Johann Hari is right to decry the whingeing of the halal- and kosher-meat industries against methods of slaughter being clearly stated on meat labelling, so that those who loathe the brutal practice may avoid eating meat from animals killed in that way.
In the past few months I have asked, before booking a table, whether I could order non-halal or kosher-killed meat in three popular restaurants in a widely used local shopping destination: in each case the question was greeted by surprise and polite refusal. So customers are denied the choice of food despatched according to sensible, and, as Johann points out, lawful legislation.
I am a member of the minority from whose "viciousness" Johann Hari wishes to be protected (Opinion, 19 November).
Yet, as bizarre as it may seem, I agree with his view that current methods of slaughter ought to be improved precisely because of those "hallucinating desert nomads" he describes, whose kindness to animals is part of a wider ethos of respect for nature, due to its divine origins in the Islamic (as well as Judeo-Christian) perspective.
It is unfortunate that kinder methods are not followed for the process of killing animals, a view many practicing Muslims (such as myself) hold. Yet Johann, rather than mentioning this fact – or the example of the late Al-Hafiz Masri, who founded Britain's first Islamic animal-rights movement – and showing that there is possibility of change within a religious framework (which would be the constructive or, dare I say, rational approach) instead proceeds on an emotionally charged and offensive rant which alienates people such as myself who would agree with him.
Dr Ahmad Abou-Saleh
Orthodox Jewish practices of slaughter, in general, are based on two sources. One is the Old Testament; the other is written interpretation made by rabbis.
There is no explicit mention in the biblical sources of how an animal should be slaughtered. But the injunction not to eat blood is abundantly clear, and the interpretation has been made by rabbis that the blood should be removed, at source, as it were, by drainage through a severed artery.
Yes, traditional shechita does not entail stunning. But the practical procedures were devised at a time when stunning was not available, and in an era when concern for the feeling of an animal was little developed in society. I can see no biblical reason for rejecting anaesthetising of the animal before it is slaughtered. I urge my fellow Jews to accept stunning of those animals prior to their slaughter with a clear religious conscience.
The objections of non-Jews to the current archaic Jewish system of slaughtering animals are not necessarily made with anti-Semitic sentiment. I hope that our religious leaders will accept that stunning an animal before its slaughter in no way contravenes any instruction which occurs in the original biblical text.
I support the right of Jews and Muslims to practise kosher and halal slaughter. I also oppose the "frightening rise in real bigotry against Muslims and Jews". According to Johann Hari, I am being inconsistent, as "the only consistent position is to oppose viciousness against these minorities, and to oppose viciousness by these minorities".
Mr Hari is thus equating kosher- and halal-meat production with the actions of a thug who beats up Jews or burns down mosques. So law-abiding communities of British people, slaughtering animals under the supervision of the same welfare authorities that supervise secular meat production, are to be considered on a par with violent extremists who hate Jews and Muslims? This is as grotesque as to equate someone who eats a factory-farmed Christmas turkey with someone who mugs old ladies.
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
The Farm Animal Welfare Council's (FAWC) recommendations that religious slaughter should be outlawed were entirely rejected by the Government, which recognised that there is a wealth of scientific evidence which contradicts FAWC's position. Additionally, Judy McArthur Clark said in her report on the slaughter of red-meat animals with reference to religious slaughter that "It is difficult to measure pain and distress during the slaughter process in an objective scientific manner". Further, there is no "slashing" or "screaming" involved in the process of shechita. In fact, immediate insensibility to pain followed closely by death is achieved by a rapid and uninterrupted action which severs all of the frontal structures at the neck followed by a careful confirmation that no clot can develop in the carotid arteries.
By contrast, secular methods of stunning including electrocution, captive bolt shooting, clubbing and gassing, leave millions of animals in great pain and distress when they are misapplied, as they very often are, and as FAWC recognised in its report.
Mr Hari's clumsy and selective use of scientific data betrays a secularist who is more concerned with seeking ammunition with which to attack religious communities, than genuine concern for the welfare of animals.
Henry Grunwald OBE QC,
Chairman, Shechita UK
Scandal of the Irish bail-out
How much longer must the public wait for politicians to defend their interests against international capital? Each time capital interests use speculative trading to force another "bail-out" of a financial or state institution, it is taxpayers who foot the bill. Each bail-out results in a massive transfer of wealth from hard-pressed working people to state and corporate interests (report, 22 November).
Until governments co-ordinate their policies to tax financial and currency speculation out of existence (and use the tax revenues to reimburse the public), we will continue to see the destruction and subversion of our democratic institutions.
We should be in no doubt that each and every attempt to subvert nation states and force their submission to international capital interests is a political war against our elected governments and an economic war against working people.
If EU governments are unable to defend us against international capital, we will have no other choice but to take direct action against those failing governments and out-of-control banks.
Dr Rory Ridley-Duff
Sheffield Business School
The Con-Dems are donating £7bn of taxpayers money to the Irish state to stop their economy going into meltdown and dragging down the rest of Europe's putrid capitalist economy with it. By a strange coincidence £7bn was the amount George Osborne cut from the welfare budget in his recent review. And £7bn is the amount executive bankers will share between them in bonuses this year. Anyone still think "we're all in this together"?
The €90bn bail-out of Ireland is a calamity for our friends across the Irish Sea and shows the perils of eurozone membership. Low interest rates designed to pep up Germany's formerly sluggish growth acted like petrol on a fire for Ireland and its dangerous credit bubble has now well and truly burst. By strapping itself into the straitjacket of interest rates set by the European Central Bank, Ireland lost the flexibility that could have stopped its problems becoming so severe. Now, it will have to get approval for its budget plans from Brussels – losing its last vestiges of financial independence.
Even the European President, Herman Van Rompuy, now acknowledges the danger that the dysfunctional eurozone could collapse under its debt. Britain must heed the lesson – stay well clear of the euro wrecking-ball!
Struan Stevenson MEP
European Parliament, Brussels
The Irish bail-out seems to be a perfect example of joined-up Coalition thinking: take £4bn out of UK higher education and treble tuition fees, then give £7bn to Ireland where students pay an annual €1,000 but no tuition fees. Is this the economics of the madhouse?
Simon G Gosden
Our irrational love of killer cars
Your correspondent Charles Brown (letter, 19 November) raises an interesting point regarding the number of road deaths per year. I have done some research into whether the car is the deadliest weapon ever created by humanity.
While the arguments for and against vary depending on which source you rely upon, there is no doubt that the number of road deaths worldwide per annum is astonishingly huge. In the worst-case scenarios (which include pollution and extrapolated deaths in nations which don't record specific car-related incidents) the estimate is 2.4m people killed due to motor vehicles every year. This exceeds easily the annual military death toll from the First World War. Even the most conservative estimates – which include only road deaths reported in developed nations and only down to direct motor-vehicle accident – put the current annual road-death toll at 100,000 per year.
Within six months of the September 11 attacks on New York and elsewhere, it is estimated that the number of people subsequently killed on the roads who chose not to fly because of the chance of a repeat atrocity had well exceeded the death toll caused by the terrorists on that day, an unintended and gruesome consequence of their actions.
It is clear that humans have a blind spot when it comes to road deaths. Train accidents, such as Potters Bar in 2002 in which seven people were killed, or plane accidents such as the Kegworth M1 disaster in 1989 in which 47 died, are rightly investigated over many months to ensure such tragedies do not happen again. Yet the 2,500 annual road deaths in the UK alone are seemingly accepted as the "collateral damage" of our obsession with motor-vehicle transport. When you stop to think about it, it's quite extraordinary.
Idiocy of airport 'security'
Simon Calder has a good point ("Get smart and spare poor travellers senseless misery", 20 November). The last time I was at Gatwick, the pencil sharpener from my in-flight sudoku kit was confiscated. I then went through to the departure lounge and was able to choose from a number of packs of disposable razors being sold there. On board I went with my razors in my pocket, no problem. I could equally easily have bought a glass bottle of wine to smash on board and use as a weapon. And while I'm at it, if stewards on board were really there for emergency and security, wouldn't the women be dressed in trousers and sensible shoes, not tight skirts and high heels?
Having recently had some perfectly good brie confiscated at Charles de Gaulle airport for security reasons (it fell under the definition of "paste"), I began to wonder if the authorities are doing all they can to protect us? If an item of hand luggage is deemed to be an explosive risk then ought not teams of explosives experts be available at every airport security desk? Should I not have been arrested and interrogated to ensure that I was not a terrorist?
Otherwise, why confiscate the item in the first place? If such steps aren't taken then I can only conclude that these security measures are nothing more than an effort by the authorities to show us that they're "doing something" and in fact have no impact whatsoever on the security of a flight.
Dr Neil Lowrie
New jobs, or old ones recycled?
Asda proudly announces the creation of 7,500 "new" jobs next year (report, 16 November). But how many of these will be really new, given that the overall retail sector is competing for the roughly fixed disposable income of the impoverished public? Surely many of these new jobs will be at the expense of existing employees in town-centre shops and other supermarkets. And since I assume supermarkets are likely to be more efficient than small shops, there may well be a net loss of jobs. Have I missed something?
Anthony G Bridgewater
West Wittering, West Sussex
Votes vs violence
John Cole of Oxford (Letters, 18 November) more or less says it's OK to break windows because you're frustrated. And Dennis Leachman of Reading reminds us that many of the freedoms we now take for granted were won by violence. True, but that was before universal adult suffrage. Voting at the next general election is now the basis on which we proceed – otherwise who is to say that my violent frustration is OK and yours is not?
I see that a €70,000 "removable" penis has been fitted to a statue in the office of the Italian Prime Minister ("Berlusconi orders private repair of statue", 19 November). Perhaps if he had the same facility himself it would keep him out of trouble.
Perspectives on tuition fees
Lib Dems have acted honourably
Let's get this straight. During the election campaign, when everyone thought the Tories would win and the Lib Dems would be in their customary position of the irrelevant third party, the National Union of Students and its supporters persuaded the Lib Dem candidates to sign a pledge to vote against any increase in tuition fees. They did so happily, because their manifesto pledged that they would not increase fees if they were voted to form the next government.
When the electorate decided no party should have an overall majority a Lib Dem deal with the Tories was, eventually, concluded but on the basis of a Coalition agreement; this document then replaced the two party manifestos. With regard to tuition fees it decided to await Lord Browne's report and to judge its recommendations against the Coalition's agreed criteria. It also agreed that if the Lib Dems could not accept the eventual proposals they should have the right to abstain.
When the Coalition agreement was published there was no uproar from the universities or the NUS. In the event, Lord Browne's recommendation that the cap on tuition fees should be scrapped was not accepted; maximum fees were doubled to £6,000 (£9,000 in exceptional circumstances and with stringent safeguards for the less well off) and the terms of repayment of fees by graduates were greatly improved.
Now, at this late stage, the militants in the NUS and those who wish to harm the Coalition see an opportunity to wreck the stability that has been achieved since May, hopefully to bring the Government down and to cause another election (which only the Tories could afford to fight) and to lose the once-in-a-lifetime chance to get a fairer voting system.
To do this they are prepared to ignore the positive things the Lib Dems are achieving in the Coalition, all in the interest of ensuring that, whoever else suffers in getting this country's finances under control, university students must not be affected.
Why should society pay students' bills?
Nick Clegg's real-world conversion on student fees, if personally embarrassing, is to be welcomed. Why should society – that is you and me tax-paying suckers – foot students' bills? Labour is principally responsible for a dreadfully flawed policy: that education means solely "university" education, and that half the children should get one, all financed on the cheap.
In Switzerland, where I am from, education not only means university but also technical colleges and (highly demanding) four-year apprenticeships. And there is no stigma attached to the latter. As a result, a smaller proportion of the population chooses to go to university, thus lower tuition fees are being charged as the public purse can afford the balance.
We should be campaigning for opening up the field of education, calling for a New Deal-style apprenticeship programme. Apprentices have better things to do than imitate students breaking into buildings to capture the yobbish behaviour of their mates on their £500 iPhones for posting on YouTube.
It eludes "betrayed" students that they effectively get a free three-year education if they do not find £21,000-a-year employment. The irony is that those very same students will rush to the bank to seek a mortgage many times the size of their university bills that will hang around their neck for 30 years. So much for the value they place on their education.
St Albans, Hertfordshire