About Mercy For Animals
About Mercy For Animals
INSPIRING COMPASSION. ENDING CRUELTY.
Our mission is to end industrial animal agriculture by constructing a just and sustainable food system.
Imagine a world free of cruelty, a world in which we nurture our bodies, minds, and spirits with wholesome, healthy food that is kind to animals and sustainable for our planet. Mercy For Animals believes that world is possible. In fact, it is inevitable if we work together to elevate humanity to its fullest potential.
We are on the front lines fighting to protect farmed animals. From factory farms to corporate boardrooms, courts of justice to courts of public opinion, Mercy For Animals is there to speak up against cruelty and for compassion. Read our three-year strategic plan to learn more.
MEET THE BOARD
Neysa Colizzi is a lifelong animal lover and longtime vegan. Neysa leverages her expertise in change management, strategy execution, and behavioral science to further the missions of animal-protection and food-innovation organizations. Professionally, Neysa helps large companies realize and sustain large-scale change and strategic transformations. Neysa holds master’s degrees in business and engineering. She has done nonprofit work around the world and served on a number of nonprofit boards in education, community development, and animal protection.
Michael Pellman Rowland is an impact expert and board member at Baseline Wealth Management. He provides the full spectrum of sustainability and impact investment advice, emphasizing climate and food systems. Michael is a frequent public speaker and has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Financial Times, and Institutional Investor. He was selected for the InvestmentNews 40 Under 40 list of top wealth advisors and the Forbes inaugural listing of America’s Top Next-Generation Wealth Advisors. He served as a founding member of the Forbes Impact Investing Community and wrote a column covering sustainable food companies for Forbes. He is also an advisor for The Good Food Institute and the EAT Foundation.
Lisa Feria is managing director of Stray Dog Capital, one of the most prolific and recognized venture capital funds in the food-tech market. With over 45 investments in Israel, New Zealand, and the United States, United Kingdom, and Netherlands, Stray Dog Capital invests in early-stage food, food-tech, and biotech companies that will transform our food system. Lisa brings more than 20 years of experience in food operations and consumer packaged goods and has led billion-dollar brands in multinational companies, such as Procter & Gamble and General Mills. Lisa holds a master’s in business administration from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. A Kauffman fellow (Class 22), Lisa currently serves on the National Advisory Council on Innovation & Entrepreneurship, a federal advisory committee to the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has also been selected twice to the Top 100 Most Influential Latinas list.
Alexis Fox is the CEO of Lighter, an influential technology company that helps the world eat better. Alexis has dedicated her life to fixing our broken food system. She has worked in the movement as an attorney, a political leader, and an entrepreneur. She also spent three years as an adjunct professor of leadership at Emerson College.
Tyson-Lord Gray is a visiting assistant professor of law at Boston University School of Law where he teaches environmental law. His research lies at the intersections of environmental justice, critical race theory, and public policy. He is specifically interested in the influence of society and culture on environmental history and policy. Dr. Gray has also taught courses on cannabis law at University of Arkansas School of Law and on animals and public policy at New York University. He is a member of the New York State Bar, a minister with the National Baptist Convention USA, and a board member at Green the Church.
Siddharth (“Sid”) Hariharan is a managing director at Rothschild & Co, a leading global advisory firm. Sid advises clients across industries on mergers and acquisitions, as well as fundraising. He is especially focused on plant-based businesses and helping them access funding and monetization opportunities. Sid is a passionate vegan and hopes to engender a kind and compassionate planet.
Liza Heavener serves as the chief operating officer of NEXUS. After being a NEXUS member for many years, Liza was tapped to chair the NEXUS Working Group on Animal Welfare and Biodiversity Conservation. She had spent the previous decade on Capitol Hill, running campaign strategy and grassroots outreach.
As a founding member of DeforestACTION, Liza coordinated the launch of a new orangutan rehabilitation center in the Bornean rainforests. Her work is featured in Rise of the Eco-Warrior, an internationally acclaimed documentary and TV series. Liza serves as an advisor to the Millennial Action Project, Well Beings charity, Eastern Mennonite University, and White Coat Waste. She has spoken at conferences and events around the world.
Jaime Surenkamp is the founder of Saucy Cluckers, an award-winning Boulder-based restaurant and food truck serving up delicious vegan chick’n wings, wraps, and totchos. With a 20-year career in hospitality technology sales, Jaime has built deep relationships with some of the largest and most influential restaurants in America. A longtime supporter of Mercy For Animals, Jaime served as our director of corporate outreach from 2013 through 2014 and was part of the team that worked with Nestlé to create the most comprehensive corporate animal welfare policy at that time. Now, as a board member, she aims to continue to help create a kinder world through education and action. Jaime also serves as a senior advisor for The Good Food Institute.
Ashley Vuu serves as a leader in Deloitte’s M&A human capital practice. Her background includes advanced expertise in human resources and M&A, which she draws from in her role as a strategic advisor to global clients. When possible, she also enjoys supporting Deloitte’s broader DEI strategy. Born in marginalized circumstances, Ashley earned full-ride academic scholarships through her graduate degrees. She now advocates kindness and equity for vulnerable populations. Her leadership dedication to these causes has been awarded by the Big Brothers Big Sisters, Nancy Walton Laurie Leadership Institute, and YMCA of Metro Chicago. When she is not working or volunteering, Ashley enjoys spending time with her sons and pursuing her passion for long-distance running fueled by plants.
OUR LEADERSHIP TEAM
Changing Hearts. Changing Minds. Changing the World.
Leah Garcés is the CEO and president of Mercy For Animals and author of Grilled: Turning Adversaries into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry. With more than 20 years of leadership experience in the animal protection movement, she has partnered with corporations, communities, and governments on her mission to build a better food system.
She is the founder of our Transfarmation program, working to transition factory farmers from industrial animal agriculture to production of specialty crops, such as mushrooms and hemp. Leah oversaw international campaigns in 14 countries at the World Society for the Protection of Animals and launched Compassion in World Farming in the United States. Her work has been featured in national and international media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, VICE, and the Chicago Tribune. She has presented at global forums, including TEDx, RIO+10, and the World Health Organization’s Global Forum for Health Research.
Susan Lane is senior vice president of development at Mercy For Animals. She oversees and manages fundraising strategy, development, and execution. Through all channels of fundraising, including annual fund, major gifts, planned giving, corporate and foundation relations, events, donor stewardship, and development operations, her team’s mission is to engage donors and prospects in a way that both educates and inspires them to give. Susan has served as assistant vice president of development for Florida International University, chief development officer for the College of Medicine at Michigan State University, and vice president of planned giving for Fidelity Charitable Services. She is a certified fundraising executive (CFRE) and passionate advocate for the nonprofit community. Susan is married to Tom, an estate and tax attorney, and is the proud mother of Emily, a recent law school graduate. Susan is an avid reader and enjoys traveling, music, theater, and gatherings with friends and family.
Lucas Alvarenga is senior vice president of strategy, impact, and research at Mercy For Animals. Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Lucas has extensive communication and marketing experience and co-founded an e-commerce company. When Lucas decided to dedicate his life to reducing suffering, he launched pro-vegan projects in Brazil, including the 21-Day Meatless Challenge in partnership with the Brazilian Vegetarian Society. Lucas joined Mercy For Animals on his 15th anniversary as a vegetarian. He led the organization’s growth in South America’s largest country for three years. In his current role, Lucas uses this experience to build our work internationally and oversee our impact evaluation and research programs. Lucas lives in São Paulo with his girlfriend and four lovely nonhuman rescued babies.
Jesse Marks is senior vice president of programs at Mercy For Animals. Part of the animal protection movement since 2002, Jesse has over two decades of experience in advocacy, campaigns, and communications for animals. Originally from Australia, Jesse was the director of farmed animal advocacy at Animals Australia, where he helped pioneer corporate engagement in the region, develop innovative outreach tactics, and build cutting-edge digital advocacy tools. Having moved numerous times to be where he could best serve animals, Jesse now calls home wherever his wife, Karen, and their rescue dog, Nina, are.
Mamta Jain Valderrama is senior vice president of operations at Mercy For Animals, overseeing finance and technology. Before Mercy For Animals, Mamta spent 10 years in healthcare operations and has led multimillion-dollar income reports. An activist in her free time, she took a break from corporate America to write a book about human trafficking that became an Amazon bestseller. Born and raised in the Jain culture, she grew up with the principle of ahimsa and was eager to join Mercy For Animals. Originally from Los Angeles, Mamta lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband and daughter.
Jodi Medoff is general counsel at Mercy For Animals, overseeing legal affairs and advising on all legal matters that arise concerning the organization’s programs, operations, compliance, and corporate governance. With more than 16 years in legal practice, including 10 years of in-house counsel work, Jodi brings a breadth and depth of corporate and transactional experience. She also brings experience in law enforcement. Jodi received her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, her master’s in business from Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, and her bachelor’s in psychology from Brandeis University.
Travis Sitzlar is vice president of technology at Mercy For Animals. He leads a team of developers and PMOs dedicated to helping Mercy For Animals achieve its vision through information technology. With over 20 years’ experience creating and managing high-performing technology teams around the globe, Travis has supported organizations ranging from local, regional, and international mission-driven nonprofits to emerging startups and multinational corporations backed by private equity. He is delighted to see technology play a role in transforming people’s perception of plant-based foods and looks forward to a world where plant-based eating is the norm. Travis and his wife, Stephanie, live in the Tampa Bay area in a home ruled by their two dogs, rescue bird, and cat.
Chris Liptrot is global vice president of corporate engagement, providing Mercy For Animals’ global teams with strategic guidance. For nearly a decade, they have negotiated policy with the world’s largest food companies and created strategies that have landed hundreds of corporate policies benefiting farmed animals globally. Their experience in international team management and passion for creating a sustainable, thriving animal protection community are vital to our aim of building people power to drive change. Chris is based in Philadelphia.
Luiza Schneider serves as vice president of investigations at Mercy For Animals. She works with our brave investigations team to expose the cruelty at factory farms. Luiza joined Mercy For Animals in 2017 as investigations manager. Previously, she had worked for years as an animal welfare expert and inspector in Brazil, visiting and reporting animal abuse at hundreds of slaughterhouses, factory farms, puppy mills, and vivisection labs.
Sage Evans is vice president of development at Mercy For Animals. She brings over 20 years of progressive experience in fundraising leadership and strategy with nonprofits and local government agencies. A graduate of Grand View University with a degree in philanthropic studies, Sage has focused her career on improving donor relations and mission alignment through stewardship, annual giving, prospect research, and development operations. Sage resides in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Jon, and their three rescue cats. She has a passion for travel and enjoys searching for hidden locations and treasures around the globe.
Henry Lucero is vice president of donor experience at Mercy For Animals. In his more than 25 years of working with nonprofits, Henry has raised over $300 million from grants, individual and corporate donors, and special events. He spent eight years as deputy executive director for development at Project Inform, an organization dedicated to ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and two years as the first development director at PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support), working to keep people and their companion animals together. Henry also served for five years as planning and development director for LifeLong Medical Care, a community-based health center in Alameda County, and later as an account executive for Blackbaud, the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good. He joined Mercy For Animals as director of events before stepping into his current role. Henry resides in Los Angeles with his husband, Derek, and can often be found cheering for the home team at Dodger Stadium or walking with their Labrador retriever, Linus.
Paula Cardoso is our vice president of legal, Brazil. She joined Mercy For Animals in 2017 as a staff attorney and now oversees all compliance and strategic litigation matters in Brazil. Paula has more than 13 years in legal practice, having worked at law firms and as a pro bono attorney for activists from various social justice movements. She holds a law degree from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo and an LLM degree in animal law from Lewis & Clark Law School. Paula is also a specialist in business contracts and certified in digital law by Fundação Getúlio Vargas.
Nikunj Sharma is chief executive officer of Mercy For Animals in India. Based in New Delhi, Nikunj provides strategic leadership and guidance for our work in India, including building and managing teams, maintaining collaborative relationships with stakeholders, setting goals, and implementing short- and long-term plans and policies to further the organization’s mission. Nikunj has over 12 years of rich experience in strategizing and leading policy and advocacy initiatives for animal protection campaigns in India and has been part of some of the landmark victories for animals in the country. Nikunj has worked with key influencers, such as parliamentarians, bureaucrats, think tanks, corporations, senior lawyers, and civil society leaders to build strong formal networks. For his extensive work in animal protection, Nikunj has been featured by the BBC, the Newsmakers, NDTV India, Aaj Tak, Times Now, and many more top news outlets.
Fernando Gallart is managing director of Mercy For Animals in Latin America. Based in Mexico with experience building high-performing teams, he provides strategic guidance for our Latin American operations and oversees a growing team of passionate professional activists. Before joining Mercy For Animals, Fernando worked in international business expansion and marketing, helping companies increase their revenue in France, Spain, and Latin America.
AJ Albrecht is managing director of Mercy For Animals in the United States and Canada. She joined Mercy For Animals in 2019 as the organization’s first U.S. government affairs team member, and she built and led the government affairs and public policy team for three years before stepping into her current role. A licensed attorney, AJ is the immediate past chair of the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee, a past chair of the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee, and the founder of the East Orange Animal Alliance. AJ is a frequent speaker on animal advocacy issues and has published on topics relating to our food system, farmed animals, and animal law. Previously, AJ was a legislative attorney with an organization dedicated to companion animal protection. AJ shares her home in Southern California with her spouse, two rescued pit bulls, and a continuous procession of foster dogs.
Kelcey Meadows-Lucas is a senior philanthropy officer at Mercy For Animals, helping our donors fulfill their dreams of ending farmed animal cruelty. Adopting a feisty terrier 18 years ago opened her heart to all animals. Kelcey soon dedicated her life to helping animals. She brings more than a decade of fundraising experience to her position. Kelcey shares her home with her husband and son, rescued dog, and rescued fish.
Caitlin Oates is a philanthropy officer at Mercy For Animals, helping donors make the greatest impact with their giving. Caitlin has concentrated her professional career on her lifelong passion, animal welfare. For the past decade, she has dedicated her life to raising funds to help animals both locally and globally, with a focus on bringing supporters closer to the causes they love most. Caitlin has impacted a wide range of animals in need—from local homeless domestic dogs and cats to lions, tigers, and other exotic animals in abandoned roadside zoos around the world. Caitlin is beyond excited to use her years of expertise to help farmed animals and build a compassionate food system with Mercy For Animals. A graduate of Boston College, Caitlin resides in Watertown, Massachusetts, with her husband, Jeff, and their 12-year-old rescue wheaten terrier, Liam.
Kellie Rattigan is a philanthropy officer at Mercy For Animals. As such, she connects donors to the organization in ways that are meaningful to them to create a just, sustainable food system and a world where animals are respected, protected, and free. Kellie brings more than a decade of fundraising experience to her role and is a certified fundraising executive (CFRE). She holds a master’s in business administration from Florida State University and a bachelor of arts in English and psychology from Boston College, where she also minored in French. Outside work, Kellie is an amateur CrossFitter, a runner, and a yogi, as well as an avid reader, traveler, and writer. She resides in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, with her family.
Jen Wessel is a philanthropy officer at Mercy For Animals, where she helps supporters deepen their connection to Mercy For Animals’ mission and achieve their philanthropic vision. Jen is committed to improving the lives of farmed animals and building a sustainable food system for our planet. She has helped a wide range of animals in need—from wild animals in war-torn zoos to dogs and cats in the meat trade—and is thrilled to concentrate her efforts on industrial animal agriculture. She is most excited to develop strong personal connections with the incredible people driving Mercy For Animals’ mission forward and is honored to work together to bring positive change. A graduate of the University of Dayton, Jen resides in Westerville, Ohio, with her husband, Michael, their son, Theodore, and their pups, Fletcher and April.
Rachel Koretz Caughlin is a philanthropy officer at Mercy For Animals. She loves connecting with donors, learning about their passions, and helping them fulfill their philanthropic goals. Rachel has dedicated much of her career to helping farmed animals and previously served as a development manager at Mercy For Animals. She is very excited to partner with supporters to create a more just food system and a kinder world for animals. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Rachel resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Rich, and their pup, Ro. She enjoys spending time by the water, exploring new nature trails, and trying out all the delicious plant-based food spots in town.
Mikael Roldsgaard Nielsen serves as Mercy For Animals’ director of leadership giving, overseeing the Compassion Collective and ensuring supporters are updated on and engaged with the organization’s work. Mikael has been active in animal protection since 2002 and a part of Mercy For Animals since 2006. He volunteered for six years and has spent the past 11 in key positions for various programs, including corporate engagement, volunteer coordination, veg support, and fundraising.
It was in college when he researched factory farming for a speech class that Mikael learned just how bad things were for animals in our food system. He went vegetarian overnight and vegan a few years later. That was over 24 years ago, and he’s never looked back.
Mikael was born in Aarhus, Denmark, and moved to the United States when he was 10. He double-majored in mathematics and economics at Indiana’s Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, where he graduated with honors. Today he resides with his partner and her daughter in Tampa, Florida. Outside work, Mikael enjoys snowboarding, hiking, paddleboarding, and camping. He is always on board to exchange cute pictures of fur babies, as he also lives with a very photogenic rescued Great Pyrenees named Ralph.
Patrick Sarsfield serves as deputy general counsel at Mercy For Animals and advises the organization on various legal matters, including transactions, development, operations, and compliance. Before joining Mercy For Animals, Patrick represented private clients primarily in commercial litigation matters and served as in-house counsel at a financial institution. Patrick earned his undergraduate degree and law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
YOUR MONEY AT WORK
About 70 cents of every dollar spent by Mercy For Animals goes directly to programs that help animals. The remainder is used to grow our size and capacity so we can help even more animals in the future.