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 Tonight
, 20/20, National Public Radio
, Forks Over Knives
and CNN and in USA Today
, The 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.
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,
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.”
Join us in conversation with this committed activist and leader!
Five Questions with Milo Runkle
What Makes You Come Alive?
Connection. We are, at our core, social creatures. We learn, grow and flourish by connection with other people, nature and animals. While our world is becoming more materially rich, I see more people becoming spiritually starved. Our sense of community and authentic connection is quickly being replaced with social media likes. We all want to be seen, heard, and loved.I also come alive walking barefoot in nature, reading, doing yoga, and laughing.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
The death of my mother, Joyce. She was diagnosed with cancer when I was 11 and passed away six years later. She was a remarkable womankind to all she met, free of judgement, artistic, creative, curious about the world, and intelligent. Losing a parent at any age is difficult but losing her at such a formative time in my life was traumatic. I felt lost, neglected and broken. Like I had sustained a wound that would never heal. Now I look back on her passing as powerful gift rich with divine lessons. Her death put into focus for me how our time on Earth is limited and precious. Eastern philosophy says the five great causes of our suffering are ignorance, ego, craving, aversion and fear of death. Making peace with the reality of death as a teenager helped freed me from its fear. It's also helped move me along on a spiritual journey that's rooted in both healing and love.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
I've been contemplating this question for a few days now (it's such a good one!). Honestly, I think there are two primary ways we can choose to see the world. One way is to see fear and harm around every corner. To see everyone as a potential enemy or threat. The other is to see the kindness and joy in every situation. To see everyone as potential allies and friends. We truly are mirrors in the worldif you smile or wave at someone, they will likely smile or wave back. If you flash them the middle finger, they likely will do the same. Culturally we become so conditioned by media and politics to see the world as dangerous and mean, but if we send out kindness, we will quickly see that we receive it. Some might call it Karma. There are acts of kindness happening around us every day if we open our eyes to them. Such acts can be words of love and affirmation to partners, children, companion animals, neighbors. Other acts can be offering small gestures of love throughout the day, such as smiling at people you pass on the street or letting someone step in front of you at the grocery store checkout. Kindness is contagious.Having led a global animal protection organization for 18 years I saw acts of kindness on a daily basis. I saw that at the core of the human spirit is a deep-rooted desire to help others. To me, every time someone makes a donation to an organization helping to bring more kindness into the world, that's an act of kindness. Every time someone eats a vegan meal, that's an act of kindness. Every time someone adopts an animal from a shelter, that's an act of kindness.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
Enlightenment :) And to visit 100 countries. So far I've visited 35.
One-line Message for the World?
Judge less, love more.