Like many other countries, Ireland is slowly opening its heart and mind to the principles of animal rights. Over the years, we have witnessed firsthand some major positive transformations. Only two decades ago, it seemed like there wasn’t much hope, but as times have changed, so did attitudes towards conscious eating. It seems that Ireland now has the “vegetarian thing” completely down, and is slowly coming to grips with the concept of being vegan.
What to expect as a vegan traveling in Ireland?
As much as Ireland has progressed in the vegetarian department, you should keep in mind that it still has a way to go. Unlike vegan wonderlands such as NYC, Berlin, and TLV, this is no vegan Mecca. You will not find vegan friendly signs on every other street, and treats such as vegan ice cream (the creamy type, not the sorbet kind) are something that you will most likely only find in major grocery stores and health food shops.
With that said, there are some great vegan gems just waiting to be discovered, and given that Ireland is one of the most beautiful and unique countries in the world, it is a destination highly worth going the extra mile for.
Vegan friendly cafes and restaurants
As with other countries, Ireland’s urban areas seem to pave the way for the rest of the land. Dublin is by far the most vegan friendly city in Ireland, with a growing vegan community and some wonderful vegan friendly restaurants, eateries, and health-food shops. Cities such as Galway, Belfast, Cork, and Limerick usually keep a range of two to four vegan friendly restaurants at a time.
Outside the cities, things are more challenging. Although many cafes across the nation now offer a choice of soy milk and many restaurants (even if they don’t appear to be too vegan friendly at first glance) are actually more than happy to accommodate vegan diners, it will prove handy to pre-plan your vegan meals.
Vegan groceries and staples
In the groceries and staples department, Ireland is actually doing pretty great, thanks to international giants such as Tesco (one of Ireland’s biggest supermarket chains) and local health food shops. While plant-based milks are now easy to find in all major supermarkets, in Tesco you will also be able to get vegan yogurts, cheese, sausages, and other refrigerated and frozen goods. In the health food shops, you will also find an abundance of specialty products, from vegan shampoos and deodorants to vegan food items such as chocolates, energy bars, and local vegan snacks.
Vegan friendly accommodation
Most hotels and B&Bs around Ireland will be happy to cater to your needs in terms of feather-free pillows and duvets. However, when it comes to enjoying breakfast at your chosen accommodation, you should be aware that unless you call ahead and put in a request, you will probably be left with very few options in the way of morning nourishment. The traditional Irish breakfast is meat, egg and dairy heavy: Scrambled eggs, sausages, and black pudding are among the usual go-to breakfast items, and their porridge is made with milk. If you would like assistance in booking vegan friendly accommodations throughout Ireland, feel free to visit our vegan travel assistance page.
Another point to consider as a vegan traveling in Ireland is animal visibility and animal treatment. In some touristy areas, you might encounter a host of horse and carriage merchants queuing up for tourist rides. With that said, a major point of relief is that unlike in some European cities, where dead animals are hung for display at the front of restaurants and butcher shops, you are unlikely to see such practices, in most major Irish cities.
When traveling the countryside, you will likely come across vast numbers of farm animals grazing the land. However, the gruesome side of Ireland’s livestock industries (the pig farms, the chicken farms, and the slaughter houses) is kept from view, and the only exposure you will probably have would be the occasional trucks on the roads, transporting the animals.
Entertainment and recreation
Some of Ireland’s most popular sports are soccer, Gaelic football, golf, hurling, and rugby. However, animal-exploitive sports such as horse and greyhound racing are still quite popular and are celebrated in competitions and annual events such as the Leopardstown and Galway Races. These are easy enough to avoid, and you will find many vegan friendly recreational activities available, from hiking and surfing to bird watching, cycling, and various other entertainment options.
So is Ireland vegan friendly?
The short answer would be that it is all relative. Compared to some of the world’s vegan playgrounds, Ireland has a long way to go. But with booming awareness of health issues and food sensitivities, and with a growing popularity for vegetarianism, veganism is getting more exposure than ever before. Yes, Ireland still has a way to go, but it is definitely on the move!