Speaker: Milo Runkle

Mercy for Animals

Milo (Nathan) Runkle is an author, activist, investor and non-profit leader.  He is the founder of Mercy for Animals (MFA), the world’s largest farm animal protection and vegan advocacy organization.

MFA, which Runkle founded when he was age 15, focuses on protecting animals raised and killed for food. MFA’s early projects raised awareness about factory farming by distributing literature and staging demonstrations. Eventually, the organization began conducting undercover investigations and open rescues on factory farms—bringing cameras in and animals out to expose the truth about an ugly system. Undercover investigations remain one of the group’s core strategies today, forming the backbone of the organization and the foundation for many of its efforts.

MFA is also involved in legal advocacy to bring abusers to justice, and works with lawmakers and advocates for stronger animal protection laws nationwide. In addition to laws and policies, MFA has a dedicated corporate outreach department that focuses on improving companies’ welfare standards to eliminate the “worst of the worst” industry practices: standardized abuses like gestation crates and battery cages. MFA’s growth over the years has been paralleled by an immense cultural change and it now has a presence in six countries, addressing over one-half of the human population.
Delivered at birth by a veterinarian (his Dad), Milo was born on the couch at home in rural Ohio. He was slated to be a 5th generation farmer, but his love for animals led him on a different path. Growing up on a farm, he shared his childhood with cats, dogs, and wildlife of all kinds who taught him that animals, like humans, have needs, desires, curiosity, and individual complexities and quirks, but it was a rat named Caesar that provided his most profound lessons.

He acquired Caesar when he was six years old from a couple who rented a place on his parents’ farm and who raised animals for research. Runkle asked to take Caesar home upon meeting him and was given permission. Caesar became his best friend. He answered when called and Runkle soon realized how intelligent and social these animals were. Caesar taught him about prejudice regarding animals: pests versus pets, friends versus food. When Runkle introduced people to Caesar, they shrank away in disgust based on what he was, not who he was. Runkle learned at an early age that all animals are equal. The difference is only our perception. He also learned that when it came to animals that were farmed, hunted, trapped and fished, they were not treated with compassion or consideration.

An incident when he was young brought these insights into stark focus. A teacher at a local high school, who was also a pig farmer, brought a bucket of day-old piglets from his farm for the students of his agricultural class to study and dissect. The farmer had attempted to kill the piglets on his farm that morning, but one was still alive. In an effort to finish her off, a student who had worked on the teacher’s farm grabbed the piglet by her hind legs and hurled her headfirst into the ground. His attempt failed; the piglet did not die. Horrified, a few students grabbed the dying piglet and took her to another teacher, who transported the piglet to a vet to be euthanized.

Both the student and the farmer were charged with animal cruelty, and although the event generated a great deal of media attention and controversy, the case was immediately dismissed. Slamming piglets headfirst into the ground is considered standard agricultural practice in the State of Ohio, exempt from anti-cruelty laws. This incident taught Runkle that we all have to embrace power. We are born human, we live in a country where we can speak freely, therefore we have the power to address what we view as grave injustices. Runkle founded MFA the same year (at age 15). Runkle says that Mercy For Animals is an empowering experience as it advocates for those who have no voice.

A nationally recognized speaker on animal protection and veganism, Runkle has presented at colleges, conferences, and many other forums around the globe. He has traveled to over 35 countries, giving lectures, working with local NGOs, and helping launch vegan and animal protection initiatives. Runkle has worked alongside elected officials, corporate executives, farmers, and celebrities to pass legislation, raise public awareness about veganism, and implement animal welfare policy changes. Through his work with MFA, he has been featured in hundreds of news outlets, including ABC World News TonightNightline20/20, National Public Radio, Forks Over Knives and CNN and in USA TodayThe New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, and the Huffington Post.

In 2015, Runkle co-founded The Good Food Institute (GFI), a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a healthy, humane, and sustainable food supply. GFI works with scientists, investors, and entrepreneurs to make groundbreaking clean meat and plant-based foods a reality. He is also the co-founder of New Crop Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in clean meat and plant-based companies that seek to outcompete animal products in the market place.

VegNews magazine has recognized both Mercy For Animals and Runkle for making substantial contributions to the vegetarian movement, in early 2014 naming Runkle one of the "25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians" and one of the country's "Top 20 Activists Under 30 Years Old," and twice naming MFA "Non-Profit of the Year." In 2009, at the age of 25, he became the youngest person ever inducted into the U.S. Animal Rights Hall of Fame. Runkle has also appeared alongside Miley Cyrus in The Advocate magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40” list of people changing the world.

Runkle is one of several people who provided information used in the writing of the book Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism (2008) by Mark Hawthorne. Also, he is a contributor to Uncaged: Top Activists Share Their Wisdom on Effective Farm Animal Advocacy (2013), by Ben Davidow. In addition, Runkle is the author of the 2017 best-selling book, Mercy For Animals: One Man’s Quest to Inspire Compassion and Improve the Lives of Farm Animals, which examines how our country moved from a network of small, local farms to a massive coast-to-coast industrial complex. The book also provides advice and suggestions for ways people can help: from simple diet modifications to a clear explanation of how to contact corporations and legislators efficiently.

Runkle sees that every day brings more progress for fellow creatures and that a world in which all animals are treated with kindness and compassion is coming into view. Runkle is a certified yoga teacher and daily meditator. He believes that “Any act of kindness is never wasted, even in the food choices that we make…It can have profound consequences.”

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