Animal philosopher and activist Siobhan O’Sullivan died on June 17th after a long struggle against ovarian cancer. We deeply regret her untimely death at the age of 49, after having done lot to make the world a better place for all sentient beings. Siobhan was a remarkable individual and scholar who dedicated her work to advocating for animals, both inside and outside academia, and who was very well known in the field for her genuine warmth and enthusiasm.
Siobhan was one of the authors who triggered the political turn in animal philosophy, focused on the political implications of the moral consideration of animals. She started working on this field very early in her career. Her 2007 PhD thesis was one of the first on the consideration of nonhuman animals in politics, and was the basis for her book Animals, Equality and Democracy. In this video Siobhan presents some of the ideas in this book:
Siobhan argued that we humans are not just inconsistent in the way we behave toward nonhuman animals in comparison to human beings, but also in the way in which we act toward different nonhuman animals depending whether they are used as resources or not, even if they are equally sentient and deserving of respect, so even animals of the same species can be treated and considered rather differently depending on whether they are used for one purpose or another. She eloquently argued against these and other forms of discrimination suffered by nonhuman animals.
In addition, Siobhan was the author of around a hundred of other academic publications, including the compilation The Political Turn in Animal Ethics, which she co-edited with Robert Garner, and which had an important role in triggering interest in animals in the field of political theory.
Siobhan was also known for launching the podcast Knowing Animals, where she interviewed hundreds of scholars working on different topics concerning how animals should be considered as well as animal activists working in different fields. You can see here a special chapter of the podcast in which instead of being the interviewer, as usual, she was the featured scholar:
Siobhan’s work challenged existing paradigms supporting speciesism and the exploitation faced by animals. Beyond this, Siobhan was a very inspiring person who moved others to take action too. For all this and more, we want to pay tribute to her work and thank her for all she did to make the world a better place.