11 Years Later: Animal Equality’s President Does What It Takes
It’s been 11 years since Sharon Núñez, Animal Equality’s President and Co-founder, found herself sitting in a dark cell in the North of Spain.
Read her first-hand account of what she experienced and her commitment to animals.
“I was sitting in a dark cell in the North of Spain. Fireworks went off a few miles away.
The cell only had three things: A toilet, a mattress, and a sink to drink from. I could feel the guards watching me through the cameras on the walls.
I remember the summer of 2011 vividly.
I was arrested for using a camera to film the filth and pain inside factory farms.
Outside, people celebrated “San Juan,” the start of the summer season. Inside, I was counting how many years I could spend in prison.
Despite the high temperatures, the cell was damp and cold.
I spent five days in that cell, wondering:
What would happen to me next?
What would happen to the ten people I was arrested with?
What would happen to the animals?
It all began in 2006 when Animal Equality was founded. Jose Valle, Javier Moreno, and I knew we needed to show what was happening to animals on factory farms. Few believed that the conditions inside factory farms that we described during our protests were real.
So, we decided to take a camera and show them the truth.
We spent years investigating farms and slaughterhouses—five slaughterhouses, 172 pig farms, and dozens of chicken and hen farms. On those farms, I met the pigs, hens, chickens, lambs, and cows I had pledged to defend the day I became an activist. I even managed to rescue some of them.
With tears in my eyes, I filmed bleeding basketball-sized tumors on pigs. I filmed hens who’d become featherless due to the constant friction of their wings against wire cages. I filmed chickens in such agony that they had given up on life—they lay gasping for air in a shed full of their own excrement.
It was all happening right in front of me.
The media in Spain were shocked by the images. They aired the footage of our investigations in prime time, and it made the main pages of newspapers. I was interviewed on TV and the radio. Millions sat in front of their TV screens, seeing the inside of a factory farm for the first time.
They began to believe that farmed animals deserved respect.
And the animal agriculture industry was furious.
They started following me, my friends, and other advocates. They attended our protests and filmed us. They insulted us in the media. They also involved a judge and the police in investigating our work. My private phone conversations were tapped for years. And they even went after my family.
The police finally arrested 10 others and me on June 11, 2011. I was pulled over by the police and arrested on my way to film a slaughterhouse.
As I was being driven to jail, I held another activist’s hand and realized our work’s effect and the lengths they were willing to go to stop us.
The industry wanted to put an end to investigations. And they tried to hide the truth from you about what they do to animals.
But they failed. Advocates worldwide erupted in protest, asking for our immediate release.
Our case was finally closed years later. Another judge realized that the case against me and other activists was baseless and that what we were doing was not illegal.
And rather than deterring me, this made me stronger. I walked out of jail promising animals that I would do it all again for them and fight till the end.
|Walking out of jail with Animal Equality’s co-founder Jose Valle, and David and Sara, two other activists arrested.|
And I have kept my promise.
Since my arrest in 2011, Animal Equality has become an unstoppable global force. We’re working in eight countries and releasing investigations that have appeared on The New York Times, CNN, The Sunday Times, El Pais, and The Guardian.
We’ve visited over 800 facilities that keep and hurt animals and released over 150 investigations internationally. The footage Animal Equality has filmed helped ban the importation of foie gras in India. It’s helped ban the cruelest practices in farms and slaughterhouses in Mexico. And it’s encouraged hundreds of companies to adopt meaningful policies that significantly reduce the suffering of animals. It’s also inspired millions of people to choose cruelty-free plant-based options.
But our work isn’t done yet. Powerful industries continue to abuse and kill animals, try to silence advocates, and stop investigations. In the US, for example, there are now states where documenting animal abuse carries a harsher sentence than abusing the animal, and we face similar threats in many other countries we’re working in.
The cold of that cell and the feeling that the industry would do anything to stop me are still very present for me.
But so is my determination to help animals, whatever the cost. I know you and thousands of people from around the world share that same spirit.
Today, I share one of my most difficult moments because animals still need us. They need people like you to fight for their stories to be told.”
Our work isn’t done yet. Since its founding, and as Sharon set by example, Animal Equality has been dedicated to doing whatever it takes to expose the powerful animal agriculture industry that continues to abuse and kill animals, try to silence advocates, and stop investigations. In the US, for example, there are now states where documenting animal abuse carries a harsher sentence than abusing the animal, and we face similar threats in many other countries we’re working in.
How you can help: Animal Equality will not allow the meat industry to silence our work or the cries of the farmed animals they abuse because we know a world in which all animals are respected and protected is possible. You can support our work and the brave investigators that make it possible by donating.