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St. Paris native celebrates 15 years of farm animal advocacy

MFA making national impact; has international plans.

After witnessing an unsettling incident with a pig in a high school class, St. Paris native Nathan Runkle decided to devote his life to animal rights, founding the Mercy For Animals organization at the age of 15.

This year, the organization itself turned 15 years old.

MFA is a non-profit organization that launches investigations, hosts events and publishes a bi-annual magazine called “Compassionate Living” to raise awareness of animal rights. Now based in Los Angeles, Calif., the organization has been able to further its platform and gather a wider support base, Executive Director Runkle said in an email.

“Having our headquarters in the nation’s second-largest city gives us a larger, farther-reaching platform,” said Runkle.

Runkle said that a pig was killed in an agriculture class he took in high school, and though charges for animal cruelty were filed, they were dropped because the killing was considered “standard agricultural practice.”

Runkle said he knew a voice was needed to stand up for the humane treatment of farmed animals in Ohio after that.

The organization began in the St. Paris area in October of 1999, but moved its headquarters to Chicago seven years ago. It moved again to Los Angeles three years ago.

The advocacy group has won several awards, being named one of the top two charities of the year by Animal Charity Evaluators this year, and “Non-Profit of the Year” from VegNews magazine in 2006 and 2011.

Runkle said he discovered his love for animals growing up in St. Paris, and feels animals have the same feelings of joy and fear that humans experience.

“I had a deep connection with and appreciation for other creatures,” Runkle said.

MFA general council member Vandhana Bala said she was proud of how far Runkle and the organization has come.

“It’s really incredible that the organization has grown,” Bala said. “We’ve become a leading force in farmed animal advocacy.”

The Ohio Farm Bureau declined to comment on the organization. The OFB published an article in September, 2010, titled “How an animal rights group invented a scandal and the media’s response.” The article described footage released on Ohio veal farming, and how they claim the MFA exploited it.

“The low-quality video includes some scenes in color and others in black and white, which gives an ominous mood to the images,” the article said.

Runkle said MFA will continue to expand, pointing out that the organization will soon begin several new operations overseas.

“We will be expanding our programs and investigations to more countries,” Runkle said. “This year, we plan to launch initiatives in India, China and Mexico.”

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