The photo of my dear friend and colleague Siobhan O’Sullivan and I was taken in June last year. Siobhan passed away today, after a very active and illustrious life writing and advocating for animals.
I don’t remember exactly when I met Siobhan but she very quickly made her mark on the Animal Studies community at a time when this new academic field was in its infancy, both in Australia and overseas. As I look through my emails and conference programs, I see her at the second conference in Hobart in 2007 presenting a paper “Meeting the majority halfway: A new agenda for animal protection” and taking a dominant role in the reading group Knowing Animals Past and Present, while a research fellow at Melbourne University. My closest time with Siobhan was in the heady days when we were both on the Australian Animal Studies Group committee and I was editing the group’s international newsletter. Siobhan’s relations with everyone involved was always tolerant, friendly and conciliatory: she built bridges both within and outside the group. As many have commented recently, Siobhan was an outstanding human being. As you can see from the photo, she lit up a room and will be missed by everyone who knew her.
In 2012 Siobhan’s book Animals, Equality and Democracy was launched by Peter Singer, she presented at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, and we both attended the Minding Animals conference in Utrecht. In following years, Siobhan was at AASA conferences in Newcastle, Brisbane and Adelaide, a memorable keynote speaker at Sydney’s Life in the Anthropocene conference in 2013 and on the organising committee of the Melbourne conference Animal Publics: Emotions, Empathy, Activism in 2015. Her edited collection with Robert Garner, The Political Turn in Animal Ethics was published in 2016.
Even after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2020, Siobhan continued her work for animals and humans, publishing Buying and Selling the Poor, raising awareness of and research funding for ovarian cancer, campaigning for the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill in NSW (which will come into effect later this year) including being interviewed by Andrew Denton . . . . and facing her own impending death with inspiring courage, intelligence and humour.
She will be particularly remembered for founding IROAR, an innovative, international podcast network dedicated to animal advocacy, social justice, environmentalism, and ‘making the world a better place for animals’ Access here. On her own podcast, Knowing Animals, she interviewed many animal studies scholars and artists from around the world (myself included).
You can find more information about Siobhan in her Wikipedia entry Here
The lower photo was taken with Yvette Watt and Fiona Probyn-Rapsey when they were collaborating on writing for animal studies before her diagnosis.