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Nathan- a special young man

Story ID:2265
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Urbana Ohio USA
Person:Nathan Runkle
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Nathan- a special young man

This morning I had a hard time accessing the latest Mercy for Animals E-mail Newsletter. It turned out to be a good thing. Searching - I found a link which provided me with more information about the incredible young man -- Nathan Runkle who started this animal advocacy group just a few short years ago. Talk about a grassroots effort. You will be amazed how only two people can make a profound difference. And one of those two was only 15!

I am also grateful that I learned about him and his fledgling animal protection group from almost the very beginning. But it was SATYA-
a magazine which filled me in with more details about Nathan and to them I am grateful. I think anyone taking the time to read his story will be impressed too.

At the tender age of 11- Nathan, who grew up on a small farm in St.Paris, Ohio with a population of 2,000 learned two things --that he loved
animals and that too many people around him were harming and eating them.

After seeing some activists protesting fur on the news one day, he was motivated to learn more about animal issues. He even attended the
FARM Animal Rights conference held in Washington in 1997. Here he says that he met "a real,live vegan" and then decided it was time to act.

Returning to Ohio, Nathan saw that nothing was being done locally about animal cruelty. Without support from family and friends, Nathan founded his own nonprofit animal rights organization-- Mercy For Animals. Two years later in 1999 he would have a second member.

There was a local animal abuse case at the nearby high school. The agriculture teacher who owned a hog farm brought in a bucket of day-old piglets to be used in dissection projects for the class. As one of the piglets was still alive--vocalizing, blinking and stressed, a student from the teacher's hog farm took the piglet by
the leg and slammed her head into the concrete in front of the class. Her skull was broken, she was bleeding out of her mouth and gasping for air. Two students were so appalled that they managed to take the piglet to a vegetarian teacher who was also an animal rights activist. She took the piglet to be euthanized at the local veterinarian. She also contacted PETA to try to get animal cruelty charges pressed against the teacher and student.

Naturally in this local farming community it became a big deal. The account appeared in the papers and on TV. Soon it galvanized two groups -- those concerned about animal issues and on the other side the local hog farming
community who rallied behind the hog farmer teacher and the student.

As expected when it went to trial, it was dismissed the very first day because it was considered standard agricutural practice to kill baby piglets in this manner. Ohio and at least 30 other states consider this horrible way to kill a piglet standard agricultural procedure. The cruelty charges were dismissed and the
compassionate animal activist teacher lost her job.

For Nathan and this teacher this case illustrated a real need on a local level for a voice for farmed animals. They started the organization not just for the piglet but hers was a face for a larger national problem. They believed there was need for local efforts for national problems and thus Mercy for Animals
started out as a very small organization in Urbana, Ohio. In 2001 it grew to be a statewide organization after they did their first two egg farm investigations.

So now Mercy for Animals was "officially" launched with 15-year-old Nathan and a fired teacher. There were zero dollars in their account and zero names on their mailing list. Though the teacher is no longer with the organization, at its founding, it was really just the two of them to begin with.

Today the organization has really grown and Nathan believes membership to be about 10,000. There are only two full-time staff members, himself and Daniel Hauff in Chicago. There are volunter coodinators in all the major cities of Ohio and core volunteer activists who help out.

When asked what was the hardest part of running the group, he responded "Keeping our spirits high when dealing with depressing issues every day. We're constantly having to take photos and videos of animals suffering in the most horrific ways and then reviewing them. Just finding the motivation and inspiration to continue while primarly promoting a vegan diet. I think a lot of people get frustrated because it's something without a big victory at the end of the day. It's important to identify small victories, every time someone is inspired to be a vegetarian or vegan or just becomes aware of these issues. Planting seeds that may later grow and lead to a more compassionate lifestyle. I find that very rewarding. Animal cruelty isn't an issue people tend to want to think or talk about. But it's certainly something that isn't going to go away if we all just close our eyes and ears to it.

Also, for a small organization, we wear many different hats. From being spokespeople
to developing materials, to doing investigations, to organizing events, it's a lot. But really I do enjoy it and I can't see myself doing anything else."

God bless you Nathan, Daniel, and all your helpers. We are indebted to you for trying to make us adopt humane and compassionate concerns particularly for farmed animal issues. This is no small undertaking because the lack of concern or ignorance re it is pervasive in our farming culture generally and in our slaughter
house practices as well.