Human & Animal Interactions in Ireland

Study Abroad

By: Kaci Way

For my STEP signature project, I chose to travel to Ireland on a Human and Animal Interactions study abroad trip. As an animal science major, this trip not only sparked my interests in the unfamiliar field of animal welfare, but also was valuable in terms of enabling me to receive credit towards my major. The trip consisted of traveling to six major cities/towns within Ireland, along with visiting production farms throughout the country.

Before going on this study abroad my view of the world was pretty slim as I have never traveled out of the country before. Traveling to Ireland opened up the opportunity for me to learn about and compare cultures as well as agricultural practices and regulation. I have no doubt that this experience has allowed my viewpoints of the United States and other countries to grow and within that, so have I as an individual. I have been transformed from the perspective that I have experienced history, culture and developed new friendships with people I never would have met without this study abroad.

I have developed a few relationships through this trip that never would have occurred if I were not in Ireland. For example, I met a contact while in Ireland at the Swine Research Center that they have at Teagsac. This would not have been possible without this trip and it may lead to potential internship and career opportunities. The friends that I have made on this trip are irreplaceable and I am so thankful I had their guidance and friendship while exploring this foreign country. I also met an amazing friend that was my roommate while I was there. I could not have found a better person to live with for ten days.

A few certain places that I visited that were important to my development as an individual while abroad include the swine research facility, Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher. At the swine research facility, I was intrigued by learning practices in Ireland. Some of these things included not castrating pigs, harvest age, and enrichment, as these are practices that really are not used in the United States. Blarney Castle was very interesting and I have always wanted to visit an ancient castle. This one was from the 1300s and I was surprised to find that it was much smaller than movies make them out to be. Nevertheless, it surpassed my expectations and it is now something I can check off my bucket list. The Cliffs of Moher were also a sight that I have always wanted to see. The fact that there are things this beautiful in our world boggles my mind each time I experience it. Looking off the top of a cliff into the ocean allowed me to experience feelings of freedom and being blessed in ways that I cannot describe on paper. But it was something entirely irreplaceable, and I hope that I can see them again someday.

Interactions with Irish culture are the final part to this adventure of transformation. Visits to countless pubs with locals, and interacting with farmers on their farms or sanctuaries are things that I will never be able to experience again in that same space. One of my favorite interactions, though, was during our time at our night with a man where he told us Folklore & Fairies in his pub. Learning of these stories truly allowed me to experience a background in what Irish culture is based on and if lead me to understanding the “why” behind the way some things are done in their culture and throughout their history. For example, some roads were built around trees because they were expected to be fairy trees. This made me begin to think of why we do certain things in America the way we do them. Why are we taught to believe that some things are only able to be done one way or that it is the best way? This interaction has truly transformed me in the way that I am questioning more things that we do, the way we do them, and why we do them. I am thankful for this analytical ability that I have been given, because without it, how are we ever really going to change for the better as a people? I guess this is the way we start. By exploring. By questioning. And by observing.

Finally, this trip has been truly valuable to me as an individual. Not only was I able to explore human and animal interactions within Ireland, but also as a pre-req, I was able to experience Zoos, The Wilds, Dog Shelters, and many more places through a viewpoint and unique opportunities that I would not have otherwise been given as a normal citizen. I now have a better appreciation for animal welfare, and all that it stands for, and I will do my best as a producer to carry out welfare practices to the best of my ability. With way agriculture is going and where consumers are pushing it to go, animal welfare will be important to my future, and since, a lot of what we do in agriculture reflects the U.K. this trip is an important snapshot of what our future may look like.

Following this trip, I hope to continue traveling, with my new goal of visiting at least 6 of the 7 continents over my life time. Sites like castles, the Cliffs of Moher, and sight-seeing while traveling on a bus throughout Ireland have only inspired me even more to see more places throughout our amazing world. But I want to make one thing clear, I have no intention of seeing just the touristy, pretty places, no. I also want to travel abroad on service trips and see the dirty, needy places, in order to work towards helping people, hunger, and living conditions, especially since all of these things revolve around my future, which is agriculture. Ireland was just my first stop. I have every intention of making an impact and as of know, I hope to be doing this through research upon completion of graduate school. After which, I will be working, traveling, and paving my own path in this amazing world.

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