VOICING his objection to dog tail docking, Mark Ruskell quotes Gandhi as saying: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” (Our values are in the dock over issue of dogs’ tails, The National, June 23). The highly respected writer Milan Kundera expressed similar views when he wrote: “Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude towards those at its mercy – animals”.

That tail docking is, no doubt, very cruel is bad enough. What makes the decision to allow such a cruel procedure to go ahead all the more shocking is that it is because they are so-called “working dogs”. In other words, the only reason is so that, as Wee Ginger Dug describes it, to help those “whose idea of fun is blasting a wee bird out of the sky” (Cutting off puppy dogs’ tails is huge own goal by SNP, The National, June 24). How about instead introducing a ban that forbids people to kill animals (including birds) for fun?

Wee Ginger Dug describes the motives as “disingenuous”. It is equally disingenuous for those who kill foxes for fun to claim that this is a form of pest control. The facts are that, when left alone by humans, foxes control their own numbers.

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Added to this, fox hunters build artificial earths to encourage foxes to breed – hardly a rational thing to do if the fox is a pest, as the fox hunters continue to tell us. They even transport live foxes from one part of the country to another in order to try to ensure that they have enough foxes to hunt. These three facts demonstrate that hunting foxes is carried out for the sole reason of satisfying a sadistic lust for killing defenceless creatures.

However, our concern about unnecessary cruelty to animals should extend further than dog tail docking and fox hunting. Nicola Sturgeon offers profuse apologies to the farmers for subsidy payment hold-ups, saying that “full focus and attention” is being given “to ensure that farmers get the service that they deserve”.

She doesn’t explain why farmers “deserve” subsidies in the first place; they don’t. Killing animals for food is every bit as unnecessary as is killing foxes for so-called pest control.

In fact, if anything it is worse as, by eating animals, we seriously risk damaging our health and the health of our children.

Instead, Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP MSPs and, indeed, all MSPs, should focus their attention on whether eating an animal-based diet is necessary – if they did, they would find out it isn’t. Indeed, far from being necessary, it is not only cruel, but extremely bad for our health and the cause of obesity. It is not overeating that is the main problem, but eating the wrong foods. Those who consume an animal-free diet don’t run the risk of becoming overweight, let alone obese and tend to be much healthier.

Mark Ruskell describes animals as “voiceless creatures”.

All MSPs should ask themselves the question: “If animals could talk, would I still eat them?”. Could they carry out the actual killing themselves?

The best thing they can do is educate themselves a bit more before they start making any more decisions regarding animals – and farmers. They could start by watching the film Earthlings and the Gary Yourofsky lecture, both available online. What we need is a completely changed mindset about how we view and treat all animals, not just dogs, foxes and wild animals in general; what we need to “bring to the table” are animal-free, cruelty-free meals. Until then, we have a long way to go.

Incidentally, the animals with whom we are privileged to share this planet are not “our” animals. They don’t belong to us. We should remember that too, when we decide how to treat them.
Sandra Busell
Address supplied

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In Scotland all of our exhibitions should be bilingual

I AM flabbergasted at the crass, ignorant and utterly British response of the National Museum of Scotland to the simple and obvious point that its exhibition Bonnie Prince Charlie And The Jacobites sells the Gaelic language short (Protest at lack of Gaelic in Jacobite exhibition, The National, 24 June).

Apparently the museum said in its statement that is not appropriate for the exhibition to be bilingual because its approach is “to explore the Jacobite cause in its full pan-European historical context” and not to home in on the bits that are about “the Highlands, their language and culture”. Museums of all things should know that when in a hole it is best to stop digging.

I visited the exhibition on its opening day. In historical terms it is excellent, but I laughed out loud when I came to the section on the Massacre of Glencoe, because at that point the Gaelic language suddenly appears out of nowhere in the form of a big sign saying MURT GHLINNE COMHANN, then disappears again.

The same thing happens a few rooms further on when you get to BLIADHNA THEARLAICH, the ’45. I found this very amusing as a blatant example of stereotyping. Somebody high up in the museum clearly thinks that it’s appropriate to use two or three words of Gaelic to flag up the odd occasion when substantial numbers of Gaelic speakers are killed, but inappropriate to use any to describe history, art, architecture, politics, foreign affairs, etc.

Obviously the museum just doesn’t get it, so I will explain. The reason why Bonnie Prince Charlie And The Jacobites should have been bilingual is that all exhibitions in Scotland should be bilingual, really, but it isn’t customary as yet, so this would have been an easy (and, well, obvious) one with which to get started.

Finally, as a Gaelic-speaking citizen of Europe and Scotland, I find the museum’s notion that Gaelic should have been excluded because of the European focus of the exhibition to be offensive in the extreme.
Ronnie Black
Peebles

THE letter in The National from Mick Flynn o Glesca (June 24) covers a lot of ground. He knows of Glaswegians who have trouble with the Ayrshire dialect of Scots.

There are of course many dialects of the Scots language, which are distinctive but generally mutually comprehensible. While it is possible to sympathise with a Borderer being confused by Shetlandic, it is less understandable for a linguistic rift to appear over the 35 miles between Ayr and Glasgow, given the way dialects mingle. For example, my auntie’s house in Burntisland was Peerie Neuk, “peerie” being an Orcadian word brought south by Fife fisher folk.

There might be an explanation for this. As Mick Flynn obviously knows, Scots is a Germanic language, which Scots soldiers could use to speak to their German prisoners during the First World War. Although Germany is a much more recent political entity than Scotland, it also has about 12 dialects that were identified in about 1880 and, remarkably, persist, in that people still do business and prefer to live in their own dialect zone, despite the turmoil of the last century and despite modern communications.

So, we should be aiming at there being a guid braid Scots known to all, which there would have been if we had retained our sovereignty: our own Queen’s Scots as used by Mary, Queen of Scots.
Iain WD Forde
Scotlandwell

CATRIONA Grigg says “it’s a sad state of affairs when belief in God is an accepted subject for mockery” (Letters, June 23). If she gets out her history books they will confirm that over the centuries a whole host of religious denominations have gone a great deal further in their response to non-believers than just mocking them. This, of course, has resulted in widespread barbarism, torture and millions of deaths in every corner of the globe.

I believe Bertrand Russell hit the nail squarely on the head when he said: “There is to me something a little odd about the ethical valuations of those who think an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent Deity, after preparing the ground by many millions of years of life-less nebulae, would consider Himself adequately rewarded by the final emergence of Hitler, Stalin and the H bomb.”
Alan Woodcock
Dundee