Mercy for Animals

Budget (2022): $14.6 million

Headquarters: Los Angeles, CA

CEO: Leah Garcés

CEO Compensation: $164,529

Background and Goals

Mercy for Animals (MFA) is an aggressive animal liberation group. Founded in 1999, its purported mission is to “prevent cruelty to farmed animals and promote compassionate food choices and policies.” Translation: MFA seeks to abolish animal agriculture altogether and promote veganism. 

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. (For more information, see Report: Activist Campaigns Are Astroturf.)

Hostile Advocacy Campaigns

MFA attacks companies it claims have insufficient animal welfare policies. Through email campaigns, it urges its followers to harass food chains and producers about their commitments to animal welfare. In a recent campaign, MFA directed followers to tie up the customer service lines for King Taco and Dairy Queen, demanding vegan menu items. Mercy for Animals also recently launched an anti-Kroger website to demand the company sell only cage-free eggs, taking out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal claiming “Kroger Can’t Be Trusted.”

At the same time it demands companies serve cage-free eggs, Mercy for Animals also tells people not to eat cage-free eggs–or any eggs, period. “You may see cage-free, free-range, and other so-called humane labels on meat, dairy, and eggs, but don’t buy the hype,” says Mercy for Animals on its website. The group has published an article titled “5 Reasons ‘Cage-Free’ Isn’t What You Think” which further maligns cage-free eggs. 

Opposing Animal Cruelty Reporting

Mercy for Animals has conducted numerous undercover investigations on farms. At times, undercover farm investigations would not be released for weeks or months–during which time activists could prepare media and fundraising campaigns. 

Legislators in several states proposed requiring undercover activists to report animal cruelty to law enforcement within 48 hours of witnessing it. The intent was to deal with any cruelty on farms promptly–not months down the road in a media circus. 

Yet Mercy for Animals opposed this legislation, falsely labeling it “ag gag.” This position gives the appearance that Mercy for Animals cares more about media and fundraising than it does in stopping cruelty. 

Governance Criticism

MFA’s founder Nathan Runkle is no stranger to controversy. He has been accused of trespassing, disruption, and criminal mischief in his activism. In 2001, he was arrested and charged with entering an Ohio Wendy’s as part of a protest. The next year, he interrupted a meeting with a group of people chanting “Meat is murder.” On another occasion, he resisted arrest following a PETA protest.