As 'Lay of the Land,' I'm a dish served up on a platter of print in the Sunday Independent every week. Unfortunately, some diners have developed moral indigestion, with the Hunting Association of Ireland (HAI) suggesting that my 'rural' column falls foul of the Trade Descriptions Act.
This criticism was made following a piece I wrote about 'cubbing', as foxhunters refer to their 'sport' of setting packs of hounds on fox cubs.
Well, pardon me, but this isn't something you're likely to see on any city high street.
The situation I outlined is accurate.
Maybe the HAI, being the national body that coordinates and promotes hunting with hounds, just doesn't like me saying things the way they are.
Allow me the same liberty to measure their 'sport' against the Trade Descriptions Act. For most people, sport is generally a contest between a willing set of players, who compete on a level playing field. How does that match up to people on horseback and foot, armed with whips and packs of hounds, blocking up an unwilling opponent's escape outlets in advance? Or trapping hares and forcing them to endure trauma and potentially fatal injuries from being chased by huge dogs?
However, foxhunting does introduce a novel phenomenon to the athletic world.
Move over 'bad loser' and say hello to 'rotten winner'. What other 'sport' defines victory by ripping its opponent to shreds?
As for privilege, I wield no greater weapon than an ageing laptop.
What about the foxhunter's privileged position on his high horse, or armed with guns?
The HAI believes blood 'sports' are justified because they're a tradition "that goes back through history for centuries." So what? So did witch hunts and slavery.
You know what else is a tradition? Standing up for the underdog.
This is especially relevant, now that animals have been recognised by EU law as 'sentient beings' that can suffer and feel pain.
Hunters may "live for their weekend hunting." But should that give them the right to allow suffering animals to die for it?
All my columns are not about animals. But strangely, the HAI doesn't seem to find these other pieces noteworthy.
Here's the deal. I'll write about the proliferation of ragwort, as the HAI helpfully suggest, if they stop giving me reasons to focus on animal cruelty.
Fortunately, like the HAI, I can speak up for myself. It's a privilege we share.
The tragedy is that other creatures on this island cannot.