Our research team provides evidence-based insights through sound scientific practice and foundational research internally and externally, with collaborators. The team ensures Mercy For Animals’ greatest possible impact on the movement to construct a just and sustainable food system.


Working with the Mercy For Animals research team presents some important opportunities for academic researchers, including access to useful data, potential new avenues of funding, support from our staff, and the chance to apply theory to practice in compelling ways.

Without a doubt, the problems associated with industrial animal agriculture are myriad, ranging from negative health outcomes and unsustainable environmental activities to public health threats from pandemics and antibiotic resistance to the the immeasurable suffering of trillions of animals every year and public health threats from pandemics and antibiotic resistance. At the same time, factory-farming industries are daunting in their abundance of resources, and most people consume animal products. Clearly, much work remains to be done, and while advocacy organizations like Mercy For Animals are committed to changing the food system, we cannot do it alone.

An examination of successful social change efforts makes clear that academics have always played a crucial role, producing objective research, stimulating conversations with power holders, and raising their voices in various venues across the public sphere. Mercy For Animals is eager to work with academics from all disciplines who have an affinity for our issues. We created this hub with the belief that we will move farther faster toward our vision of a just and compassionate food system when we harness the power of collaboration. We invite you to join us. Below we highlight our current and recent projects that span a wide variety of academic disciplines.


If you are interested in collaborating with Mercy For Animals on a research project, please fill out the short form below:



Farmed Animal Opportunity Index

The FAOI ranks 60 countries on their potential for effective interventions using 19 relevant socioeconomic indicators. This interactive tool is designed to help animal protection organizations and donors make data-based decisions on how to best allocate their resources in a global context, with the overarching goal of maximizing impact for farmed animals.



Role of Municipalities in Promoting Plant-Based Food Choices

Funded by the Food System Research Fund, Mercy For Animals conducted survey research to better understand current and potential food policy work related to plant-based food in municipal sustainability offices across the United States. 

Data set

Executive summary

Full report


Niemiec, R., Jones, M. S., Mertens, A., & Dillard, C. (2021, October 1). The effectiveness of COVID-related message framing on public beliefs and behaviors related to plant-based diets. Appetite, 165, 105293.

Bryant, C., & Dillard, C. (2019, July 3). The impact of framing on acceptance of cultured meat. Frontiers in Nutrition, 6, 103. 

Jacquet, J., Franks, B., Godfrey-Smith, P., & Sánchez-Suárez, W. (2019). The case against octopus farming. Issues in Science and Technology, 35(2), 37–44.

Sánchez-Suárez, W., Franks, B., & Torgerson-White, L. (2020). From land to water: Taking fish welfare seriously. Animals, 10(9): 1585. 

Sánchez-Suárez, W. (2018). La consciencia y su función en el comportamiento animal [Consciousness and its role in animal behaviour]. In B. Aguilera, J. A. Lecaros, & E. Valdés (Eds.), Ética animal, fundamentos empíricos, teóricos y dimensión práctica (pp. 57–70). Universidad Pontificia Comillas.

Jones, M. S., Sekar, S., Dillard, C., Mertens, A., & Sparkman, G. (2023). Who will encourage a sustainable diet? Understanding the psychological predictors of relational organizing. Sustainability Science, 18(5), 2259–2276. 

Torgerson-White, L., & Sánchez-Suárez, W. (2022). Looking beyond the shoal: Fish welfare as an individual attribute. Animals, 12(19), Article 2592. 

Broad, G., Dillard, C., Bowman, D., & Le Roy, B. (2022). Framing the futures of animal-free dairy: Using focus groups to explore early-adopter perceptions of the precision fermentation process. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9, Article 997632.


COVID-19: Five-Country Survey


Alternative Proteins: Focus Group Research


Can we achieve positive welfare for farmed fishes?


Seizing Opportunities to Create Social Change


Enhancing Communication and Messaging


Taking the Cow our of Milk


The Fight over Smoking


Social Norms: What They Are and How They Help and Hinder Farmed Animal Advocacy



Please reach out to our team at [email protected].

The Team

Andie Thompkins, PhD
Director of Research

Andie’s background is in human-animal interaction, with training in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience methodologies. Andie has extensive experience in organizational direction and has served in various research and leadership positions in academic and nonprofit environments. At Mercy For Animals, Andie provides planning, assistance, and oversight for research activities, and she liaises with senior leadership to support strategic decision-making in promotion of the organization’s vision and mission. Outside work, Andie enjoys photographing wildlife, listening to live music, and spending time outdoors with her husband and companion dog.

Courtney Dillard, PhD
Social Change Researcher

Courtney’s background is in audience and context analysis, persuasive strategies, and social movement studies. She holds a bachelor’s in communication studies from Vanderbilt University, a master’s from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. Courtney has been active in the animal protection movement for the past 30 years. Prior to joining Mercy For Animals she combined an academic career with pro bono activities aimed at improving the communication strategies of various groups in the movement. At Mercy For Animals, she supports teams seeking to increase effective paths toward social change for farmed animals. Using a variety of methodologies, Courtney conducts social science research focused primarily on attitudes and behaviors regarding farmed animals and animal product alternatives. Outside work, Courtney can be found traveling, eating vegan junk food, and trying her hand at poetry.

Dennis Powers, PhD

With a background in agricultural economics and the economics of common resources, Dennis has led research projects entailing both theoretical and statistical modeling related to the socioeconomic sustainability of traditional agricultural and irrigational systems. At Mercy For Animals, Dennis conducts research on the economics of transitioning from factory-farmed animal products to plant-based alternatives to those products at all levels of the supply chain. In particular, this research supports the Mercy For Animals Transfarmation program. Outside work, Dennis enjoys hiking, trail running, pretty much all other outdoor activities, and hanging out with his family.

Walter Sánchez-Suárez, BVSc, MPhil, PhD
Animal Behavior and Welfare Scientist (Consultant)

Walter holds a degree in veterinary science, a master’s in moral philosophy, and a doctorate in animal biosciences and neuroscience. He also has post-doctoral experience in comparative psychology. At Mercy For Animals, Walter provides scientific support and strategic insights on agricultural practices, especially on topics related to animal behavior, welfare, and sentience; public health; environmental conservation; and sustainability. Outside work, Walter loves the great outdoors (and the great indoors!).

Katie Vann
Global Impact and Evaluation Manager

Katie supports teams in collecting, organizing, and reviewing data to evaluate progress toward Mercy For Animals’ mission and three-year plan objectives. She also coordinates the Global Impact Center, which provides supporters with transparent information about the impact of Mercy For Animals programs.