Wednesday 19 June 2019

'Absolutely not' - Why Tullow Tank and farmer Seán O'Brien will never go vegan

Sean O’Brien
Sean O’Brien
Kevin Dundon and Sean O'Brien throw some beef on the barbecue.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

In Ireland, sales of plant-based milks soared in the last year thanks to the increasing popularity of vegan diets.

Not just the preserve of health conscious environmentalists, sports stars are converting to veganism too. Venus and Serena Williams follow a raw vegan diet during tennis seasons. Ireland international rugby league footballer Anthony Mullally is a vegan and has opened his own vegan café.

But Irish rugby player and farmer Sean O’Brien, aka the Tullow Tank, says he won’t ever swap beef for tofu or tempeh.

The Carlow man, who has 35 suckler cows on his farm, says he's not worried about the rise of veganism in general either.

“No absolutely not. It’s not something I’m going to be trying any time soon.”

“It’s only a choice that people make. It is what it is really, some people are into it, some people aren’t.”

“You get so used to the meat we have here in Ireland, the way it’s produced and the quality of it. There is a difference, the way it’s produced.”

The Tullow Tank says he doesn’t have any truck with vegans, and he doesn’t see veganism as a threat to the farming industry.

“It’s a personal view, it’s one that [vegans] choose to do. I certainly wouldn’t be that worried about it, there are lots of people out there who are still eating meat and they know where it comes from. People want a balanced diet and that’s why it’s important to have that quality.”

“We have 35 suckler cows, we had about 90 a few years ago, but the way it’s going with the beef industry it’s hard to make it profitable for the smaller farmers. I still enjoy it, and dad loves it, you just scale back and create a manageable amount [of work] for him to do.”

The Irish international's love of farming is well-known, and it’s something he plans to fall back into when his rugby career eventually comes to an end.

“It’s something I’ll look at in the future.” 

“I love being out and about in the fresh air; it’s a way of life, that’s what most farmers love. Even if they’re not making a whole lot of money out of it, it’s something they’re happy doing.”

“I have memories of making hay and silage years ago and stacking bales. The minute you came home from school, you got on your old clothes and it was up the yard then. You had so much space growing up on the farm; it was a really enjoyable place, and all the neighbours would come down and you’d be playing hurling, soccer, and rugby until dark.”

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