Meet the Women Leaders Behind Animal Equality’s Mission
Sharon Núñez and Dulce Ramírez have a connection that extends far past a typical friendship. These activists forged their friendship on the basis of a mutual, personal mission to protect farmed animals. As two members of Animal Equaliy’s Senior Leadership team, President & Co-founder, Sharon, and Vice President for Latin America, Dulce, guide our international team of professional advocates to be as effective and impactful as possible as we work to end farmed animal cruelty.
This International Women’s Day, we want to give you an inside look into the determined and compassionate women behind our mission:
How did you meet?
Sharon (0:14-1:03): In 2011, there was an attempt by the Spanish [agriculture] industry, because of the investigations, to put me away and another eleven people who were doing investigations in Spain. And that’s all we were doing: we were doing investigations and showing cruelty. So, I was arrested in Madrid, driven up to the North of Spain, and confined in a cell for 5 days – a dark cell, I’ll never forget – and the guards would come in in the morning. And they would be like, “Are you okay?” or whatever, and I’m like, “No, I’m not okay, but whatever,” and they would say to me, “Well, you know, we’re getting these calls from people who are, they’re just like, ‘Get them out of there,’” and I was like, “Who are these people?” And that’s where Dulce comes in.
Sharon (1:39-2:12): Yeah, we didn’t meet [right away] because we didn’t have many resources, and we were dealing with the trial. So Dulce – I called her because they said there were people from Mexico – so I called Dulce, and I said, “Well, thanks for trying to get us out of jail.” And she was like “Yeah, yeah, well, how do we do this?” And I said, “Well, let’s do Animal Equality together. Let’s start Animal Igualdad Mexico – Animal Equality in Mexico.” And that’s how it started. And we’ve been activists – and, more than that, sisters – for the last ten years.
Dulce (2:57-3:03): We have this connection, a strong connection, and we are a part of something bigger, in a movement. And we need to show solidarity, we need to show empathy, we need to show strength. And Animal Equality gave us this opportunity, not only for my team in Mexico, but for animals in Mexico.
Dulce (4:03-4:30): I remember because [helping get Sharon out of jail] was the first time we coordinated different groups in different cities. Because we went to the embassy in Spain [and] in each country. It wasn’t only Guadalajara; it was Mexico City [and] Monterey. We have different groups actively [working] together to stop repression: “Stop repression. We are activists, we are here, and we aren’t going [anywhere], so free these activists.”
Why are investigations at the heart of Animal Equality’s work?
Sharon (5:04-5:22): I feel that Animal Equality has…been doing investigations since our foundation, and investigations are really the tool to achieve changing minds, changing hearts, changing institutions, and changing companies.
Sharon (9:42-11:01): For me, some of the heroes of our movement are those…undercover investigators who spend just weeks and months filming horrific footage to make sure it gets out and that it’s used in the most effective way possible. And that’s our commitment to them and to animals. But the training, the spending hours in these facilities when you’re an animal activist, filming and then going back to your hostel room and writing down everything and speaking…with the director of investigations and documenting everything, it’s challenging. The industry, as you know, has been pushing back in the U.S., for example, with “ag gag” laws and trying to make undercover investigations illegal. And this is not something that is only happening in the U.S. We talked about my case in Spain, but it happened in Austria, and it’s beginning to start in other countries. There was an article that came out a few days ago. It was an article by a pork industry magazine, and it only had one point to make about the animal rights movement, and it was related to undercover investigations. They know how much undercover investigations damage their reputation[s] and change what companies and legislators and people want to do. So, it’s very challenging, but it’s the work that needs to be done.
Sharon (13:01-13:16): It’s limitless, I think, what we can achieve. Investigations in the U.S. are more challenging for sure. They’re challenging everywhere. They’re more challenging in the U.S., and that is why we must continue doing them and getting the support in order to carry them out.
Dulce (8:51-9:13): You see a video for two minutes. It takes months sometimes to go there and record that. They [require] a lot of logistics, taking risks, and [scheduling to] find the best way. I mean, one video for two minutes is really powerful, but behind that is a lot of work.
Who are the animals that have impacted you most?
Sharon (13:50-15:01): So, Gracie is the first one that comes to mind, and that is why I wanted everyone to take a photo of her. I’ll never [forget] the day I got the call that she died, and I was happy. You’re happy because you know that that animal had the life she deserved. Again, talking about potential…you think of potential sometimes as, like, humans [having] potential. Animals have potential too. They have the potential to be happy. They have the potential to love their families. They have the potential to love. What’s more important than that? And I was happy because I felt that she had had a full life, full of other animals [and] people who’d taken care of her. And I wanted everyone to have that photo and bring it home…At work, I have a photo of her on my desk because she reminds me of the world that we want to build. And it was also transformational for me because it was the first open rescue I was [a] part of, the first open rescue to be carried out in Europe, and it meant so much, right? It really was that future that we want for animals in action.
Dulce (15:08-16:20): For me, it’s the animals we leave behind. When you’re doing an investigation, you don’t take [those animals with you]. That, for me… is the [biggest] struggle, [the most] important for me…all the time. For me, you can see that baby calf. Jose and I took this. I mean, I took this picture, but with Jose doing the investigation in 2018 in Mexico, in the first investigation in the milk industry. We [spent] almost fourteen hours waiting for her. I mean, [it was] so [tiring], so painful, but [we] only [cared] about this baby. And my promise to her was [that] I [will] show this picture to…the [whole] world. “All the world will see your face and your screaming and your pain.” And that was my promise. And this is the way I think… [about] one individual. One individual [can] make [an] impact for millions of animals, but that picture…I know you know that picture.
A cow’s maternal instincts foster a gentle bond with her vulnerable calf.
Preserve this tender relationship by choosing plant‑based alternatives to dairy products.
Dulce (17:03-17:18): We are here because of the animals. I am a facilitator for something, but the animals [are] the most important for us. This is the way we take this issue. We choose [to fight], and we win.
What’s next for Animal Equality?
Sharon (17:54-19:31): I really want to stress this idea [that] 2022 was groundbreaking. We achieved things…that impacted millions of animals: banning male chick killing in Italy, getting the first chapter of the law passed in Hidalgo that recognized farmed animals, getting fifty companies to commit to animal welfare policies, and putting a stop – thanks to one of our investigations – to that self-regulation bill in Brazil, where, basically, slaughterhouses were saying, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of regulating ourselves and [make] sure that animals are treated correctly.” We’re riding on that success. 2023 is the year when we can achieve so much for animals. We can change the Constitution in Mexico, we can ban cages…like, it’s there. We can reach it. And what we need is commitment. We have that commitment. Dulce and I and Ollie and everyone at Animal Equality…wake up every morning with that mission in our minds, and we need all of the support that we can get. So anyone, if you have a connection, you can make a donation, you can become an Animal Protector. Just do it because I’m telling you [that] 2023 will go down in the history books for everything that we can achieve for animals globally. So I ask you to please support us.
Dulce (19:40-20:13): Next year is my first trip to Brazil. I’m very excited to go to Brazil, work with the amazing team, and help more. We [made] contact with other…Latin American countries – Columbia and Peru – and we empower these activists. Animal Equality can be part of this and help them and empower these local activists and do great things for animals. Like a community, a strong movement. For me, it’s the year. It’s the year for Animal Equality.
Sharon (20:13-20:27): And we’re stronger than ever…we’re stronger than ever as people, as an organization, as…activist[s], and that’s what we are: activists.
We would also like to recognize the other strong & dedicated female members of our team: Abigail Penny (Executive Director, UK), Amruta Ubal (Senior Director of Public Affairs, India), Carla Lettieri (Executive Director, Brazil), Vanessa Raith (Executive Director, Germany), and all of our compassionate women colleagues across the US, UK, Brazil, India, Germany, Spain, Mexico, and Italy.