Over the last five years, the Brazilian animal welfare activist Carolina Galvani has quietly built an organization, Sinergia Animal, that has swiftly become an influential player in the future of animal agriculture across the Global South.
It’s a critical region for such activism: Almost two-thirds of the world’s 74 billion farmed land animals are in Asia and Latin America, and it’s where three-quarters of the world’s fish and crustaceans are farmed or wild-caught.
Meat production has more than quadrupled since 1980 in Asia and Latin America as economic growth has spurred agricultural development, leading to a rise in Western-style factory farming — and increased meat consumption.
Sinergia Animal’s primary tactic to push back against the region’s increasingly industrialized animal farming mirrors what other organizations have done to improve animal welfare around the globe: pressure major food companies to commit to higher welfare standards for chickens, pigs, cows, and fish.
What sets the organization apart is its approach of hiring activists (now around 50) in countries long neglected by the animal advocacy movement, such as Thailand, Indonesia, Colombia, and Ecuador, and its ability to quickly make progress in these countries that have little precedent for codifying animal welfare into corporate policy.
Since 2017, when Galvani started out as the sole employee, the organization has garnered over 60 commitments from large food companies operating in these regions to source cage-free eggs, or pork from pigs that weren’t confined in small crates. Some of those include big supermarket chains, like Cencosud in Latin America, Central Retail Food Group in Thailand, and Ismaya, a restaurant operator in Indonesia.
The organization also works with schools to serve more plant-based meals, and campaigns for banks to adopt animal welfare criteria for the companies and projects they finance.
Before launching Sinergia Animal, Galvani was an investigative journalist, a job that sent her into factory farms and slaughterhouses in Portugal, the seal fur trade in Greece, and inside a hunt of endangered dolphins in South America. At Sinergia Animal, her investigative chops are still in use; the organization has conducted some of the first investigations into factory farms in the countries where it operates.
Exposing and changing those conditions is daunting work — and perhaps the most important in the animal welfare movement. The future of animal welfare will be determined in the Global South, and it’s people like Galvani who are at the forefront of shaping it.