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  • NATHAN RUNKLE: So my name is Nathan Runkle.

  • I'm the founder and executive director of Mercy For Animals.

  • And we are a national, nonprofit animal protection

  • organization.

  • And our mission is to prevent cruelty to farmed animals, and

  • promote compassionate food choices and policies.

  • So I want to talk for a few minutes about how I got

  • involved in animal protection issues.

  • This is me in St. Paris, Ohio, a town of about 2,000 people.

  • I was born on a farm, come from a long heritage of

  • farmers, four generations.

  • In this photo, my father is, I think, breaking all sorts of

  • state and federal laws, potentially--

  • child endangerment.

  • But growing up in this environment, I always had a

  • natural affinity and connection for animals.

  • I spent much of my childhood exploring the nearby creeks

  • and streams and looking at wildlife.

  • And it was our dogs and cats that were the first to teach

  • me that other creatures share our needs and our desires,

  • that they have curiosities, senses of humor.

  • And it wasn't something that I had to study in school.

  • But from a young age, I witnessed the contradictory

  • view that we hold for animals.

  • I saw that our family cared very much about the dogs and

  • cats that we had, but we did not have the same level of

  • compassion or empathy or respect for other animals.

  • So both of my uncles were hunters and

  • trappers and fishermen.

  • So from a young age, I witnessed animals being

  • skinned while they were still alive, having their heads

  • ripped off while they were still alive.

  • And most people in my social circle did not afford those

  • animals much consideration.

  • And that always felt wrong to me.

  • I thought that we could and should do much better.

  • There was a local animal abuse case when I

  • was 15, so in 1999.

  • That is what ultimately led to me founding Mercy For Animals.

  • And it was at a local high school, and there was a

  • teacher there who had an agricultural class.

  • And this teacher also ran a pig farm.

  • Now, one day he brought to school a bucket of day-old

  • piglets to be used in a dissection project.

  • Now, these were piglets that he had tried to kill that

  • morning on his farm.

  • But when he arrived to the school, one of the piglets was

  • still alive.

  • A student in the class who also did part-time work on the

  • teacher's pig farm took the piglet by her hind legs and

  • slammed her head-first into the ground to try

  • to kill this piglet.

  • Now, the piglet didn't die.

  • Her skull was broken.

  • She was bleeding out of her mouth.

  • She's in horrible distress.

  • A few of the students who were appalled by this act of abuse

  • took the dying piglet, left the classroom, and took her to

  • a teacher who was known as being a vegetarian and

  • sympathetic to animal cruelty.

  • That teacher left the school, went to a local vet office,

  • and had the piglet euthanized.

  • Now, following that case, there were two counts of

  • animal cruelty that were filed, one against the student

  • and one against the teacher.

  • Now, the case generated a lot of media attention and

  • controversy in this small farm community.

  • And the pig farming community rallied behind

  • the student and teacher.

  • And they said, we don't want animal advocates coming into

  • our town, telling us how to do our jobs.

  • The very first day of the trial, the cruelty charges

  • were dismissed, because it's considered standard

  • agricultural practice to kill piglets by slamming them

  • head-first into the ground.

  • And in Ohio, like at least 30 other states in this country,

  • if something is considered standard agricultural

  • practice, no matter how cruel it is, it's exempt from

  • cruelty prosecution.

  • So that case illustrated to me that there needed to be a

  • voice for farm animals in this community in Ohio.

  • So since then, Mercy For Animals has grown to having

  • over 100,000 members and supporters.

  • We have five offices across the country.

  • And we work to give a voice to farmed animals in four main

  • areas-- through public education campaigns, through

  • undercover cruelty investigations, through

  • corporate outreach, and legal advocacy efforts.

  • All right, so there you have it.

  • Now, I want to start out by talking a bit about animals

  • and our relationship to animals and

  • why we should care.

  • Now, Dr. Jane Goodall once said, "we have to understand

  • we are not the only beings on this planet with personalities

  • and minds." Now as I'm sure many of you are aware, Dr.

  • Goodall spent about 45 years in Africa living with and

  • studying chimpanzees.

  • She was one of the first researchers to give her

  • subjects names as opposed to numbers.

  • And she started to observe them and find out that many of

  • the traits that we once held so closely as being unique to

  • people are in fact not unique and are very widespread in the

  • animal community--

  • things like culture and empathy and compassion, things

  • like not only using tools, but creating tools.

  • So Dr. Goodall started to tear down these various boundaries.

  • And I think looking at this image really

  • illustrates it so perfectly.

  • We know that other animals feel cold, the cold of this

  • metal, the heat of the sun, that they form relationships

  • and bonds, and that they, too, deserve our consideration.

  • Now, anyone who has shared their homes with dogs or cats

  • knows this.

  • We know how excited they are when we come home, how eager

  • they are for their walks, how playful they are.

  • And this is, again, not something that we had to study

  • animal behavior to know.

  • And the scientific community is finally starting to catch

  • up to what so many of us have known all along.

  • Just this year, the University of Cambridge published the

  • Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness.

  • And essentially, this is the first time that an

  • international group of prominent scientists supported

  • the idea that animals are conscious and aware to the

  • same degree that humans are.

  • Now, this was really earth-shattering for this to

  • come out, because they found that not only do mammals have

  • consciousness and dogs and cats, but birds have the same

  • level of consciousness, and not only birds, but fish, and

  • not only fish, but octopus.

  • So this whole notion, I think, should give all of us pause to

  • really think about our treatment of animals and our

  • obligation to them, and how we can include them in our circle

  • of consideration and ethics.

  • So what we do at Mercy For Animals is help people step

  • back and think about farm animals as individuals with

  • needs, and how we can respect them and do due diligence in

  • protecting their interests.

  • So I want to talk a little bit about who

  • farmed animals are first.

  • This is an image of the wild ancestors of

  • the modern-day chicken.

  • Now, most people just think of chickens and

  • they think of barnyards.

  • And Of course, these birds once lived wild in the jungles

  • of Southeast Asia.

  • And they lived in a world that was very rich

  • with sound and color.

  • And they lived in social groups of about a dozen birds.

  • And they were very active.

  • Now, we manipulated these animals to becoming almost

  • genetic Frankensteins of what they once were.

  • And I'll talk about that a little bit later.

  • But we see that, even through hundreds or thousands of years

  • of domestication, these animals still have the same

  • behaviors, the same desires.

  • These are egg-laying hens that live their entire lives in

  • tiny cages.

  • And this is a photograph of them about a month after they

  • were rescued.

  • And we see that these birds still want to perch, roost,

  • dust-bathe.

  • They spend the night in trees.

  • Now, the more that we know about birds, the more respect

  • we should have for them.

  • We all know the term "the watchful mother hen," and this

  • is a term that these birds really have earned.

  • They will give their lives to protect their young.

  • They have a very close bond with their young.

  • They actually start to chirp and communicate with them

  • while they're still in the eggs in the last few days

  • before hatching.

  • We know that birds can recognize 100 other birds

  • based on their distinct facial features.

  • I think if most of us saw a group of 100 chickens, we'd

  • think that they all looked pretty similar.

  • But to them, they look as unique and different as each

  • of us do in this room to us.

  • We know that they have a language that

  • is unique to them.

  • We know at least 30 different calls that they have that are

  • unique for overhead predators versus ground predators.

  • They have a more intimate tone and inflection that they use

  • with birds that they consider to be their friends.

  • We know that chickens understand that recently

  • hidden objects still exist.

  • They're not rocket science, but this is beyond the ability

  • of small human children.

  • That has led Dr. Bernard Rollin to state, "contrary to

  • what one may hear from the industry, chickens are complex

  • behaviorally, do quite well in learning, show a rich social

  • organization, and have a diverse repertoire of calls.

  • Anyone who has kept barnyard chickens recognizes their

  • distinct differences in personality." And of course,

  • anyone who has spent any time with chickens knows that there

  • are some who like the attention of people, who will

  • follow you around and peck at your toes, wanting treats, and

  • others who would prefer to be on their own.

  • Now, the scientific community is starting to catch up to

  • this notion.

  • This is an illustration that appeared in "The Washington

  • Post" in 2005, where the scientific community called

  • for a remapping of the bird brain, saying that about 90%

  • of the over-2,000 terms that we use in referring to the

  • structure of a bird brain is outdated.

  • It needs to be reevaluated.

  • So what we see on the right-hand side of this

  • illustration is the traditional

  • view of a bird's brain.

  • And we see that most of it we thought was just used for

  • instinctive behaviors, that birds were going around and

  • just acting by instincts, with a very small amount being used

  • for cognitive behavior or learning.

  • But our new view, which we see in the middle here, is that

  • over 75% of the bird's brain is used for complex cognitive

  • behavior or learning.

  • Now, pigs are also

  • intelligent, sensitive creatures.

  • Some people say that they're the fourth-most intelligent

  • creatures on the face of the planet.

  • We know that these animals have strong bonds that they

  • also form with their young.

  • We know that they have a unique language.

  • We know of at least 20 different grunts or oinks that

  • they make that mean very distinct things.

  • And we know that they have long-term memories.

  • There was a study done at Penn State University.

  • They took a group of pigs and they presented

  • them with three objects.

  • One was a dumbbell, one was a Frisbee, and one was a ball.

  • And they taught the pigs to pick up the Frisbee, to sit

  • next to the dumbbell, and to jump over the ball.

  • And they took those pigs away for three years, without ever

  • seeing those objects.

  • Three years later, they brought them back, presented

  • them with the objects, and 100% of the pigs, without any

  • retraining or prompting, remembered those behaviors

  • that they were taught three years before.

  • Now, Dr. Donald Broom said, "pigs have the cognitive

  • ability to be sophisticated.

  • Even more so than dogs and certainly three-year-olds."

  • He's talking about three-year-old humans.

  • Anyone who has children or nieces or nephews knows just

  • how intelligent three-year-olds are, how they

  • have a sense of humor and curiosity.

  • To think that that same level of thinking is going on in the

  • mind of a pig should give us all pause to

  • how we treat them.

  • Now, researchers have taught pigs how to play video games

  • using remote-controlled joysticks, showing that they

  • understand cause and effect.

  • Now, I have mixed feelings about bringing an entire other