For this episode of Press Play we talked with Erica Meier, Executive Director of Compassion Over Killing. They have been exposing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting vegan eating since 1995, and you can find their videos at nyxt.nyc/cok
How did Compassion Over Killing start and how did you found the organization?
Compassion Over Killing (COK) began as a volunteer club in 1995 and has since grown into a national, unwavering force for animals.
This past January, I celebrated my 14-year anniversary at COK, and am looking back at all that COK has accomplished since I took the helm in 2005 while also looking ahead to all we will strive for in our continued work to build a kinder world.
Before working at COK, I started out as a volunteer. At the time, I was an animal control officer in Washington, DC, responding to emergency calls to rescue injured, stray, and homeless animals as well as help enforce animal protection laws. As I became more engaged in my volunteer capacity at COK, my interest in seeking justice for farmed animals, despite (and because of) the limited legal protections they’re afforded, became stronger. In January 2005, I was offered the role of Executive Director at COK, and I haven’t looked back since.
How does your personal vision resonate with the organization's mission?
In high school, I started learning about the environmental destruction caused by factory farming. That, coupled with my compassion for animals, led me to become vegetarian. Then a few years later I was exposed for the first time to images and videos uncovering the horrors inside dairy and egg factory farms. This prompted me to become vegan and explore a career path focusing on animal protection; that was 25 years ago, and my animal advocacy journey has included a wide range of experiences. At COK, we have a tremendously passionate team that embodies our organizational and personal values of truth, justice, and compassion for all.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job or of the organization in general?
There are more than 9 billion animals raised and killed in the US each year, and with few laws to protect them, they routinely endure abuses that would result in criminal prosecution if inflicted on dogs or cats. Their suffering is kept hidden behind the locked doors of animal agribusiness where the public is not allowed. We’ve made it our mission to bring these images, and the animals’ voices and stories, to the public.
Animal agribusiness is a powerful, profit-driven industry built on cruelty. As the gut-wrenching truth is increasingly exposed and consumers are demanding change, the industry is lashing out by flexing its lobbying muscle to pass ag-gag laws designed to criminalize whistleblowers and undercover investigations. Rather than address the abuses and other violations being exposed, it’s trying to prevent the public from finding out about it in the first place.
Which are COK’s goals for 2019?
In the year ahead, COK will continue pushing forward in our mission to build a kinder world as we expose truth in our undercover investigations; fight for justice for all in the courts and in the court of public opinion; wage innovative corporate campaigns changing menus and minds; and spread compassion through nationwide outreach and education. This work is made possible by the support of donors and volunteers, and we are always welcoming passionate animal advocates who want to get involved at COK.net.
Does COK collaborate with other organizations? If you do, please give an example.
COK often works with other organizations, including as part of diverse coalitions including groups protecting animals, workers, consumers, and the environment. A few examples are our coalition or collaborative work to oppose the USDA’s dangerous high-speed slaughter programs; help pass crucial legislation like Massachusetts’ Q3 which banned extreme confinement of animals; and fighting industry efforts to squash plant-based competition.
COK has many campaigns and investigations. Which ones would you like to
Since COK first began going undercover in 2001, we’ve conducted over 30 investigations, exposing the biggest names in the meat, dairy, and egg industries at every level of production. Our powerful investigations have resulted in criminal charges, corporate changes, facilities shut down, millions influenced, and billions of animals impacted in factory farms and slaughter plants.
A recent highlight is our investigation of high-speed slaughterhouse Amick Farms, where as many as 175 chickens are killed every minute. As millions worldwide have seen in our video which broke in The Washington Post, the USDA’s dangerous and cruel high-speed slaughter program could mean more suffering for animals -- as it also puts worker and consumer safety on the line. Yet, the federal agency is granting waivers to more chicken plants to speed up slaughter lines -- and considering removing line speed maximums altogether. This is the second time COK has exposed the horrors of high-speed slaughter. In late 2015, our video that has now reached over five million people revealed egregious cruelty inside a high-speed slaughter plant supplying Hormel -- a plant considered a model for the USDA’s program.
What is your advice for someone that wants to do something for the environment but doesn't know how to start?
The good news is we all have the power right now to start taking a bite out of climate change! While there is much discussion on the state of the planet, and research shows that we humans have just 12 years to stop the effects of global warming, the herbivorous elephant in the room is often ignored: The single most effective way we can protect the planet and fight climate change is simply to choose plant-based foods.
Would you like to add anything else?
Compassion Over Killing is a nonprofit organization, fueled by a small yet mighty team of animal advocates, and we rely on the generosity of donors and the dedication of volunteers to power our undercover investigations, nationwide outreach, and vegan campaigns. To get involved and lend your support, please visit COK.net. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
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