Changing minds and changing times! In the third part of a series of interviews with ARAN supporters, we speak with Irish actor, Rachel Pilkington, of RTE’s ‘Glenroe’ and ‘The Clinic’. We learn how her compassion for animals began and her views on why the fight for animals’ must be a peaceful, positive one.
RP: I’ve always loved animals, but I think that the love I feel, not just for animals but for every creature, continues to grow and expand every day.
ARAN: Why do you think it’s important that we treat animals with kindness?
RP: We should treat every animal with kindness for the same reason we should treat every person with kindness. Because we are all one and all intrinsically connected.
ARAN: There’s so much cruelty out there, is there any particular issue that gets to you most, and if so why?
RP: The caging of any bird or animal, vivisection, animal slaughter, all forms of animal cruelty saddens me. I live five minutes from a meat factory. Every time a truck filled with cattle passes, my mood instantly drops and the sadness occasionally overwhelms me. I deal with it by reminding myself that I am doing all that I can for them, beginning with the fact that I never buy or eat meat. I also find animal circuses incredibly cruel. I have a Facebook page and I regularly speak out about this particular form of entertainment which is actually considered an ‘art form’ in this country. I couldn’t disagree more! I’m greatly opposed also to fur farming and so began a very public campaign in the last few months in the hope that Minister Simon Coveney would reconsider the laws which allow such an archaic practice to continue. I emailed him the names of about 120 people within the Irish entertainment industry who equally oppose the practice of Fur Factory Farming in Ireland as much as I do. Among those were Saoirse Ronan, Amy Huberman, Sharon Shannon, Angeline Ball, Simon Delaney and Robbie Sheahan.
ARAN: What do you think of the Irish animal welfare laws?
RP: Totally outdated!
ARAN: We are an agricultural based country, do you think this poses a problem in terms of getting people to understand and treat animals with respect?
RP: I often think about this subject. I grew up in Tipperary, a region known as ‘The Golden Vale’, rich in fertile soil and perfect for agricultural purposes and all types of farming. I spent my childhood playing with various friends on their farms. I did not see it as cruel practice, I just saw it as a way of life and I truly believe that those who continue this practice (even today) simply view it as a way of life (in fact the only way of life they have ever known.) I don’t believe they see it as something that brings pain and suffering to the animals. And I understand that it takes time to gain new perspective on the way we live especially when you have only ever known one way of living and working. I always try hard to view people with compassion and not judge or ridicule. At the end of the day we all have to live with the choices we make.
ARAN: You’ve supported and continue to support various ARAN programs and campaigns. Can you tell us why you got involved?
RP: I see how important it is that we speak out for animals especially as they do not have the voices to speak for themselves. ARAN is a group that uses a very peaceful approach to bring about justice for animals and uses its collective voice to heighten awareness. It doesn’t employ force or aggression and as a result continues to attract more and more people every day.
ARAN: You’ve got a super beautiful son that you bring along to our events, why do you think it’s important people get their children on the road to speaking out for animals?
RP: When Noah was four he told me that when he grew up he wanted to help “free all animals”. I told him he didn’t have to wait until he was bigger to do something. I asked if he would like to come to a peaceful demonstration with me sometime and he was very enthusiastic. I believe it is so important that children realize the power they have (even from a young age) to help bring about new or positive change in the world. And that power should never, ever be underestimated in children. The more children who can attend these peaceful gatherings the better.
ARAN: In what areas do you feel ARAN is most effective?
RP: Bringing about new awareness and encouraging respect for all creatures. It is not a group that ‘demands’ you to be vegetarian or vegan. And even though it encourages these kinder diets, it accepts where every person is currently at in their lives and celebrates what each one of us can bring to the group in terms of positive change for animals.
ARAN: As an Irish actor and someone who works in film & television, do you think Ireland has much celebrity backing in terms of those speaking out for animals such as those in Hollywood or on an international level?
RP: I don’t think there are many people within the Irish entertainment industry (as of yet) who speak out for animals. But I think there are a huge number of Hollywood actors who currently avail of the public platform that they have gained to speak out. Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen DeGeneres, Natalie Portman & Alicia Silverstone to name just a few.
ARAN: Why do you think it’s important that people become active and use their voices to speak out for animals?
RP: Because we are the only ones who can do that for them. We are the only species with the capacity to articulate and voice how we feel. It’s very, very important that we never remain silent about any form of injustice to any creature.
ARAN: is known for getting quite a lot of consistent and positive media coverage for the animals’ plight. Can you tell us why it’s important we get these issues into the national press?
RP: Just as the media possesses the power to be negative and destructive it equally has the power to bring about so much good. The media is profoundly important and effective when it comes to heightening awareness and reaching millions of different people.
ARAN: We’re seeing quite a lot of Irish local Councils putting motions to ban animal-act circuses through, what do you think of this?
RP: It is absolutely wonderful and I’m going to write to every one of them and thank them.
ARAN: How do you feel about Irish fur farming and that in 2012 these farms are still legal when just a few hundred miles across the sea fur farming is illegal in the UK and elsewhere?
RP: Fur farming is an appalling practice. The sooner it is banned in the Republic of Ireland the better. No creature on earth should endure the level of suffering these animals endure every single day. It is barbaric and utterly shameful.
ARAN: You’ll be attending ARAN’s peaceful march and rally against cruelty to animals on August 26th in Dublin – why do you think it’s important people attend this event?
RP: Yes I’m looking forward to joining the hundreds of people across Ireland that share a love for animals and indeed to have the privileged opportunity to voice my thoughts while I’m there also. Thank you for that! For me, it is a ‘Pro-peace’ rally and that in itself will attract more positive change and generate new respect for all creatures in this country.
ARAN: If you had anything to say to our supporters about helping animals, what would it be?
RP: Treat every creature with love and respect. We are all one. And the way we treat every person and every creature will be reflected back into our own lives.
ARAN: And finally, what is your favourite animal and why?
RP: I really don’t have a favourite. I see something different and beautiful in every animal. I think pigs are incredibly intelligent and affectionate but most people don’t see that when they look at them. I do, all the time. I also really love cows. I suppose I have a soft spot for farm animals. But this summer one of my goals is to swim with a dolphin. I think they are so incredibly beautiful!
***Rachel joins a growing rank of other Irish celebrities and personalities backing our campaigns. Most recently Hollywood star, Anjelica Huston, backed our campaign to ban fur farming in Ireland. Thank you Rachel for taking the time out to share your thoughts and views, and we're with you 100% with what you've said above. Keep up the good fight.***