Spanish bullfighting: It's deeply disturbing that humans enjoy watching animals being terrorised in the name of culture
The goring to death of a top Spanish matador in a bullfight understandably shocked the thousands of fans who had gathered to witness the spectacle. The untimely violent death of any human being is always a tragedy. But we cannot ignore the context of this tragedy.
The bull that killed the matador had been pierced repeatedly with razor-sharp lances, was visibly bleeding from his wounds, was in terrible pain and in the process of resisting a concerted attempt to torture and kill him.
Bullfighting is a disgrace to humanity. It is a perverted, contrived form of animal cruelty. The extreme suffering inflicted on the bulls cannot be excused - not by tradition, culture, art or sport.
And let's not for a moment think that recreational sadism is a peculiarly Spanish phenomenon. It isn't. According to opinion polls, a majority of Spaniards oppose bullfighting and want it banned. But they are up against a powerful industry and fawning politicians, who won't touch the hallowed "rights" of bullfighters.
I find it deeply disturbing that there are human beings who enjoy watching an animal being terrorised, or made to suffer drastically.
What the Spaniards do to bulls, some Irish people do to hares and foxes. Hares are forced to perform in waterlogged, muddy fields in the depths of winter for small crowds of baiting fans.
They twist and turn and dodge on the coursing venue, with greyhounds in pursuit, and many of them get mauled or have their bones crushed by the hyped-up dogs. Foxes are hounded across the country until their lungs give out and exhaustion delivers them to the pack. Then they have the skin ripped from their bones amid a chorus of snarling, barking, cheering and slurping from whiskey flasks.
One can allow for such practices having a following in the Dark Ages, when ignorance of animal suffering was rife and political corruption reigned supreme. You'd think we'd have moved on since then.
And yet we still have the obscenities of bullfighting, hare coursing and fox hunting - in the second decade of the 21st century.
Voice of people does not dominate politics
The disarray created by Brexit has intensified the lingering disquiet about the way the European project has progressed.
We have failed to face the difficulty involved in extending our understanding of governance to the European sphere. We have been seduced by the myth that, unlike Europe, we are governed by the voice of the electorate and not by a bureaucratic elite.
The myth that the electorate is in charge and that the results of elections or referenda express the will of the people do not withstand critical scrutiny.
The fatal flaw lies in the fact that the driving force of political discourse is intended to disengage us from our capacity to think beyond the demands of self-interest.
The protagonists in the war of words leading up to the referendum on Europe traded in half-truths and manufactured ambiguity. The concept of realpolitik - the practice of politics independent of religious, moral or ethical considerations - has dominated political life here for years.
Scotland must strike while the EU iron is hot
With Westminster in turmoil it is vital that if the Scottish Government wants to protect its place in the EU or Single Market it acts quickly.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said that she won't trigger Article 50 until the end of the year, but once the Brexit unit sets out proposals for the talks Scotland needs to have its proposals ready.
If the EU and UK then agree that Scotland can stay in the EU or Single Market, then Scotland would not only shelter itself from the worst impacts of Brexit, but also start to take advantage of the considerable economic benefits that would accrue to a Scotland that is still part of the EU.
If such an option is dismissed by the EU and/or UK Government (which has been the position of the latter to date), then the only option available is that of independence.
Time is limited for the holding of any such referendum on this issue, with the UK out of the EU potentially by January 2019. Talks on the UK's future relationship with the EU would still be ongoing after we have left and may take some time, so Scotland would be left out in the cold.
That is unless we act quickly - and that means an independence referendum by the middle of next year, which would mean that the UK would be leaving the EU with Scotland potentially still within as the successor state.
To delay holding an independence referendum is simply not an option.
Let's celebrate things that can unite all Irish
In response to the letter by Fr Sean McManus (Write Back, July 14), why not celebrate the Duke of Wellington rather than the victory of William of Orange over James II, and the Battle of Waterloo rather than July 12?
Waterloo was won by 10,000 Irish under an Irish Field Marshal from Dublin and Co Meath and, when Lord Uxbridge was wounded, another Irishman, General Sir John Ormsby Vandeleur from Queen's County/Co Laois, took command of the British cavalry.
I sometimes wonder why we must commemorate the things that divide us rather than those that unite us.
DR GERALD MORGAN
Trinity College Dublin
Misconception over funding for bands
I write with reference to a recent article in your paper ('Arts funding cut by £500,000 the same week loyalist bands get £200,000 grant reinstated', News, July 14).
The funding is actually for bands of all hues, unless the stipulations of the scheme have changed significantly. This is an unfortunate but common misconception.
Five years ago I successfully applied to the fund on behalf of my own silver band. The vast majority of applicants are, no doubt, marching bands, but other ensembles have also been eligible to apply.
The grant isn't perfect. It needs to be more flexible. Previously limited to £5,000, such a sum would almost entirely equip a flute band yet only pay around a third of the cost of a tuba - the largest instrument in a brass band.
I felt it important that this small point be corrected to avoid one stream of funding being pitted against others within the same organisation, as each has its role to play within the cultural scene in Northern Ireland.
CLLR MARK RW MCKINTY (UUP)
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council