Meat-eating, animal rights Republican lobbyist lost everything to find new purpose

Irby, an eight-time equestrian world champion, said he received death threats after testifying before Congress in 2013 on behalf of legislation banning injury.

He decided to stay in Washington, DC and start a new career working for a congressman from Kentucky as a press secretary, director of communications and legislative assistant. He later went to the Humane Society of the United States as a lobbyist. In 2018, Irby and others formed the Animal Wellness Action group, where he has been since.

Irby’s decision to champion the welfare of horses laid the foundation for his work as a well-known Capitol Hill lobbyist, a job for which he has been recognized several times over the years.

He also received royal attention in 2020, when Queen Elizabeth II honored Irby for his horse activism. Renowned American horse trainer Monty Roberts, founder of Join-Up International, a non-profit organization that promotes gentle and effective alternatives to violence and force in equine and human relationships, publicly commended Irby for the honor. .

“Marty Irby is our hero and has paid a huge price in his own life for the sake of being fair to horses. With thousands of supporters, Her Majesty and I strongly recommend the rules and regulations necessary to eliminate violence from this breed and all the other competitions involving the horses we love. “


Within the animal welfare community, Irby has admitted that he has a reputation for being more than a little unconventional. He describes himself as a “Republican meat-eater and animal welfare lobbyist” which, even on a good day, doesn’t earn him much love on either side of the division. Politics.

“I’m not a vegan. I’m not a vegetarian. I deal with cruelty-free animal husbandry, where they only have one bad day in their life. Her cows in a barn the night they listen. old baseball games; and Will Harris of Georgia, of Whiteoak Pastures, where the emphasis is on sustainability and soil regeneration. These, and farms like these, epitomize the best of cattle ranchers. Americans. “

Irby’s approach as a lobbyist has been very effective. In 2019, he was in the Oval Office watching President Donald Trump sign the Prevention of Cruelty and Torture to Animals Act. It was one of six bills signed during Trump’s presidency, all containing issues Irby had lobbied for. He joked to reporters that his time in Washington gave him lots of ideas for a book. The working title: “Crazy Animal People”.


Irby’s ability to laugh at himself, and at times those in the animal welfare world, places him in a unique position to help cattle ranchers across the country.

Georgian cattle breeder Will Harris has known Irby for about 10 years and describes him as “a wonderful ally”. He said the two came together for compassion and animal welfare, as well as the need to see land regeneration management used to rebuild impoverished rural communities.

Harris, known to be a bit of an agricultural philosopher, believes most animal welfare advocates take a cursory view of their relationship with the animal kingdom.

“A lot of them think all animal relationships are the same as with a pet. I have a pet, Judge. He’s lying at my feet as we speak. But then I add a Another kind of relationship with the Animal kingdom, one that’s more complex. Cattle, draft animals, wildlife … these are different kinds of relationships. To say they’re all the same is superficial. Marty understands that . “

Harris calls Irby “a bridge between people like me and people who see every relationship with an animal at this companion level.”

“They look down on those of us who raise cattle. We need people to bridge that gap, and Marty Irby has worked hard to do that. It’s a very different world he works in than the one I live in here. in the Georgia countryside. “

Despite being unlike the Capitol Hill world, this unconventional animal welfare rights lobbyist has found his place.

“I think everyone in agriculture has a big job ahead of them today,” Irby said. “One of the biggest problems we have in Washington, DC is that so many of our politicians have sold the family farmer and animal welfare with the policies they created. I’m here to say that you can absolutely have a happy marriage between animal welfare policies and raising animals for food.That’s what I fight for every day.

Victoria Myers can be reached at [email protected]

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