From Mr Peter Risdon Sir: Polly Toynbee ("A spasm masquerading as a movement", 25 January) would defend her goldfish, which "cannot know the meaning of" the word "suffering", from pain and cruelty. This is contradictory: it is clearly impossible to inflict pain upon or be cruel to something that is incapable of suffering.

Again, animals cannot have rights because "rights come linked to moral obligations"; but "mental patents, old people or neglected children" do have rights, despite the fact that these categories include people who, for various reasons, cannot be said to have moral obligations or who, in the case of some people detained in secure hospitals, have broken any such obligations. A young baby has rights, yet cannot be said to have any responsibilities.

Such confused arguments are characteristic of those who criticise the recent protests against the export of live animals. Equally typical is the misrepresentation of the opposite viewpoint. Some of the protesters may be vegetarian, but the majority are not. The argument is not about whether meat should be eaten, but over the conditions to which animals should be subjected while being prepared for the table. No responsibility for the conduct of other predators is suggested, and it is genuinely absurd to argue as if it were. We can, however, take responsibility for our own actions.

By her willingness to defend her goldfish, Ms Toynbee accepts that it could, in fact, suffer and shows that she would not wish this to happen. Excellent. Perhaps she might consider extending her humanity to farm animals.

Yours faithfully, Peter Risdon London, SW11

26 January