Ohio has been the birthplace of some great people. Edison, the great
inventor was born here. So was John Glenn who pioneered space and Neil Armstrong who first walked on the moon. In fact Armstrong and I are the same age
though sadly we lost him recently. Then there are the Wright Brothers who owned
a bicycle shop until they decided it was time to look skyward to think about
flying and then became pioneers in that venue. I even enjoy as you may- noting
some of the movie stars who were born in our respective states. Two Ohioans come
to mind and wouldn't you know --they are heartthrobs- Clark Gable and Robert
Urich. I particularly relate to Robert Urich because he shared my ethnicity. Sadly,
he died too soon from cancer.
But despite all these wonderful people and others, I am even more proud of
one young man who 15 years ago started a movement for abused farm animals.
His name is Nathan Runkle and he was born in rural southern Ohio which is
dotted with farms. After witnessing farm animal cruelty first hand, he would
start a campaign of compassion for them and his fledgling organization would be
called Mercy for Animals (MFA).
In Compassionate Living, the magazine put out by Mercy for Animals, Runkle tells the story of how it started with the tragic happening to one little
piglet. That morning fifteen years ago in Graham High School in Paris, Ohio the students
were gathering for the day's lesson in dissection. This was part of the
agricultural studies of the high school curriculam in this rural farm area where Runkle lived.
The teacher was a pig farmer and he brought to class with him a bucket full
of dead piglets which he had killed that morning. But moments before the
dissection lesson was to start, it was discovered that one of the piglets was still alive.
She lifted her little head up and began vocalizing. A student who had worked on the
teacher's farm stepped forward and grabbed the baby piglet and slammed her headfirst into
the ground. This class of farmers' children were stunned and disgusted.
The little piglet was slammed again, and even though bleeding from the
mouth and her skull severely fractured, she clung to life. One student could take no
more, and grabbed the piglet and rushed down the hall to find a teacher known for
compassion. She immediately took the piglet to a veterinarian where the little piglet
was humanely euthanized. It is obvious to me that this compassionate student must have
been Nathan Runkle, but he doesn't reveal this in the telling of this obviously
happening. I could not help wondering if I would have had the courage to
do what he did.
Days later charges were brought against the teacher and the student, but
not surprisingly, the charges were dropped and dismissed. Why? Because of our
broken country's legal system which fails to protect farm animals from abuse.
Runkle observed: "Ohio, like the majority of US states, exempts an act of
cruelty to a farmed animal from legal prosecution if it is considered standard
agricultural practice." Reading about so many "standard agricultural practices" over the years, I
am truly ashamed of the people who introduced them and of the people who blindly
accept and follow them.
There would be no justice for that little piglet or the millions like her
because this act of cruelty is considered "standard agricultural practice." Perhaps it was
at this moment that a light bulb flashed in Runkle's mind. He must have realized that
something must be done about this -and just maybe, he would be the one to do it.
In fact, he himself wrote: "This sickening case, which unfolded virtually
in my own backyard, compelled me to act. Only 15 years old at the time, and armed
only with a burning motivation to help stop the suffering of farmed animals, I took
action." A few short months later, Mercy for Animals was born.
Now 15 years later and an anniversary celebration of compassion. Together
with a crew of dedicated volunteers and supporters, MFA was able to bring many
animal abusers to justice. They were able to secure dozens of criminal convictions
against those who beat, kicked, and tortured farm animals.
Their work has led to helping pass precedent-setting state laws banning
some of the most cruel factory farming practices and even sometimes rescuing hundreds
of factory animals from lives of suffering and misery.
And not least of all, they have inspired millions of people to adopt a
vegan diet which spared the lives of countless animals. I am proud to be one of them.
Runkle looks back happily at the accomplishments born of a resolve some 15
years ago in an Ohio farming community where he witnessed farm animal suffering
first hand. Now he says, that with the help of compassionate people and valued
members of his organization, he is looking ahead to the next 15 years with great
excitement in which "..... we will prevail in bringing about a society in which all
animals are treated
with the respect and compassion they so rightly deserve. The future is
ours for the shaping. Let's create something beautiful."
I love his last remark. Indeed, caring and doing something about suffering
animals and/or people is CREATING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL.