Scotland on Sunday readers' letters: Edinburgh Zoo’s giant pandas should be left in peace

It is disappointing that, when there are so many pleasing photographs that could have been published in last week’s paper, “Picture of the Week” chose to help promote Edinburgh Zoo’s latest idea to tempt more people to visit, by offering a prize to feed the pandas, Yang Guang and Tian Tian (February 5).

It is described as an opportunity to “get up close and personal” with a panda, but what if neither panda wants to, which is a cert, as pandas don't like nor welcome human company. What if the pandas don't come out? Presumably they will be forced to come out, so as not to disappoint the prize winners.

The unsuitable treatment of the pandas' departure from the zoo will be the same as their arrival. Noisy crowds and loud music was how they were introduced to their (temporary) new home, with no consideration for what the pandas wanted. This is no prize draw for animal lovers; people who genuinely care about these pandas would like to see them left in peace and have no wish to visit an animal prison, aka zoo.

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As Russell Hoban wrote in his book, “Turtle Diary”: “Zoos are prisons for animals who have been sentenced without trial”. He could have added that all the inmates are innocent, yet are sentenced to a life in captivity, with very little hope of parole.

Giant panda Yang Guang pictured at Edinburgh ZooGiant panda Yang Guang pictured at Edinburgh Zoo
Giant panda Yang Guang pictured at Edinburgh Zoo

Sandra Busell, Edinburgh

Nuclear three

Of the current 30 members of Nato, only three are nuclear powers; USA, France and UK. An independent Scotland with or without nuclear subs on its territory would be welcome in Nato as being vital for Atlantic security, having 80 per cent of the coastline of the island of Britain and over 60 per cent of its maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (which extends far into the northern and western Atlantic).

Nato members are not obliged to host nuclear weapons. Each member has been accorded a degree of flexibility in how it can contribute to the alliance. Tiny Iceland, a founder member since 1949, does not even have armed forces, having chosen not to have them.

But it does have a coastguard, police force, air defence system and voluntary expeditionary peacekeeping force. Alexander Mackay (letters, February 5) needs to check his colonialist internalised self-loathing before leaping to the conclusion that a sovereign Scotland would not be a welcome member of the alliance.

Dr. Marianne Birkeland, Edinburgh

Campaign claim

Alexander McKay's one-man public misinformation campaign overstretched itself last week, with the unfounded, and erroneous, claim that an independent country with a "no-nuclear" policy would be denied entry to Nato. Why, only last month it was reported that Sweden would, when it joined Nato, continue with its non-nuclear position. Unlike Mr McKay, facts are chiels that winna ding.

David Patrick, Edinburgh

Fear factor

Dr Greg Mewett (Scotland on Sunday, February 5), advocates for an Australian-style assisted suicide system for Scotland. However, there are significant concerns about the practice of voluntary assisted dying (VAD) in Australia.

Many seeking VAD do so to avoid transfer into a care facility. This is not unique. In Oregon and Washington, a majority of those ending their lives cite fear of being a burden on carers and family as a reason for their decision, others cite "financial implications of treatment”.

Fear of being a burden is subtle coercion, especially if alternate social and palliative care services are not in place. In Australia, once a patient is transferred onto the VAD programme, there are few provisions for palliative care as the patient is put on a one-way path to their death.

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Savings in health budgets are the “elephant in the room” which proponents of law change don’t like to mention. The lesson from overseas is that legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia are not safe and undermine the healthcare for the most vulnerable people in society. We must move on from this damaging debate and talk about how we fund, staff and protect our NHS.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, CEO Care Not Killing

Write to Scotland on Sunday

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