Vandhana Bala serves as general counsel for Mercy For Animals and oversees the organization’s legal initiatives, which include working with investigations department staff and local law enforcement for criminal prosecutions of farmed animal abusers, developing lawsuits and initiating complaints to governmental agencies relating to illegal agribusiness operations, assisting with the organization’s corporate governance and administrative issues, ensuring regulatory compliance for MFA’s community outreach activities, lecturing on legal issues relating to farmed animals, and supervising the legal intern program in Los Angeles.
Since joining MFA in 2011, Vandhana has worked on several investigations that have led to successful criminal prosecutions of farmed animal abusers, including the first-ever felony conviction for cruelty to factory-farmed poultry and charges of criminal animal abuse brought against two different factory farm owners. She also filed a successful petition with the Federal Trade Commission regarding false advertising by an egg factory farm. Vandhana has presented several talks to bar associations and law schools in the Chicago area, and was a speaker at the Animal Rights National Conference. She has also been interviewed by numerous media outlets on ag-gag bills and MFA’s undercover investigations.
An honors graduate of the Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana, Vandhana received her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She became licensed to practice law in 2000, and is currently admitted to practice in Illinois, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Vandhana began her legal career at a global law firm in Chicago, Illinois, where she spent five years as a litigation associate, gaining considerable experience in both state and federal litigation, and often serving on a team of national counsel in multidistrict class action lawsuits. Vandhana primarily defended large, multinational corporations in products liability and mass tort cases, and has extensive experience in all stages of trial court and appellate litigation. Vandhana later started her own practice through which she routinely handled a wide range of commercial matters, companion animal issues, and criminal cases.
Of South Indian descent, Vandhana grew up in a primarily vegetarian household. She became actively interested in animal rights after reading about animal protection issues in law school. Vandhana soon became committed to vegetarianism, and spent the next decade volunteering and working at animal shelters and animal hospitals in New York, Minnesota, and Illinois.
A staunch advocate of veganism, Vandhana aspires to see the day when animals are viewed as more than mere items of personal property in the eyes of the law. To that end, she is committed to using her legal background and training to combat farmed animals’ needless suffering at the hands of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. In 2011, Vandhana coauthored an article entitled “Legal Implications of Providing Veterinary Hospice and Palliative Care,” published in the journal Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice.
Vandhana currently resides in Los Angeles with her beloved rescued canine companion, Shivani.