Our mission is to construct a compassionate food system by reducing suffering and ending the exploitation of animals for food.
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.
Nathan Runkle is the founder and former president of MFA. He founded the organization at age 15, after an animal abuse case in his local farming community in rural Ohio.
Nathan has worked alongside elected officials, corporate executives, farmers, and celebrities to pass legislation, raise public awareness about veganism, and implement animal welfare policy changes. Through his work with MFA, Nathan has been featured in hundreds of news outlets, including on ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, 20/20, and CNN and in USA Today, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times.
He is the author of the 2017 best-selling book Mercy For Animals: One Man’s Quest to Inspire Compassion and Improve the Lives of Farm Animals.
Michael Pellman RowlandTreasurer
Michael Pellman Rowland is a partner and co-head of impact investments at Alpenrose Wealth Management. He provides clients with a full spectrum of sustainable and impact-investing advice, covering both public and private markets globally. Michael is a frequent public speaker and has been featured in 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 included in the Forbes inaugural listing of America’s Top Next-Generation Wealth Advisors. He was also selected as a founding member of the Forbes Impact Investing Community. For the past four years he’s written a column on Forbes.com, covering sustainable food companies. He is also an advisor for The Good Food Institute and the EAT Foundation.
Derek Coons is a founding board member of MFA, overseeing the organization’s growth and success for over a decade and working diligently to maximize efficiency through his expert guidance. A graduate of Miami University with a degree in computer science and systems analysis, Derek actively combines his passion for technology with his passion for animals. In 2007, Derek was the first person honored with MFA’s Hope Award for his dedication to defending farmed animals.
Lisa Feria is the CEO of Stray Dog Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage, mission-driven companies that aim to take animals out of the supply chain with innovative products and services. With over 26 investments, Stray Dog Capital is one of the leading early-stage investors in the plant-based market. Before Stray Dog Capital, Lisa spent over 15 years in general management, operations, and engineering at blue-chip companies like General Mills and Procter & Gamble. She has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Lisa spent over 14 years focused on food operations and consumer packaged goods and led marketing, profit-and-loss management, and strategy for billion-dollar brands. In addition, Lisa is a Kauffman fellow and an active board member at several portfolio companies and the Great Plains SPCA shelter.
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, political leader, and entrepreneur. She also spent three years as an adjunct professor of leadership at Emerson College.
Tyson-Lord Gray is a research associate at the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty and an adjunct assistant professor at NYU Stern School of Business. His research lies at the intersections of environmental ethics, 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 taught courses on animals and public policy at NYU, as well as presented numerous papers on animal rights at academic conferences. He is a member of the New York State Bar, a minister with the National Baptist Convention, 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 comes to Mercy For Animals with a long career in hospitality sales. She has worked with leading businesses such as OpenTable, Daiya Foods, and HotSchedules. Through this work, Jaime has built deep relationships with some of the biggest and most influential restaurants in America. A longtime supporter of Mercy For Animals, Jaime served as director of corporate outreach from 2013 to 2014. She is committed to creating a humane world by reducing animal suffering, increasing plant-based offerings, and ensuring fellow advocates are able to work in an inclusive, safe, and open environment.
Ashley Bugeja Vuu
Ashley Bugeja Vuu is the head of human resources for Second City and has deep experience in change management and diversity. Originally from Detroit, Ashley was the first person in her family to earn master’s and bachelor’s degrees. For more than 10 years she has advocated for the environment and underprivileged people of color, citing a lifestyle of “kindness to the vulnerable,” which includes a vegan lifestyle.
Ashley has held HR leadership positions at some of the largest tech firms, including Infosys, Unisys, and Computer Science Corporation. She also holds a Global Professional in Human Resources certification and is fluent in Spanish and English. When she is not working or volunteering, Ashley enjoys spending time with her family and pursuing her passion for long-distance running fueled entirely by plants.
Changing Hearts. Changing Minds. Changing the World.
Leah Garcés is president of Mercy For Animals. She has been fighting for better food and farming systems for nearly 20 years as a leader in the animal protection movement. 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. She is the author of Grilled: Turning Adversaries into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry from Bloomsbury Publishing. Leah’s work has grabbed headlines in the New York Times, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Vice magazine, the Chicago Tribune, and other national media outlets. Leah also serves on the advisory councils of Encompass and Seattle Food Tech. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, three kids, and two cats. Learn more about her vision for the organization here.
Susan LaneSenior Vice President of Development
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 AlvarengaSenior Vice President, Strategy, Impact and Research
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.
Melanie HeymansSenior Vice President, People and Culture
Melanie Heymans is senior vice president of people and culture at Mercy For Animals. Melanie and her team are responsible for overall administration of the people operations functions for all our offices. They drive initiatives that support and strengthen our organizational culture and ensure a diverse and inclusive work environment for all team members. Originally from Austria, Melanie moved to the United States in 2010 and has worked with several mission-driven and nonprofit organizations to build strong people operations functions and foster supportive, diverse, and inclusive cultures. Melanie lives in Santa Monica with her husband, Stijn, and their terrier mix, Poppy, and enjoys travel, good food, exploring nature, and living an active and compassionate life.
John SeberSenior Vice President, Advocacy
John Seber is senior vice president of advocacy at Mercy For Animals. He provides strategic leadership to our government affairs, investigations, and food policy teams around the world. Previously John was our vice president of legal affairs. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling, cooking, and hiking with his wife and companion animals.
Jesse MarksSenior Vice President, Engagement
Jesse Marks is senior vice president of engagement at Mercy For Animals. He oversees the public engagement, corporate engagement, and volunteer program teams. Part of the animal protection movement since 2002, Jesse has over a decade of professional experience in advocacy, campaigns, and communications for animals. Originally from Australia, Jesse was once 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 ValderramaSenior Vice President, Operations
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.
Daina BrayGeneral Counsel
General Counsel Daina Bray advises Mercy For Animals and its directors, management, and staff on all legal issues that arise in the organization’s programs and operations. With 15 years in legal practice, including five years as lead attorney for a major international animal protection nonprofit, Daina brings a breadth of nonprofit, international, and animal law experience to Mercy For Animals. Daina is a past chair of the American Bar Association Animal Law Committee (2017–2018), the current vice chair of the Tennessee Bar Association Animal Law Section, and a Fulbright scholar. She received her law degree from Stanford Law School and her bachelor’s in international studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a Morehead scholar.
Travis SitzlarVice President of Technology
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 LiptrotVice President of Corporate Engagement
Chris Liptrot is vice president of corporate engagement, providing strategic guidance for Mercy For Animals’ global teams. Chris has devised campaign strategies and led negotiations to secure animal welfare policies from hundreds of the world’s largest companies. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Katie, one adopted dog, and two rescued chinchillas.
Luiza SchneiderVice President of Investigations
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.
Nikunj SharmaChief Executive Officer of Mercy For Animals in India
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.
Kelcey Meadows-LucasSenior Philanthropy Officer
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.
Tracy KeysPhilanthropy Officer
Tracy Keys is a Mercy For Animals philanthropy officer, helping donors make the greatest impact with their giving. Prior to joining our team, Tracy was executive director at the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation. She received her bachelor’s in comparative literature from the University of California at Irvine. Her passion for animal protection began after reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation and participating in campus vivisection protests. She lives in Laguna Beach with her husband, two mixed-breed cats, and a Shih Tzu rescued from the local shelter where she volunteers every Sunday.
Caitlin OatesPhilanthropy Officer
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.
Mikael Roldsgaard NielsenDirector of Leadership Giving
Mikael Roldsgaard Nielsen serves as director of leadership giving at Mercy For Animals, where he oversees the leadership-giving program and spends his days working with supporters to ensure they are updated on and engaged with the organization’s work and mission. Mikael has been active in animal protection since 2002 and a part of Mercy For Animals since 2006. He spent six years as a volunteer and has served for the past nine as a staffer in various programs. Today he resides with his partner, her nine-year-old, and a very photogenic rescued Great Pyrenees named Ralph in Tampa, Florida, where he is near his family (and the beach). Mikael enjoys snowboarding, hiking, paddleboarding, and camping and tries to practice daily meditation.
Nearly 79 cents of every dollar spent by Mercy For Animals goes directly to programs that save animals. The remainder is used to grow MFA’s size and capacity so we can help even more animals in the future.