathan Runkle is again arrested at a PETA protest, this time being charged with criminal mischief, criminal trespassing and resisting arrest.|
|2005||March||Investigation||MFA publishes undercover investigation at Ohio Fresh Eggs, the state's largest “Animal Care Certified” corporation. MFA investigators document hens crammed into tiny wire cages so small they could not spread their wings, as well as hens trapped in the wire of the their cages. The investigation also uncovera dead chickens left to rot in cages with birds still producing eggs for human consumption, and a live hen thrown away in a trash bin. MFA investigators openly rescued 3 hens in dire need of veterinary care.|
|2005||November||Merge||MFA expands outside Ohio and opens an office in Chicago, as a result of the merge with Chicago-based non-profit organization Protecting Animals.|
|2005||Output||Throughout the year, MFA distributed over 60,000 pieces of vegetarian literature such MFA’s Vegetarian Starter Kit and Vegetarian Guide to Ohio, during outreach events and through information requests. It also worked with over 200 Ohio libraries to distribute MFA’s Vegetarian Starter Kit and Vegetarian Guide to Ohio. MFA also conducted over 110 public outreach events, including lectures by educators at high schools and colleges, video showings, educational exhibits at festivals and conferences, vegan feed-ins, and leafleting outreach on busy street corners, outside concerts, and on campuses.|
|2007||January–February||Investigation||In an undercover investigation in House of Raeford Farms, Inc. in Raeford, North Carolina, one of the largest poultry slaughterhouses in the United States, an MFA investigator works in the "live-hang" area of the plant (where live birds are snapped into shackles on the slaughter line), secretly filming egregious acts of animal cruelty with a hidden camera. Shocking abuses he witnessed include turkeys with broken wings and legs, bloody open wounds, tumors and other untreated injuries being slaughtered for human consumption, a worker violently punching live, shackled turkeys for "fun", employees forcefully shoving their hands into the cloacae (vaginal cavities) of live chickens, turkeys and chickens being thrown across the facility and up into the air, workers ripping the heads off live turkeys, birds being crushed to death under the wheels of trucks, and conscious turkeys having their throats slit.|
|2007||Publication||MFA debuts Compassionate Living magazine, which provides tips, resources, recipes, interviews, advice, and exposés to readers.|
|2007||Output||Throughout the year, MFA distributs 200,000 pieces of vegetarian literature, and conducts over 220 public outreach events.|
|2008||Staff||MFA employs as a Campaign Director to Freeman Wicklund, known for his role in founding and editing the radical animal “liberation” newspaper No Compromise in the 1990s.|
|2009||Recognition||MFA's film Fowl Play is selected as "best short documentary" at the Fallbrook Film Festival. The film would also be an official selection at the Las Vegas International and Chicago United Film Festivals.|
|2010||Early||Branch||MFA opens their Texas Office in Dallas.|
|2010||Campaign||MFA teams up with the Humane Society of the United States to promote a 2010 ballot initiative campaign in Ohio, which would be abandoned after promoters strike a deal with Ohio farm interests and the governor.|
|2011||January||Investigation||MFA conducts an undercover investigation "Catfish Corner," a fish slaughter facility in Mesquite, Texas. The footage exposes fish being skinned alive. Fish are seen thrashing and fighting to escape the workers’ knives. As the fish gasp for oxygen, workers are shown ripping off their skin with pliers.|
|2011||February||Documentary||Mercy For Animals publishes a 12-minute documentary titled Farm to Fridge, which gives viewers a rarely seen look at how cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and fish are raised and killed on industrial farms and in slaughterhouses. The film would reach millions of views, moving countless people towards a vegan diet.|
|2011||April – June||Investigation||MFA investigates Select Farms in Kamrar, Iowa, one of the biggest pork suppliers in the United States, and reports that mother pigs were confined in gestation crates, sick and injured pigs were left to die, and piglets were castrated without painkillers. The investigation would receive media attention, with Costco, Kroger, and Safeway dropping Iowa Select as a meat supplier.|
|2011||April 20||Investigation||MFA releases an undercover video taken at the E6 Cattle Co. ranch in Castro County, Texas, which depicts four farmworkers "repeatedly bludgeoning sick and injured calves with pickaxes and hammers." The video shows the same four employees dragging the calves, throwing them, kicking them, and standing on the animals' necks. The video also depicts calves beaten but still conscious, left to die in a pile; calves dehorned without anesthesia; sick and injured calves being actively denied medical care; and calves with severed hooves. Mercy for Animals said they randomly selected the E6 Cattle ranch, and spent two weeks filming there.|
|2011||May – August||Investigation||A MFA investigator works undercover at Sparboe Farms, the fifth largest egg producing factory in the United States, and a supplier to McDonald's. MFA reports that workers at Sparboe Farms were burning the beaks off chicks without painkillers, throwing live birds in plastic bags to suffocate, and leaving dead hens to rot next to hens still laying eggs for human consumption.|
|2011||December||Investigation||In an undercover investigation, MFA releases a hidden-camera video revealing mistreatment to birds, including kicking, dragging and throwing, at a Butterball turkey facility in North Carolina. Two months after the video is released, several employees are charged with felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty.|
|2011||Output||Throughout the year, MFA conducted over 1,500 vegan advocacy events – including lectures at schools, leafleting events, video screenings, and educational exhibits.|
|2012||November||Investigation||MFA releases a second video of several North Carolina Butterball plants and encourages people to find a turkey substitute for Thanksgiving. The group also airs a television commercial warning viewers about Butterball’s alleged transgressions.|
|2013||October–November||Investigation||MFA activist, working undercover as a farmhand, shoots video in a Wisconsin dairy farm showing workers kicking, beating and stabbing cows and dragging the animals with ropes. The video would be provided to NBC News. As a response, DiGiorno, United States' largest frozen pizza company says it will no longer accept milk from a Wisconsin dairy farm.|
|2013||November||Investigation||MFA releases undercover video made at West Coast Farms –a Tyson Foods supplier in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, showing workers grabbing piglets by their hind legs and smashing their heads on concrete floors to kill them, and cutting off pigs’ tails and castrating them without anesthetic. The video also shows workers kicking pigs in the face, hitting pigs with boards and a bowling ball, and in one case a worker allegedly gouging a pig’s eye with his finger.|
|2013||December||Investigation||MFA reveals with undercover video footage that some employees at Wiese Brothers’ Farm in Greenleaf, Wisconsin have beaten, stabbed and dragged dairy cows at the farm.|
|2013||December||Investigation||MFA releases undercover footage showing workers at Wiese Brothers Farm beating, kicking, whipping, and stabbing cows, and dragging the animals with ropes. The video prompts Nestlé-owned DiGiorno and its cheese supplier, Foremost Farms, to drop its use of dairy products from the Wisconsin farm. Two employees are later fired by owner Mark Wiese, who said the farm has taken steps to ensure proper treatment of the animals in light of the video. Local law enforcement would later conduct an investigation of Wiese Brothers Farm. Four workers have subsequently been charged with animal cruelty.|
|2014||April||Investigation||MFA Canada publishes undercover investigation at a veal factory farm in Quebec reveals baby calves crammed into crates barely larger than their own bodies, punched and kicked by workers, and left to suffer without proper veterinary care.|
|2014||May||Review||US-based nonprofit Animal Charity Evaluators publishes first review on MFA, citing as its strenghts to a long record of success in carrying out undercover investigations.|
|2014||August||Investigation||Undercover investigation by MFA documents employees whipping, kicking, stabbing and shocking animals at Winchester Dairy farm in Midway, New Mexico. In September, the facility ceases operations. In April 2015, 4 workers would be charged with animal cruelty, with the offenses carrying a maximum possible penalty of 364 days in jail and a US$1,000 fine.|
|2014||December||Review||Animal Charity Evaluators updates review on MFA, rating it a "Top Charity", and "an exceptionally strong organization because of their demonstrated willingness to adjust their programming to seek maximum effectiveness and because of the range of programs they have undertaken with good results."|
|2014||Output||Throughout the year, MFA conducted 14 undercover investigations into factory farms, slaughterhouses, and hatcheries all across North America exposing the standard yet horrific practices endured by farmed animals.|
|2015||September||Investigation||MFA sends an operative outfitted with a hidden camera to work at a Tyson poultry plant in Carthage, Mississippi. The resulting footage shows workers "punching, throwing, beating, pushing, and otherwise tormenting frightened animals for fun." The activist group also claims workers were seen shocking and decapitating birds.|
|2015||December||Investigation||MFA releases a video exposing instances of animal cruelty and abuse at local chicken farms in Rockingham, North Carolina. The videos prompt local authorities to arrest farm worker Danny Cajija Miranda, charging him with four counts of animal cruelty. The video shows Miranda killing four chickens by grinding their heads with the heel of his foot.|
|2016||February||Grant||The Open Philanthropy Project recommends a grant of $1 million over two years to MFA to build its capacity to execute corporate cage-free egg campaigns.|
|2016||October||Investigation||MFA releases video showing turkeys at a Lilydale slaughterhouse violently slammed upside down into metal shackles, sliced open while still conscious and able to feel pain, and scalded alive in hot-water defeathering tanks. Lilydale is one of the largest poultry companies in Canada.|
|2016||November||Review||Animal Charity Evaluators updates review on MFA, maintaining its "Top charity" status and recommends donating to it.|
|2017||June||Investigation||MFA releases undercover video footage shot by a whistleblower at more than a dozen chicken factory farms in British Columbia that supply a Lilydale slaughterhouse in Port Coquitlam. The footage shpws a man trying to rip a bird in half with his bare hands and then throwing her badly mangled—but still flailing—body onto the ground for her to slowly die. Other workers are shown punting and throwing birds, slaming them hard against walls and transport crates, tearing the legs off fully conscious animals, and mimicking sexually abusing them.|
|2017||November||Petition||MFA petitions the United States Department of Agriculture to include poultry under the 1958 Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which requires humane treatment of all food animals in USDA inspected slaughter plants, but does not apply to chickens or birds. The petition is rejected by the USDA.|
|2017||November||Investigation||MFA publishes video from inside an Aurora cooperative pig factory farm in Brazil exposes piglets squealing in agony while workers grind down their teeth, slice off their tails, and cut holes in their ears, all without any pain relief. Meanwhile, mother pigs are crammed into tiny gestation crates so small they can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably.|
|2017||November 27||Review||Animal Charity Evaluators updates review on MFA, this time downgrading its status to "Comprehensive" and removing it from its top recommendations after MFA declined to be reviewed or to publish their review in 2017.|
|2017||Publication||Nathan Runkle publishes book Mercy For Animals: One Man's Quest to Inspire Compassion and Improve the Lives of Farm Animals. Jane Goodall comments "Mercy For Animals not only exposes the almost unbelievable cruelty suffered by the billions of animals raised in factory farms but explains what can—and must—be done to change things. Please read it and recommend it to all your friends." Peter Singer comments, “Nathan Runkle tells gripping true stories of how courage combined with smarts can change the world. Mercy For Animals is an antidote for those who feel powerless and unable to make a difference.” Michael Greger, Kathy Freston, Moby, John Robbins, Emily Deschanel, Evanna Lynch, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Marco Antonio Regil, Joaquin Phoenix and Woody Harrelson also give positive revies on the book.|
|2018||January||Staff||MFA announces Matt Rice as its new president, as previous president Nathan Runkle retires from position.|
|2018||May 9||Investigation||MFA releases film recorded between December 2017 and February 2018 at Fleming Chicks Ltd. in Beamsville, Ontario, showing staff injuring and killing baby chickens by hand. The two-minute tape also shows hatchery employees roughly handling chicks, tossing them into a macerator to be ground alive, snapping their necks and beheading them against sharp edges.|
|2018||October 1||By this time Leah Garces is expected to be ascended as President of Mercy for Animals.|
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