A discussion on veganism on RTE's Claire Byrne Live sparked debate among Monday night viewers, with many disagreeing with the views shared by a Fair City actress on the programme.
Actress Rachel Pilkington was featured in a special report to discuss the reasons she became a vegan, which she said are heavily rooted in animal welfare and a consciousness for the enviornment.
Responding to the online criticism she received after the programme, Pilkington told Independent.ie: "If anyone tried to launch a vitriolic attack on me last night for having a love for animals and the environment or for choosing to respectfully discuss a way of life that resonates with me then I would greatly question their motivations.
"I made the choice a long time ago not to engage with people who regard online abuse as an acceptable form of communication. And so any attempts to cause hurt or engender fear in me were a waste of time.
"I know for a fact, thousands of people across Ireland share my view that all creatures deserve the right to freedom, dignity and life. But true compassion comes from the understanding that we're all intrinsically interconnected. So it's either compassion for all or compassion for none."
Speaking on the programme last night, the Tipperary actress said it is her opinion that Irish people do not "show a great regard" for animals.
"I don’t think we show a great regard for animals in Ireland and that upsets me a lot. I try to remind myself that I’m only responsible for my own choices but that’s very hard, especially when you’re surrounded by so much injustice and cruelty.
"Despite the converging evidence that they do have the capacity to feel and suffer and exhibit intentional behaviour, so many industries are hinged on the exploitation of animals. We farm them, breed them, cage them, shoot them. We even take their young away from them," she said.
The actress, who has also starred on Glenroe and The Clinic, said she respects Irish farmers despite disagreeing with their practices.
"I grew up in Tipperary town. Every other family, meat, fish, dairy are central to every meal. My own dad fished and even hunted a few times. I remember this one day being absolutely horrified when he returned home with a dead rabbit which we then had to eat for dinner.
"Some of the kindest people I know farmed animals as a way of life. Even though I don’t agree with it as a practice now, I do feel I’ve gained a perspective and understanding having grown up in the country," she said.
Pilkington, who is a mum of two, said she was first motivated to become vegan when she pulled up alongside a truck transporting livestock in traffic and said animals have a right to live without human interference, no matter how insignificant they are.
"I was out driving one day and I pulled up next to a livestock truck. I knew the animals on board were headed for the meat factory but the realisation that I was contributing to their suffering as a consumer can be quite hard for the first time. I drove home in tears. After several conversations with my family we came to the decision to eliminate meat from our diet and shortly afterwards we gave up fish."
"I believe every tiny, insignificant creature has a function and purpose. Just because we lack the understanding and insight into what that purpose might be, that doesn’t give us the right to inflict harm on them and influence their lives.
"Nothing is more important right now than the changes we need to make to ensure the survival of the very planet we’re standing on," she said.
However, Rachel's views upset a number of people in the audience who said that Irish farmers have very high standards of animal welfare and to suggest otherwise questions the integrity of Ireland's largest indigenous industry.
Speaking on the programme Cormac Healy, senior executive director of Meat Industry Ireland said: "We operate to very high standards of welfare. Farmers know more than anyone about the care of animals and to suggest otherwise is to impugn their integrity.
"Agriculture has a role in climate change, there is no question about that. However, our production systems are amongst the most sustainable on the globe. We're grass based, with the lowest carbon footprint in terms of our meat and dairy. We don't rest there either."
Many viewers took to Twitter to weigh in on the debate including journalist and farmer John Fagan who said the segment portrayed those working in agriculture in a poor light.
"As a farmer I find it offensive that vegans portray us as being cruel. Farmers have no incentive to mistreat animals. Farmers need to fight back against vegan misinformation and slander of the agri-industry," he wrote on Twitter in response to the segment.
Twitter user Michael Moriarty wrote: "Disappointing vegan views tonight on #CBLive. These lambs are better minded than myself."
Wicklow sheep farmers Kilmullen Farm tweeted: "So proud of our beautiful lamb, happy in their short life. Treated with respect and loved by our customers."
However, viewers also took to Twitter to praise the actress for speaking about veganism on the programme.
John Gibbons wrote: "Good for @RCPilkington speaking up against animal cruelty on #CBLive. All living creatures deserve respect."
"Rachel did such a great job. So compassionate and yet calm and well-spoken! A great representative of veganism," wrote Becky Jenkins in response to the show.
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