Mercy for Animals?

A two-part series on animal rights, factory farming, the industrialization of food, and life and death in cages
September 22, 2015 Updated: September 22, 2015

Part two: What is a better model for food production? 

The Indian was kin to all living things and he gave to all creatures equal rights with himself. Everything of earth was loved and reverenced.
— Chief Luther Standing Bear

We pick up where we left off with Matt Rice, with Mercy For Animals. 

MR: At MFA, we believe consumers have a right to know how their food is being produced and how animals on modern farms are treated so they can make informed choices. And we believe the animals should have their stories told. That’s why we conduct undercover investigations and pull the curtain back on this secretive and cruel industry. Investigators’ jobs are to be the eyes and ears of the public, who are kept largely in the dark about how animals are treated before they reach our plates.

People who care about animals can help by getting involved with Mercy For Animals and sharing our videos and petitions on Facebook and other social media platforms. The good news is the vast majority of people agree that cruelty to animals is unacceptable. While the factory farming industry has a lot of money and political influence, we have the power of compassionate people on our side. But for things to get better for animals, people need to use their voices to speak up for those who have no voice at all.

SBB: Matt, What is a better model for food production?

MR: The factory farming industry and America’s addiction to eating massive amounts of meat, milk, and eggs, is having a devastating impact on human health and the environment, not to mention animal welfare. But luckily, there is a very simple solution—eat more plant-based foods and less animal-based foods.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization recommend people transition to vegan diets to stave off the worst effects of climate change and global hunger. That’s because raising crops to fatten farmed animals is an inefficient use of land, water, and resources that could be used instead to feed hungry people.

And leading nutritionists, from John Hopkins School of Public Health to the American Dietetic Association, agree that people who eat more plants and less animals tend to live longer and avoid many of the deadliest diseases, including heart disease, many types of cancer, diabetes, and more.

Indeed, the future of food is vegan. By simply choosing alternatives to your favorite foods, each of us can live longer, healthier lives that are less damaging to the planet and the animals with whom we share it. 

SBB: What can people do to help?

MR: You know about the cruelty farmed animals endure. You may also know about the health benefits of vegan eating. But a lot of people don’t. Passing out Mercy For Animals booklets or sharing our materials online is a great way to share what you know with others.

And guess what? Research studies have found that sharing this type of information is really powerful. It inspires people to change what they eat and what they think about farmed animals. One of the most impactful videos MFA has produced is called “What Cody Saw.” It tells the story of a brave MFA undercover investigator and what he saw when he went behind the scenes at some of the country’s largest factory farms. Sharing this type of video is a great way to raise awareness about the plights of farmed animals.

SBB: Do you have any events planned in the next four weeks?

MR: Starting on September 21 MFA is launching a 2-month long tour at McDonald’s restaurants across the country. Every day, we’ll be in a different city protesting McDonald’s cruel treatment of chickens used in its McNuggets. The eye-catching protests will feature “Abby the Abused Chicken”—calling on McDonald’s to implement meaningful animal welfare policies to prevent egregious abuse in its supply chain.

The eye-catching protest—part of a multi-city tour and a series of demonstrations against the iconic brand—follows the release of hidden-camera footage taken at a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget supplier.

Over 200,000 consumers have signed our petition calling on McDonald’s to swiftly adopt meaningful animal welfare policies to end many of the worst forms of animal abuse and neglect in its supply chain. To view the undercover investigation, and sign the petition, visit

SBB: Thank you, Matt.


According to a United Nations report dated Nov. 29, 2006, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems,” senior UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official Henning Steinfeld said. “Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”

Cattle-rearing is also a major source of land and water degradation, according to the FAO report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow–Environmental Issues and Options,” of which Mr. Steinfeld is the senior author.

“The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level,” it warns. “The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth’s increasingly scarce water resources.” 

You can not erase your footsteps, but your footsteps can erase you.
— Zuni Indian proverb


We are the only species to look upon our planet from outer space, enabling the astronauts to see man-made toxic gas clouds hovering over the earth. We cross oceans in palatial cruise ships, while the Pacific Ocean has a floating island of Styrofoam—white trash half the size of the state of Louisiana. We have built impressive dams and waterways for our country’s abundant water resources, yet our water is polluted by toxic chemicals from factory farming and industrial fracking.

We stand at a time and place in history that could be transformational for a planet and a species.

Can we, at this late stage of our earth’s planetary plunder, drive the money changers from the sacred temple of nature’s rich and enriching national treasures?

It is not a question of “Do we want to?” It now may be a matter of “Do we still have time?” Can we hear the sound of the tree falling in the forest? Yes, we can. It’s the piercing sound of the cash register. We are here by invitation. Let us leave the “here” here for the children.

Shelley B. Blank has worked with major national and international newspapers as a journalist as well as a corporate executive. He has produced programs for Public Radio and lectured on modern multimedia communications and technology.