Compassion Over Killing

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Compassion Over Killing
Compassion Over Killing logo.png
FocusCruelty to animals in agriculture
Key people
Erica Meier

Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a non-profit animal protection organization based in Washington, D.C., currently led by Executive Director Erica Meier. Formed in 1995 as a high school club, COK's primary campaigns are to advocate against factory farming and promote vegetarian eating. While the group welcomes those who are interested in animal welfare who eat meat, it encourages a transition to a plant-based diet, even if gradual or part-time.[1]

Activities and campaigns[edit]

COK's activities and campaigns include:

  • Organizing and hosting of DC VegFest.
  • Organizing and promotion of VegWeek.
  • Distribution of pro-veg materials.
  • Outreach and campaigns advocating for restaurants and companies to include vegan food.
  • Creation and distribution of pro-vegetarian commercials on television.
  • Writing letters and op-eds to local newspapers.

As of 2016, COK has completed its eighth annual VegWeek. VegWeek is an international campaign in which people make a pledge to eat a plant-based diet for one week. In 2016, more than 5,400 people took the 7-Day VegPledge. Participants of VegWeek campaigns have included federal, state, and local representatives, athletes and celebrities, and community members.[2]

Campaign successes[edit]

  • The organization has since launched successful campaigns urging Morningstar Farms, Boca, and LightLife to use fewer eggs in their products.
  • Compassion Over Killing launched a campaign for Dunkin' Donuts to stock soy milk in its shops,[3] which the company did in certain regions. At the 2009 Taking Action for Animals conference hosted by the Humane Society of the United States, Erica Meier introduced Compassion Over Killing's follow-up campaign to urge Dunkin' Donuts to remove animal products from its donuts.
  • A successful campaign, in which COK supporters sent messages asking for vegan options at, helped lead to menu items including a black bean patty and the Malibu Garden sandwich, being added by Subway[4]—the world's largest restaurant chain. More than 1,000 Subway locations now offer these options.
  • Tim Horton's—Canada's largest coffee chain, with more than 4,500 locations—added soy milk[5] at participating locations, following a campaign by COK.
  • COK teamed up with journalist and TV personality Jane Velez-Mitchell to launch a petition asking Starbucks to add vegan food options to its menu, in light of the positive steps the coffee chain has already taken by offering soy and coconut milks. In response to the many messages received, Starbucks has told COK, "We are in the testing stages for several new products that would qualify as vegan... we have our vegan customers in the forefront of our minds and can't wait to present some new food options to accommodate the vegan diet and our loyal customers that have requested these options."[6]

Undercover investigations[edit]

Compassion Over Killing has conducted multiple undercover investigations into conditions facing animals raised for food in the U.S.

Egg farms[edit]

The group conducted an investigation into the living conditions at Maryland henhouses, documenting corpses found in group cages and rescuing some of the hens found in the worst conditions.[1] One of the farms documented, owned by ISE America, housed more than 800,000 hens.[7] Following a tip about substandard conditions at the farm, COK requested permission to visit the farm before proceeding with an undercover investigation.[7]

The spokesperson for the owner of the farm in question said that the conditions found at the farm were "normal industry practices."[8] While one of the farms asserted that the video footage was not taken at its farm, Compassion Over Killing had filmed its GPS location as well as mail addressed to the farm in question.[9]

In early 2006, a Compassion Over Killing investigation inside a Pennsylvania egg farm led to criminal charges of 35 counts of animal cruelty against the owner and manager of the farm, the first case of its kind.[10] Although, charges were pressed by a local animal control officer after viewing a video provided by COK, the owner and manager of the farm were eventually acquitted in 2007.[11]

Central Valley Meat[edit]

COK's undercover video exposing animal abuse at Central Valley Meat Co. (CVM) prompted the USDA to shut down[12] the California slaughterhouse in 2012 and suspend federal purchases from the facility, a major supplier to the USDA's National School Lunch Program. California-based fast food chain, In-N-Out Burger immediately severed ties with its former supplier CVM[13] upon the release of COK's investigation findings, followed by national chains McDonald's and Costco. In February 2014, the facility was again shut down by the USDA for unsanitary conditions.[14]

Quanah Cattle Company[edit]

In 2013, a COK activist was arrested (although charges were eventually dropped) in Colorado for filming alleged cattle abuse at the Quanah Cattle Company and failing to report the abuse “in a timely manner.” COK Executive Director Erica Meier stated that this is a “shoot-the-messenger strategy aimed at detracting attention away from the crimes of those who actually abused animals.”[15]

Pilgrim's Pride chicken factory farm[edit]

In 2014, a COK investigation exposed chickens being buried alive at a North Carolina factory farm supplying Pilgrim's Corp. (formerly Pilgrim's Pride), the second largest chicken producer in the world and a supplier for Chick-Fil-A, Burger King, Wendy's and Walmart. CNN broke the shocking story.[16]

Foster Farms turkey hatchery[edit]

In early 2015, a COK investigator documented horrific treatment of baby birds - including mutilations, gassing and being ground up alive - inside a Foster Farms hatchery in Fresno, California.

Mountaire Farms[edit]

At a North Carolina chicken slaughterhouse owned by Mountaire Farms, Inc., the seventh largest chicken producer in the U.S, COK exposed[17] birds being violently thrown and punched, their feathers being ripped out, and sick or injured birds left in piles to die slowly.

Quality Pork Processors (Hormel)[edit]

In 2015, a Compassion Over Killing investigator uncovered conditions in a Minnesota facility that kills and processes animals for Hormel; this plant is one of the largest pig slaughterhouses in the U.S., and one of five plants enrolled in Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), a pilot USDA program that allows for faster processing of animals with reduced government inspection.

The Washington Post broke the story of the investigation, writing,[18] "Months worth of footage have raised serious concerns about the conditions at one of the largest pork processors in the U.S., and started a government investigation."

In 2013, an Audit Report[19] issued by the USDA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) underscored concerns that HIMP may pose food safety risks.

Legal advocacy[edit]

Compassion Over Killing's innovative Legal Advocacy Program has been working since 2004 to use the legal system to oppose the system injustices of factory farming. Using existing criminal law and civil litigation, the Program focuses on fighting large-scale animal cruelty on factory farms and works to protect consumers from manipulation and unfair practices by the animal agriculture industry; because farmed animals are given almost no protection under the law, this challenging work is vitally important.

The Legal Advocacy Program seeks enforcement of existing criminal laws against owners and employees of the facilities for the harming of animals, and develops legal analysis in order to bring landmark lawsuits and other legal actions; the Program also conducts outreach and education, providing attorneys, legal students, and the public with information about farmed animals and the law.

  • In 2005, egg producers dropped an "Animal Care Certified" label from their products after Compassion Over Killing filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising on the part of the egg companies.[20] Compassion Over Killing said that the egg label implied that the care of the animals had met a certain standard of animal conditions, which the egg producers had not; the National Advertising Review Board agreed that the label was deceptive;[20] the FTC complaint was dropped when the egg industry agreed to exchange the label in favor of one stating, "United Egg Producers Certified".[20]
  • In 2011,[21] dairy consumers, including members of Compassion Over Killing (COK), filed a class action lawsuit[22] on behalf of consumers alleging that several dairy companies and trade groups—including Land O'Lakes, the National Milk Producers Federation, and Dairy Farmers of America—joined as Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) in order to engage in a price fixing scheme that inflated the price of milk. This resulted, according to the complaint, in over $9.5 billion in illegally obtained profits and could impact the price of milk for years.
  • COK joined organizations Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary and Animal Protection & Rescue League, and individuals, in filing a lawsuit against the USDA[23] for allowing the sale of foie gras, a diseased poultry product. The agency is required through the Poultry Products Inspection Act[24] to condemn diseased poultry as adulterated; the force-feeding of ducks and geese[25] to produce foie gras results in a condition known as hepatic lipidosis or "fatty liver disease," in which the birds' livers swell up to ten times their normal size.[26]


  1. ^ a b Montgomery, David (2003-09-08). "Animal Pragmatism: Compassion Over Killing Wants to Make the Anti-Meat Message a Little More Palatable". The Washington Post. p. C01. Archived from the original on 2012-12-30. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
  2. ^ US VegWeek Archived 2014-05-15 at the Wayback Machine. 15 May 2014.
  3. ^ Rueb, Emily S. (2008-05-14). "Real World, Real Annoyance in Brooklyn". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  4. ^, Compassion Over Killing | (2015-03-10). "Subway Widely Expands Vegan Menu in DC & LA!". Compassion Over Killing. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  5. ^, Compassion Over Killing | (2014-12-15). "You asked, Tim Hortons responds: Soy milk now available!". Compassion Over Killing. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  6. ^, Compassion Over Killing | (2015-09-30). "Campaign Update: Starbucks & Vegan Food Options!". Compassion Over Killing. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
  7. ^ a b Singer, Peter (2005). In Defense of Animals. New York, New York: Scribner. p. 174. ISBN 0-7432-4769-8.
  8. ^ "Md. Egg Farm Accused of Cruelty". Washington Post. 2001-06-06. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  9. ^ McNeil Jr, Donald G. (2004-07-25). "The Nation: Gaining Ground; At Last, a Company Takes PETA Seriously". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  10. ^ "Pennsylvania egg farm hit with cruelty charges". USA Today. 2006-01-11. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  11. ^ "Update: Pennsylvania Court Finds that Animal Abuse on Egg Factory Farm is Legal". Compassion Over Killing. 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-12-02. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  12. ^ "USDA closes California slaughterhouse over cow cruelty video". Reuters. 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  13. ^ "Plant Closed by USDA Supplied Beef for In-N-Out Burger". ABC News. 2012-08-22. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  14. ^ Times, Los Angeles. "USDA closes troubled Central Valley slaughterhouse over cleanliness". Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  15. ^ Taylor Radig Filmed Alleged Cattle Abuse At Ranch, But Got Arrested For Not Reporting It Immediately. The Huffington Post, 24 November 2013.
  16. ^ "Undercover animal abuse videos could soon be outlawed". CNN. Archived from the original on 2016-04-02. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  17. ^ "New video claims to show animal cruelty at North Carolina farm". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  18. ^ Ferdman, Roberto A. (2015-11-11). ""That one was definitely alive": An undercover video at one of the nation's biggest pork processors". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
  19. ^ "Food Safety and Inspection Service - Inspection and Enforcement Activities At Swine Slaughter Plants" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General.
  20. ^ a b c Hernandez, Nelson (2005-10-04). "Egg Label Changed After Md. Group Complains". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-01-01.
  21. ^, Compassion Over Killing |. "The Dairy Industry's Price-Fixing Sheme - Defendants". Compassion Over Killing. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  22. ^, Compassion Over Killing |. "The Dairy Industry's $9.5 Billion Price-Fixing Scheme". Compassion Over Killing. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  23. ^, Compassion Over Killing | (2012-05-07). "USDA Sued for Allowing Sale of Diseased Poultry Product". Compassion Over Killing. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  24. ^ "Poultry Products Inspection Acts". Retrieved 2016-04-27.
  25. ^, Compassion Over Killing |. "Hudson Valley Foie Gras Factory Farm Investigation". Compassion Over Killing. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
  26. ^ "What is foie gras? |". Retrieved 2016-04-26.

External links[edit]