Time to break free of brutal ties that bind
Time moves on - not just in cities, but also in the country, where you regularly see abandoned hovels beside modern housing estates.
But there are still old dwellings in use, like a farm that I recently visited.
It had been home to a couple of siblings, in what used to be a classic Irish scenario. Then the brother passed away, followed soon after by his sister. Leaving the remaining siblings (who lived overseas) to sell up.
Remnants were everywhere of a life that had remained unchanged for decades, such as an old teapot that once hung over an open fire, alongside wheels from an ancient cart. There were also a few outbuildings, including a shed that had housed livestock. Damp straw was scattered on the ground, while the dog's cramped quarters was separated by a crude partition and littered with chipped bowls and dirty blankets.
But what caught my eye was the steel chain that was still attached to the stone wall. God knows how many hours some poor creature had spend locked up in that dank space. Whatever about today's dog pens, which are arguably as objectionable, chaining up dogs definitely belongs in the dark ages.
Yet it still goes on. As I discovered when I first moved to the country and travelled by bus; I used to pass a handsome country house. Handsome, that is, until I saw the dog shackled in the back yard, staring pathetically at the door.
Another cosy country idyll that I've come across on walks is home to a happy family. All except for the dog chained up in the barn, desperately straining after the children when they returned from an outing. They seemed oblivious to him as they ran indoors.
Sometimes such cruelty is down to ignorance and not malice. As was the case with another smallholding I used to pass, where the bachelor farmer always greeted me with a smile. Often I heard a dog barking, though I couldn't see one anywhere. Until finally I spotted a forlorn furry face peeping out from a crack in a filthy shed.
The dog was locked up in there all day, except for when he accompanied the farmer on his twice-daily rounds. I suggested that the dog might be lonely and wondered if the farmer could find a little space for him in his home, where they could enjoy each other's company. The next time I passed, the shed was mercifully empty.
Which proves that speaking up can make a difference. Yet many Irish people still turn a blind eye, minding their own business for fear of offending their neighbours. Yet as Edmund Burke reminds us, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
It is a view echoed by the ISPCA, which urges us to alert them to cases of animal cruelty that they otherwise might not discover. Surely it's time to leave behind the ties that bind us to brutality?