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Ireland lays claim to a fascinating history of human interactions with other animals that is both unique to the island and critical to larger international discourse. While it is true that Irish culture is historically tied to speciesism and its economy is especially dependent upon “meat” and dairy production, Ireland’s relationship with other animals is complex and sometimes forgiving. One of the first opponents of vivisection was, for instance, the 17th century’s Edmund O’Meara, not to be outdone by the world’s leader in Victorian-era anti-vivisection, Francis Power Cobbe, also Irish. In fact, many leading animal rights organizations were founded by Irish activists. The world’s first animal rights legislation passed in Ireland in the 17th century, while the first modern law that would ignite the animal rights movement in 1822 is credited to an MP from Galway. Some of the world’s first animal rights books were published by the Irish literary William Hamilton Drummond in the 1830s. George Bernard Shaw, legendary playwright and political thinker, was a vegetarian and avid animal rights activist as well, while many nationalists and suffragettes employed vegetarianism in their political epistemologies and activism. In the 1960s, celebrity athlete Jack McClelland of Belfast broke numerous records in long-distance swimming and was also a dedicated vegan.
Episode 6 of Animals in Irish Society celebrates these heroes and more in a live recording for St. Patrick’s Day 2021.
You can watch the video presentation here.