School of Law,
National Universisty of Ireland,


To: RTE Complaint

March 10, 2018

RE: Philip Boucher-Hayes Documentary What Are You Eating? on Veganism

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wish to make a complaint about the above programme which violates the European Convention on Human Rights and I would request that you remove this broadcast from all sites without delay and issue an apology and corrections to the misinformation contained in the broadcast. I lecture in Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway and I am Chairperson of the Vegetarian Society of Ireland. We also support vegan aims and the broadcast has caused deep offence throughout the country and beyond. You would not dare to make a programme about religious minorities which lampooned their food choices and showed their “sacred cows” being cut up and eaten. Your legal advisors may have failed to mention to you that Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights which relates to freedom of conscience protects beliefs such as vegetarianism, veganism and environmentalism on an equal footing to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism and so on and, whether you like it or not, you are bound by this law and you have a duty to ensure that your broadcasts comply.

Your broadcast also violates equality legislation in the provision of services to minorities – would you make a programme which makes fun of the disabled, ethnic minorities, the elderly or those with gender identity issues? Yet, equality legislation also extends to those who seek to live their lives more ethically and you show a worrying dearth of knowledge in this regard. I was most surprised that you did not edit out Darina Allen’s comment that she thought that “cranky” vegans needed a steak. Ms. Allen presides over a large family emporium that recently has added a number of vegan products to its range (Cully and Sully soups, for example) so the somewhat ambidextrous approach to our “market” is not easy to rationalise and, again, violates our rights under the Convention (together with several other binding international and regional legal instruments). Moreover, would you have edited out a comment whereby Muslims or Jews were depicted as “cranky” for not eating pork? I suspect the answer would be in the affirmative and again, you are legally obliged to treat vegans and vegetarians in the same manner.

Likewise, we would like to know how the animals in the programme were killed and whether you ensured that this was done within the provisions of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 as it is an offence under the Act to kill if this is done with “unnecessary cruelty”. We will require a detailed response from you. Whilst vegans oppose killing animals, I am interested whether you also acted with disregard for this law, given your blasé approach to the issue of rights.

Furthermore, justifying meat eating because “it tastes delicious” or because we’ve allegedly eaten meat for millions of years shows your utter unawareness of Ireland’s diversity – the Vegetarian Societies have been around for hundreds of years in Ireland and the Proclamation of the Republic was reportedly signed by seven members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood prior to the Easter Rising in 1916 in a Vegetarian Café, the Irish Farm Produce Café. Kirkpatrick and Faragó note that many advocates of Irish nationalism, feminism and animal advocacy also championed the cause of vegetarianism. You may have heard of the great Irish writer, George Bernard Shaw who said that “[w]hile we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?” Shaw, incidentally, was the only person to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature as well as an Oscar. More recently, great cultural icons such as Sharon Shannon is vegan and a passionate advocate for animal rights, to name but a very few. Why was your broadcast not balanced with such examples? You are required to pay heed to balance under the governing legislation but you do not appear to be aware of it, leaving you open to liabilities in this regard.

I will not take up the many false claims about nutrition in the programme and the skewed premise of being given nutritional advice, refusing to follow it and yet giving a negative assessment of a plant based dietary adventure of one month as there are others better placed to request you to correct the many falsehoods in your programme. You bring investigative journalism into disrepute and you really have lost a lot of respect, caused a lot of upset and wasted a lot of time which could be used otherwise on the large amount of work that non-meat eaters do in rescuing animals, campaigning against their abuse and seeking to improve the wellbeing of all creatures of the Earth. If there are members of the community deemed “cranky”, it may be because we are dealing with massive injustices and are seeking to have them redressed. If you have nothing positive to contribute to us, please deploy your negativity elsewhere – or not at all.

If you fail to take this complaint seriously and address it in a satisfactory manner, we will have to consider taking this matter further.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Maureen O’Sullivan,
Lecturer (Above the Bar) in Law,
School of Law,
National University of Ireland,

Tel: +353 91 495627

Fellow, Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics; Consultant Editor, Journal of Animal Ethics;
Chair, Vegetarian Society of Ireland