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Letter: Vegetarians in jail have rights

William Hartson ("What the papers said", 16 November) seems to mock Louise Woodward's bad treatment in a US jail. "In that hell hole," he sneers, "apparently they didn't cater for vegetarians." This is not a trivial matter. Would Mr Hartson be dismissive of a jail that refused to cater for diabetics or for those with coeliac's disease or one that expected Jewish prisoners to eat pork? Ms Woodward has decided that she does not want to eat slaughtered animals. What right has the US prison system to expect her to eat them? Why does it wish to impose its lack of respect for non-human life on everyone under its control?

Ms Woodward was, of course, unconvicted for most of her 279 days in jail. What of convicted prisoners? Does the US system expect that giving meat to vegetarians will rehabilitate them, or is it just trying to punish them? In this respect the British prison system is superior. Had Ms Wood- ward been imprisoned here, her right to a vegetarian diet would not have been questioned.

Katharine Gilchrist

Canterbury, Kent